Respectful discussion is important to establish at the onset of any course. In a multicultural classroom, discussion is how we learn about each other. We also learn that we can respect and accept someone and their beliefs without agreeing with or taking on their entire belief system. Having civil discussions with respectful disagreements is a difficult skill - even for adults. James Herrick, in “What Do We Mean By 'Civil Discourse': A Biblical Model of Managing Disagreement,” discusses elements important to discussions involving disagreements: “Courage, honesty, cooperation, respect for persons and regard for contexts are each a necessary condition of resolving disagreements that arise from ignorance and clashing worldviews. Seeking to practice these virtues will...make us better advocates and teachers, and will help to create better communities.” Building a sense of community is an integral element of any course. Giving my students a safe environment to speak up for their beliefs without fear of persecution is an important opportunity for their personal, social and spiritual growth. Activities such as Socratic Seminars teach civil discourse and allow for more meaningful discussions, creates community among the diversity in my classroom and help develop “a world that is peaceful, socially just and more sustainable” as a result. (Marie Dennis from PaxChritiusa.org)
Netiquette, or network etiquette, describes how we should interact with others online. With social media and text apps prevalent among teens, it's important to teach the proper ways to behave online. One benefit of an online community is that it brings teachers and students together from all over the world. Students have access to websites, research, and images with just one click. They also have a voice - and can share their opinion publicly without ever having a face-to-face with the person who wrote the post they are commenting on. One concern of online communication is that commenters often forget that there is a real person behind the original posts. Because the commenters “lost the human,” as Victoria Shea on albion.com describes it, they can be unusually mean and critical. Unfortunately, this happens all too often in the social media realm and the consequences can be severe. Minimally, people showing poor netiquette could be banned from pages, deleted off of comment threads or worse – those people could lose friendships or bully someone into depression or suicidal ideations. Poor netiquette such as invading someone's online privacy or reading their emails could also cost you a friend -- or your job! (Shea, The Core Rules of Netiquette, 8) Shea also speaks of being forgiving of others' netiquette mistakes. She states that we've all been “ a network newbie once...” and we should try to “give people the benefit of the doubt” before we correct errors. (Shea, The Core Rules of Netiquette, 10) It's important to teach proper netiquette so that we can live out what God teaches us on a daily basis to “Treat others how we want to be treated” on and off line.
Our society sends mixed messages -- one advertisement tells our students not to talk to strangers and to be careful online and the next advertisement tells our students to join their site and increase their network of friends! In addition, there are many apps and video games out there that allow students to communicate or interact with those they don't know. As a result, it is very important to educate our students and our children on all types of cyber communication, their digital footprint, and most importantly - how to protect themselves! Most students don't realize how permanent the photos they post are and the reality of how non-private they are. Michael Dennis share Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship that teachers, students and parents need to be aware of. The benefit of teaching awareness and digital literacy in a technologically literate world is it will help prepare students for success in school and their future careers. If educating young people, then educating their parents is also important. Programs and apps are now available that hide chats and apps from parents. One helpful site to be aware of is 7 Dangerous Apps for Teens. Making parents aware of these types of apps – and also sharing with them how new apps are being designed every day, will hopefully encourage both the parent and the student to examine their digital citizenship – and their digital footprint – more closely.
Pros and Cons
Civil discourse, netiquette and digital citizenship are all important skills to develop as we learn to navigate through the internet and our digitally global society. Because our digital footprint is extensive, the risks of communicating publicly online open doors for financial scams, identity thieves, cyber bullying and miscommunications from losing the face-to-face connections. In addition, the amount of knowledge available at a young child's fingertips can be dangerous. However, the amount of knowledge available is also a positive aspect of the internet, therefore, teaching positive internet skills is an important lesson to teach our students. In addition, even though cultural and language barriers can sometimes be compounded by the internet and digital miscommunications, with translation options, the language apps available and a learners "thinking time" increased online, it is more and more common that the cultural and language barriers are eliminated through online communication! Learning to communicate civilly online promotes language development, networking, increased oral and writing skills and increased professional and personal connections.