Technology has changed the game when it comes to teaching. We used to use notebooks to take attendance, and assignments were solely on paper. Now we organize entire classes in Google and students upload videos to YouTube as semester projects.
Though technology is helpful, we know it can be hurtful. With just a click, students can see something upsetting or inappropriate, and you as the educator can be held responsible. So how can we preemptively strike online negligence and keep our integrity in the classroom?
- Filter, filter, filter. Many school districts have built-in filters on their network. If yours does not, work with a school administrator to add filtering software to each computer. But also make sure to do some “manual” filtering by providing students with a list of credible websites any time they go online in class. Be sure to include vetted websites for images, too.
- Monitor students. Even with the most airtight filtering system, the average 21st century child is tech-savvy enough to manipulate, navigate and infiltrate a protected system. It’s always the teacher’s responsibility to monitor what students are doing when they're online. If possible, it’s best to have all students on the computer at the same time so your entire attention is devoted to their online activity. You can also make it a job for trustworthy students to watch their classmates.
- Over-communicate expectations. Technology contracts should be signed by teacher, student and parent prior to computer usage. Specifically outline what is approved, what is forbidden, and what the consequences are for breaking rules. Have technology expectations posted in multiple places in the classroom. I put laminated expectations on each computer that students can’t miss. Finally, parents should be notified immediately if their student was irresponsible, and make sure to keep track of infractions so you can take further action if mistakes continue.
- Cell phone lockdown. Smartphones have become a convenient and ubiquitous gateway to the rest of the world. They aren’t just a distraction for our students; they’re another way for our students to be exposed to unsavory information. To stay safe, collect cell phones and return them at the end of the day. Inform parents to contact the school in cases of emergency.
- Prepare them for a tech-filled life. You can protect your students while they’re in your classroom, but as soon as they leave your room they’re on their own. The best thing you can do is give your students solid guidelines for how to use technology and the internet responsibly, whether it’s academically related or not. Teach them how to evaluate information for credibility and bias. Create awareness around personal data, when to keep it private, and why it’s important not to share too much. Inform students about the digital footprints they are creating each and every day through social media. There are many resources for educators to build students’ digital citizenship, and it’s worth the time to do so.
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