When it comes to adopting digital technologies, schools are making excellent strides. However, digital discipline in education presents its own challenges – especially as digital devices, tools, and apps become more mainstream. There has been a rise in attention toward what it means to be a responsible digital citizen; and what it might take to help shape students into world leaders in an era ruled by technology. In the past, students have expressed their grievances and differences in a more traditional manner. With digital technology and the internet, student wellbeing and interactions have changed. Bullying has evolved, and can now reach students well beyond campus.
In the Absence of Clear Guidelines
So far, schools have taken steps toward improving digital discipline in education by tracking action taken on school devices, improving mental wellness, and encouraging appropriate online behaviour. However, there are no clear guidelines about how to take action against students who are harassing and bullying their peers online.
In North Carolina, USA, the Supreme Court has passed cyberbullying laws that make it a misdemeanour for students who post anything online that has the intent to intimidate or torment their peers or educators. The issue here is that there is also no clear definition of what intimidation or torment is when it comes to online behaviours. A simple complaint online may not be seen by one individual as malicious, but another may view it differently. Slander is also open to interpretation, and then there is the issue of whether or not the free speech of students will be suppressed if they are not allowed to express themselves online. So, what is the answer?
Finding an Answer
While these issues can be challenging to counter individually, there is an answer that encompasses them all – education. By teaching students to be responsible digital citizens, educators can help combat some of the negative effects of digital technology and how it is evolving peer to peer engagement.
The first step in digital citizenship is understanding that the internet is part of participatory culture – one where students can create, connect, and collaborate and with a global audience. There are significant benefits to this – when used correctly. It is up to the teachers of today to train the leaders of tomorrow about how to utilise it to its fullest effect. This involves:
- Teaching students to take care of their technology: this includes software and hardware. The use of digital devices, tools, and services should be presented as a privilege. Students should also learn about malware, viruses, phishing, and other cybersecurity threats to prevent their devices from becoming infected.
- Helping students understand appropriate online avenues: such as which digital resources can be trusted, and which are not appropriate for their use. This may involve providing a list of approved websites, but is more about helping students understand how to make responsible and ethical decisions while online and interpret whether or not the information is credible and valid.
- Making sure Copyright Law and Fair Use are understood: Technology has made it easy to duplicate and share information. Teachers need to teach students what copyrighting, and fair use are, and how to avoid it.
- Preventing Cyberbullying: Digital Discipline in Education leans heavily toward preventing cyberbullying by helping students understand what bullying looks like online, as well as how to address and report it. This may involve teaching students what appropriate online behaviour looks like, especially on social media, and what the consequences are for inappropriate behaviour. The school can set guidelines for this and should have a strategy for addressing incidents. They should:
- Discuss what cyberbullying is and why it is unacceptable.
- Provide examples to help students understand what it looks like in context.
- Deliver safe and reliable avenues for reporting, counselling, and resolution.
- Understand Netiquette: Such as what appropriate and respectful behaviour looks like when interacting with others online, and what the rules and accepted norms of communication are across multiple online platforms.
- Promote Thoughtfulness: Educators must teach students in a digital age to be thoughtful and ethical when it comes to their digital engagement. This can be done by setting clear guidelines, but also establishing clear boundaries and giving examples about what appropriate and inappropriate online behaviour is.
Discipline in Digital
Digital discipline in Education is more than punishment – it is about teaching and helping students understand the purpose of technology and how to use it appropriately.
Digital technologies have enabled significant benefits for student success and is an essential tool for today’s learners as they strive to become the leaders of tomorrow.
Help ensure that your students are making the most of digital in your classroom. Contact MOQdigital today.