Friday, March 10, 2017

#SOL17 Who Are You Online? 10/31

2017 is the tenth year of the Slice of Life Story Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers, The goal is to write and post a "slice of life" story every day during the month of March. My seventh graders are also participating in a slimmed down version of the challenge, writing 10 slices during the month.

Slice of Life: Who Are You Online?

Digital citizenship is becoming a regular part of school curriculums: teaching kids how to behave online, how to make wise decisions, and how their actions and words online reflect back on them.

My middle schoolers already have strong digital presences. Their parents have shared pictures of them online since they were young, many of them have their own Instagram accounts, they Snapchat and group text constantly, and some even have their own web sites or YouTube channels.

When we started blogging at the beginning of the year, we talked a little bit about digital citizenship and that question of "Who are you online?" We talked about what kind of information you should (and should not) share about yourselves online and why. I shared some examples of my own, like how I don't use my full name in association with my teaching blog - nor share the name of our school. Mainly that is so I can feel comfortable talking about what I do - even sometimes sharing their work or creations, while still giving them anonymity.

I also explained why I would be moderating both posts and comments on their blogs: mainly because sometimes what we think and how we say it don't always align, and it's important that we don't say things that might come across as hurtful or hateful, especially when that isn't our intention. This had led to many little in-the-moment conversations and "teachable moments," when I need to ask someone to rethink or revise something prior to sharing it with everyone.

But what has been fascinating to see, both through our regular blogging and now with the slice of life classroom challenge, is that sometimes my students are better able to be their real self online than they are in person. Kids have been writing and sharing posts far more truthfully, openly, and unguardedly than I might have expected. Saying things about themselves and about their place in the world that I have never heard them say out loud to each other.

A slice about missing their friends from other schools and feeling out of place here, a slice about not understanding the rude or competitive nature of their teammates on a soccer team, a slice in poetry about the pressures of middle school, even a slice about feeling singled out by a teacher's discipline system.

They are honest, they are raw, and they are willing to share their thoughts. Even more remarkable has been the responses from their own classmates. Comments of agreement and commiseration. Comments sharing similar stories or feelings.

I know that for me, one of the best things about blogging has been finding a supportive and encouraging community. I just hadn't realized how much blogging might help my students become a more supportive and encouraging community too.

(Click here to read my previous Slice of Life Challenge posts.)


  1. This area really interests me. I've introduced digital culture and online learning to students since the 90s (an early adapter in CA at a UC where my engineering major students (whose parents were my age) knew more about computers than I did -- and possibly more than IT support. I volunteered to teach ESL online to learn how to teach online by doing it. Then I taught in a rural community college where at least half of my students were non-traditional and learning to use computers (sometime reluctantly) -- and GED and computer literacy / writing in an after school program. Now I take online courses and participate in edtech forums -- recently with a small group of higher ed instructors working on a project about teaching digital citizenship to college students. So I've been around different sides of the topic. Online courses (#clmooc from NWP aside) are usually too higher ed oriented. This is a treat and imo where the real digital learning action is.

    1. It is so fascinating how fast this kind of thing keeps changing and adapting, but I find it so refreshing to see my students being willing to be so open and honest online. I feel like it bodes well for the future.


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