Connecting With Different Cultures Online, Responsibly

Nov 14, 2018 | All School, Come to Play, courage over comfort, Impact, Inquiry, Middle School News

With intentional timing, tweenagers in grade 6 are required to take a Digital Citizenship class as one of their electives, taught by Director of Instructional Technology Katie Cain.
Digital citizenship skills include making wise choices and treating others respectfully in an online space. Oftentimes for teenagers, “digital citizenship” encompasses a long list of Do’s and Don’ts. Rather than warn learners what they should not do, this course aims to empower students to make a positive impact on others through digital means. Through contributing positively to online communities and connecting with peers globally, students will become engaged (digital) citizen leaders.

One of the projects Mrs. Cain carried out in class last quarter was through Pen Pal Schools, an online platform that allows students to connect with other cultures around the world. They followed through on a project about food, after which Pen Pal Schools chose to feature them on their blog: PenPal Schools Blog
Mrs. Cain shares, “I’m so proud of these students and their work!”
From the PenPals website:
Protecting Personal Information
One of the hardest parts about connecting students with peers around the world is that you can’t control what information students will share. This is why it’s important to teach students how to protect their personal information online, and let them practice those skills in safe student-only communities like PenPal Schools.
Healthy Online Discussions
In order to avoid emoji-based conversations, students need to be taught how to have healthy online discussions. Just like you provide structure and strategies to help students learn how to have in-class discussions, students need the same guidance for online discussions, especially to learn how to “listen” and respond in an online discussion.

Empathy and International Mindedness
This may not be the first digital citizenship skill that comes to mind, but it is a critical that students learn how to practice empathy and international mindedness online. Global connections enable students to learn from peers who are truly different from them, who may even speak different languages! Luckily, technology presents opportunities to learn together regardless of where you life or what language you speak, and students need to have the skills to interact with people who are different from them.