Monday, January 21, 2013

Social Media Scorecards: an idea for teaching Digital Citizenship

Up until now, this blog has only been about my evolving thinking on Education, Libraries and Technology. It's an exercise in clarifying my own thoughts and seeking out like minded individuals or comments from those that may not agree with me.

This post is different in that I have crossed over to promoting a product that I am selling on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Life circumstances have caused me to seek entrepreneurial outlets to bring in a little extra money. Don't get me wrong, I'm not selling a product that I do not believe in. So here it first sales pitch.

Most schools when talking to students about cyber-safety and digital citizenship do just The talks may be done by a police officer and teacher or school administrator, but the main purpose is to attempt to steer students away from obviously risky behaviors such as meeting strangers online or sexting, etc. There is no evidence that merely talking to students is at all effective and most students will simply tune out the lecture, thinking that this clueless adult wants them to stay offline entirely, which is of course not an option for most teens and young adults.

My previous post advocates using Google+ EDU to create an enclosed online environment where adults and other students serve as role-models for desirable online behaviors and build community via social media. This is an ideal situation where the school is embedding the teaching of digital citizenship in it instructional program. Most schools aren't there yet, so I am proposing a middle way which is a conversation starter called an Online Profile Scorecard.

Currently I have written scorecards for Facebook as well as Echo, which is a system I use as an educator in the New Tech Network. The Echo profile is free and may be downloaded to get an idea what the scorecard concept is about. The Facebook Scorecard is currently on sale for only $2.00, which a retail price of $3.00. I would appreciate if you viewed and rated these products.

The scorecard is meant to be read aloud in and discussed in a free-form manner in a class setting. If done correctly, it's a humorous lesson that lets students know you are aware of the complex interplay between online and offline lives that all young adults wrestle with these days. There are no easy answers in this world, but there are some basic behaviors we want to encourage:

  • Friendliness
  • Kindness
  • Honesty
  • Awareness of a larger world beyond peer groups
  • Following accepted social norms online as well as offline
  • Healthy self-image that is expressed online
  • A focus on the future, not just the present
Note that this set of priorities largely ignores the emphasis on self-destructive behaviors such as sexting and seeking out relationships with strangers.

As an educator, one thing I have noticed is that teens that are often pleasant, well-mannered in person, wish to cultivate a 'bad' image online to gain peer approval. This is off course a huge problem in these times when online image is very important in job-seeking and college admissions. If anything, students should try to be 'bad' offline instead of faking it online. 

 Obviously the Scorecard is no cure-all, but it is more likely to produce a dialog with students that may get us as educators begin the process of encouraging positive online behaviors. It's important to realize that the scores on the scorecard are arbitrary and some students may argue with them. That's part of the dialog.

So if you know of anyone that wants to devote a little instructional time towards opening this dialog with students instead of merely lecturing them, give the Scorecards a try. If you know a teacher or administrator that has a need for this product, please send them the link. Thank you for reading.