Once again the focus of my major project for EC&I 832 was to focus on teaching Digital Citizenship to my students, as well as get a better understanding for myself. I decided that I needed to create a Responsible Use Policy for my classroom and focus on three elements from Ribble’s Nine Elements of digital citizenship that I believe would best benefit my students. I have supplemented a lot of my learning and teaching using Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools. The three elements that I decided to focus on were Digital Etiquette (focused on last blog), Digital Law and Digital rights and responsibilities. This blog will focus on my attempt to teach and learn about Digital Law.
Coming into this part of my Major project I was very excited because I have come to realize that a lot of the problems that I deal with in my classroom come from my student’s behavior online. Many problems have arose from students actions towards others online without knowing the consequences of their actions. I am hopeful that after teaching what digital law is to my students they will be aware that their actions could possibly have serious consequences. We live in a world now where our students spend a great deal of time online and they must know that there are laws put in place to police their actions online. I have come to the realization of how important it is for teachers to be aware of digital law so we can teach this to our students. Also in my next blog post I am going to touch on my learning on the Copyright laws that I dove into for my own knowledge.
“Digital law refers to the legal responsibilities for our electronic actions. It includes issues such as copyright materials, hacking into systems, digital identity theft or posting illicit photos” (Source). This is a great definition of Digital law, although it was very broad for what I felt my class needed to focus on. I broke the idea of digital law into one major area that I believe impacts my classroom; laws around cyber bullying. I do intend to go into more teaching about digital law in my classroom as the year goes on, but for the case of this project I focused on just the one topic. I do have a police officer scheduled to come talk to my class in late April regarding digital law.
When approaching the issue of cyberbullying I found a really good lesson plan that is targeted towards High school, but I simplified it a little bit so that it was more appropriate for middle school. It stated that 37% of all grade 4-11 students have had something bad done to them online and 39% of the same group said they have done something mean or hurtful to someone online. The lesson plan focused on the legal aspects of cyberbullying. It discusses how cyberbullying can be both looked at through criminal law and civil law due to the circumstances of the situation.
-Criminal Harassment– This can be communication that causes another person to fear for their life or the lives of others. This does not have to be on purpose, this is still a criminal act as long as the person feels threatened.
-Defamatory libel– communication that can severely harm a persons reputation
-Publishing intimate images without consent – Taking, posting, passing or receiving of nude photos of someone without their consent.
Defamation – communicating false information that will harm someone’s reputation (lesser extent). This can also be known as slander
This was a powerful moment within my classroom. I honestly believe that the majority of my students did not believe that the repercussions of their actions online would have the same impact as actions offline. It seemed that they were very intrigued in the laws and consequences. This led into a discussion of the individuals who have taken their lives due to others mean comments or actions online. That just because actions are taken online does not make them any less significant than actions face to face.
We then discussed the importance of knowing their rights as students when it came to cyberbullying. These are taken from the lesson plan and put onto my modified Cyberbullying presentation. They are as follows;
- a right to learn in a safe environment
- a right to be treated with respect by teachers, staff and other students
- a right to free expression where that right does not libel another person, cause another person to fear for her or his safety, or interfere with the operation of the class and school, and the creation of a safe learning environment for all students
- a responsibility to treat all teachers, staff and other students with respect
- a responsibility to use school space and equipment, including computers, in a responsible and appropriate way
- a responsibility to report to the teacher or administration anything that may interfere with maintaining a safe learning environment
I think it was extremely important that my students understood this because often times they think that this just means in a physical space and not online. When in fact the world they live in is as much online as it is in the physical classroom. They need to feel safe online if they are going to be successful and engage citizens.
We ended off our lesson with looking at case studies involving cyberbullying. My students were tasked with identifying if this was an act that could be put under the criminal law, civil law or no law at all. It was at this moment that I knew this lesson had sunk in. My students became aware of what was allowed or morally acceptable online. They were able to identify why something would fall under a law.
This lesson solidified the importance of teaching our students about digital citizenship and their responsibilities as a member. As educators we often take for granted that our students already know what it is to be a capable digital citizen, but until they are taught they have no clue. It has improved my understanding of the importance of teaching all aspects of digital citizenship and how important and crucial it is to teach digital law to your students. This Major Project has improved my knowledge of what it is to be a productive digital citizen and my responsibility to teach my students in the process. In the future I am going to try and touch on all of Ribble’s 9 elements as I move forward in my teaching career.
Here is the lesson plan I used and the powerpoint that I created
Look for the next Blog that will continue to talk about my learning of the copyright laws.