Thursday, March 29, 2012


One of the things I love about my job is the flexibility to work with the local school system. Since we are a Land-grant University, it is also expected and I try to work with local schools as much as I can.  This past weekend I was invited to speak at a local 21st Century Skills conference.  I was one of the few that wasn't a classroom teacher (to which I say - Awesome! - I hope to teach myself out of a job, but I digress) In any event, I was asked to present on the over arching topic of Netiquette.  I present on Cybersafety, Digital Citizenship, and Digital Footprints fairly often, which all touch on parts of Netiquette, but never just on Netiquette itself. It seemed like something so basic, but then I thought of why someone would want to attend a session on Netiquette, maybe they were about to start their first online collaborative project and need guidance. What would they need guidance on? Well, how do you set a precedent for good manners online, how do you come up with guidelines for online behavior, and then how do you assess this behavior.

I structured my session around the book Netiquette, which by the way came out in 1994! And use the 10 major tenants of the book to structure our conversation:

Rule 1: Remember the Human
Rule 2: Adhere to the same standards of behavior online that you follow in real life
Rule 3: Know where you are in cyberspace
Rule 4: Respect other people's time and bandwidth
Rule 5: Make yourself look good online
Rule 6: Share expert knowledge
Rule 7: Help keep flame wars under control
Rule 8: Respect other people's privacy
Rule 9: Don't abuse your power
Rule 10: Be forgiving of other people's mistakes

At the heart of all of Netiquette is Rule #1 - Remember the human. It is so easy to hide behind a keyboard and almost all of the issues we run into online can come back to violating that rule.  I structured the workshop on two small group sessions, the first of which I asked them to use Google Docs to have them come up for the rules of their classroom online. I encouraged them to create a "Social Contract" with their students that the class would agree upon before entering an online environment.  They cam up with great ideas such as:
  • Think before you post. 
  • Be respectful of yourself and others.
  • Don't bother projects done by other people
  • Don't copy and paste stuff that doesn't belong to you.
  • Respect stays the same whether your online or in person.
  • Don't just lurk but participate.
We then want on to discuss ways to assess this collaboration.  That the goal of an online project should really be situated in a collaborative environment. I asked them to think of a project they wanted to do online and how they would assess that.  This was a much harder aspect of the workshop than I anticipated, and next time I plan on having more specific examples.  We did a bit of brainstorming as a group about peer assessment in group work as well as appropriate and effective ways to comment on other student projects.

We didn't get to touch too much on commenting, but I find that when in an online project and you are soliciting feedback from your students you tend to get really bad comments. Not inappropriate comments, but comments that are just "I agree" or "Good Job."  I pulled some comment starters from Bill Ferriter's website on Voicethread - and even though they are in the Voicethread context, they really fit all types of commenting structures. I highly recommend checking it out.

All in all I felt it was a good session. I really thought I would run out of material and had some back-up information on Cyberbullying and Digital Citizenship in my back pocket to pull out if I needed to.  I have all the links used in my session at:


David Chiles said...

Think before you post is a great netiquette rule. It translates into share accurate information for me. Often times our first thought is not correct and additional research can prevent embarrassing posts.

Kristy said...

I like the way you modeled different aspects for teaching Netiquette. You engaged the audience in the conversation and decision making process. There is no scripted lesson for teaching these topics; we need the students to be stakeholders and to have a deeper understanding of why. You did a fabulous job Bethany!

Bethany Smith said...

Thanks Kristy! I had a great time with your teachers. Like I said on Twitter, I always believe a workshop should change based on the participants!

@David - I completely agree - Think Before You Post, is the heart of Netiquette. It is so easy to be reactionary and not thinking this through.