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How would you feel if your friends were rating you online? Should there be more conversations in schools to promote appropriate use of technology outside of school? Using social media requires a degree of respect, however, some tweens and teens are rating each other in certain apps, hiding inappropriate images that have been circulated among students in what appears to be an innocent Calculator app just in case mom checks their phone, circulating, in social media, racially insensitive memes and trying to outdo each other in images that they post of themselves which show little amounts of clothing or none.
As a K-5 Technology Teacher, I have a character education idea to give a common dialogue about promoting caring, respectful and responsible interactions among students in our schools as an expansion of digital literacy. In an effort to build upon a culture of caring and respect at the Elementary level, I developed a character acronym to guide students when posting online. iCARE is the acronym which stands for
Using the words in the iCARE acronym, values of a caring, respect and responsibility could be promoted in schools. By using iCARE as the platform, opportunities could be provided through service projects and in interactions in classrooms and throughout the school to build an expectation of CARING and RESPECT which will hopefully spill over into out of school interactions, especially online. iCARE allows a dialogue to exist between students to build an expectation of respect in all interactions including online behavior.
While in person and online, students encounter each other and develop ways to communicate. In order to promote self worth and self esteem, iCARE spotlights ways to communicate face to face and online with respect. Too often, students have disrespected themselves by posting inappropriate images of themselves or others, belittled others through rude comments (Ex. TBR – To Be Rude which often precedes an ill spirited text or online posting) and seem to not care about the long term ramifications of their actions especially as it relates to racially charged texts and memes which perpetuate a lack of respect for various ethnic groups. It is time to take action and raise the bar. We have expectations for behavior at school already, however, iCARE gives a place to gauge interactions as respectful or not and provides opportunities for students to discuss how to change outcomes into respectful ones.
iCARE could build on Character Traits by having students celebrate ways that their classmates communicate and respectfully encounter each other at school or in social media. For example, in January, the traits that we focus on in my school are Justice and Fairness. Classes could talk about how they see people being treated fairly and unfairly by pointing to examples in the media. Teachers could show examples of how kids have not been treated fairly by other students online and have students brainstorm ways to change the tone to a respectful one. Students would decide how they would encounter the same situation online and what they could do to promote respect.
During February, students could examine situations of how to be a responsible citizen by creating hearts on paper which would have examples written on the hearts of how they are responsible, respectful and caring in online and face to face encounters with others. Schools could add to an online social media outlet like Twitter to share compliments of how people have been respectful, responsible and caring with the hashtag: #iCARE.
In March, students could focus on Courage or doing the right thing when others aren’t. iCARE conversations in classrooms would again spotlight ways to be courageous. Students could take the iCARE Pledge to promise to communicate and respectfully encounter others in person and online AND focus on examining how their choices online are courageous or cowardly. Teachers could have students examine ways to be courageous if online sharing in Social Media puts others down or tears down their reputation. Teachers could talk about how students who put others down are sometimes just seeking ways to build themselves up but are going about it all wrong. Students could brainstorm the following scenarios:
Brainstorm acceptable ways to communicate courageously.
Brainstorm respectful interactions and projects to empower people.
Brainstorm ways to respect ourselves and those who do not look like us.
Brainstorm ways to not perpetuate stereotypes.
Brainstorm how to give “likes” for sharing appropriate information online instead of seeking to “one up” someone and put a riskier image or meme online. Discuss apps to build a sense of community instead of oversharing inappropriate topics for tween and teens.
In April, our spotlighted trait is Perseverance. This could be a time to think about continuing the traits and persevering to make a difference in the lives of others. Students could show that they care by developing iCare school projects to target how to help others such as tutoring, volunteering and community service.
In May, the character focus trait is Hope. We could end the school year by sharing stories how students have had hope when they have seen others choose to communicate and respectfully encounter others. Students could nominate each other for iCARE Awards where they would outline how other students have demonstrated character traits while communicating respectfully face to face and in online interactions with others.
I would like to have students design an iCARE Tee Shirt for our community. A portion of the proceeds from each school could go to fund a service project such as the Servants With a Heart food preparation for hungry families in Charlotte and Nicaragua or to fund another charity. My school’s students packed 50,160 food packages in September of 2015 for Servants With a Heart which had a huge impact on students and their ability to make a difference. I blogged about that experience here.
This could be the beginning of a movement to usher in a culture of caring in other schools too. iCARE…Do you?