Life is not so short but that there is always enough for courtesy –Emerson

It’s so easy to become publicly criticized when writing ones’ thoughts about proper conduct and education, whether simply in the schools or now in a virtualized communication conduit.  That being stated, it’s time to start openly talking about general civility as it pertains to students in our society today, especially as it applies to the world of Social Media and Online Networking.

I think that many will agree with me that one of the most glaring issues in public schools regarding student civility in the classroom IS the lack of student civility outside of the school environment.  Whatever social mannerisms that are allowed to happen in a students “outside of classroom life persona” are, by nature, carried with them into their classroom environments.  With regard to their “online lives”, these same “outside personas” (or memes) are then simply transmitted into their “virtual world(s)”… in some cases, they’re even amplified by the seeming anonymity and “untouchability” that the Internet provides them with.

The following is a brief glimpse into the daily Web 2.0 World of the profanity postings of people using Twitter as an online communication tool(from cursebird.com):

1 Week of Statistics –Week of 3/15/10:

F**K – Is the highest rated and populated word with a share of 41.73% of all profane Tweets

S**T – Is the second highest rated with a share of 41.6%

B***CH – Is the third highest rated with a share of 14.34%

D**K – Is the fourth highest rated with a share of .75%

B***ARD – Is the fifth highest rated with a share of .72%

C**T – Is the sixth highest rated with a share of .53%

The following is a sampling of “fresh” and current Tweets from those with Twitter Accounts.  I’ve taken these particular Tweets from people with Twitter pictures that “look” to me as under twenty-two years of age.  These Tweets were all pulled within 3 seconds of each other (Tweets UN-CHANGED, except for the asterisk marks): 

  • When #Ifirstmet @*** this b***h attitude was bizzare lol but she’s mad cool, caring & funny out her a*s lol
  • And you, yeah you, have to understand that I dont have to f***ing call you every friggen second. I’ll call when i want okay?
  • man j*** m**** is f****n weird. girl bye! ypur wave will never be ridden sweetie. she need to get the f**k on!
  • @*** chillin at the house…bored as f**k like a regular monday night lol
  • @l*** the little girl was upset you? go f**k yourself you a****le ok?

Richard Henry has developed an online tool, found at cursebird.com, that is actually quite good at measuring and digging for profane language placed on the “Web” using Twitter.  How interesting is it to you that this type of tool even exists?  In addition, he has a ranking system that will rate people on how much they swear on Twitter and “bestow” titles on them that range from “swears like a mute”, or “swears like a Children’s TV Presenter”, to “swears like a Gangsta Rapper”, or “swears like a George Carlin Wannabe”.  Because there really is not any filter option in Twitter (implementable on a grand scale), it is easy to see why many schools simply block the entire site despite its obvious educational uses.

Students using online Social Media for unacceptable, and often criminal, social practices have seem to become mainstays in the news over the last few years.  These types of all-to-common news stories  further indicate the great need for discussing with our students the impact(s) of using these types of technologies.  Here are a half-dozen, current, News Headlines regarding students and Social Media taken from a five minute search using Google News

  1. Schools, police, lawmakers target cyber-bullies
  2. School fight posted on Facebook
  3. Student posts threat against teacher on Facebook
  4. No class action on student suitNo class action on student suit -3 Churubusco girls took racy pics
  5. Police arrest Crater student who learned to make ‘bombs’ on YouTube
  6. Lunchtime links: Court rules Fla. student’s Facebook teacher gripe page is protected by free speech 

I’ve written about the concept of a “digital tattoo”, as it relates to students, in a number of posts on MusTech.Net.  This term is a real-world concept where a student’s digital reputation (or online persona) will follow her around for a long time after she (usually unknowingly) created it.  The tattoo is very difficult to remove once it has been imprinted on the Internet as the Internet itself was created with the concept of redundancy as part of  its core.   901am.com has a great article where they reference research from Symantec that details  1/3 of under 25 [year olds] state that they would like to delete parts of their online history, including embarrassing photographs and throwaway comments.

Much of what is “recorded” online can never really be erased – just ask all of the celebrities that spend enormous amounts of money to sue for the removal of pictures/movies from Websites only to have them re-appear on some other site(s).  Online archive sites like the Way-back-machine, found at www.archive.org, can search and show Websites (and the information contained therein) exactly as they appeared up to fifteen years ago!   One online article, entitled “Say Cheese, 12 Photos That Should Have Never Been Posted Online”, gives great insight into the impact that “digital tattoos” have on people and how they have affected their lives (all of these examples reference people over the age of 18).

If we are to continue any type of civility into the classrooms and onward into the new online opportunities that are provided educationally through their implementation, then we FIRST MUST inform the students of what constitutes reasonable and proper behavior in our STANDARD classrooms.  Often, our students, simply, have never been informed (or informed and never reinforced) of the civil expectations for functioning in a creative and productive learning environment. 

In order to accomplish such a productive and safe environment, a number of common (though increasingly un-common in implementation) concepts need to be introduced (or re-introduced) to the students:

First and foremost, students need to learn and be taught  the concept of MUTUAL RESPECT, whether it is peer-to-peer or student-to-adult (teachers, administrators, employees, etc.).  While this may not be possible in every single circumstance for whatever reason, DISRESPECT is never to be allowed or tolerated. 

Second, the concept of COMMON COURTESY must be extended as a normal and “common” practice. Common Courtesy will usually take care of itself if Mutual Respect is developed and will be a visible by-product of the mutual respect that is fostered. 

Third, HONESTY in all things must be observed.  Whether academic honesty is at stake or honesty of another nature, forthrightness is always the best choice in all of the students’ endeavors -online or not. 

Fourth, SELF-DISCIPLINE should be encouraged. This is required for a student to achieve in all things, not the least of which are developing Mutual Respect, Honesty, and Common Courtesy. 

Fifth, the concept of SELF-REPUTATION must be made aware to the students.  Students must continually be made aware of the “imprint” that they are making in society about themselves (and others).  This is especially true in the online and digital worlds.  A “Digital Tattoo” can be either or positive or negative.  In the “online world”, a small ripple made a long time go can easily turn into a tidal-wave when it has finally emerged at a future point in time. 

I humbly submit these five concepts or “tenets” as a start for the consideration of developing acceptable practices for your students to engage with online Social Media, and Web 2.0 technologies and as future talking points.


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