Relationships & Communication

  • Here's some things to consider as Internet-based tools are used for Relationships & Communication:

    1. Internet Communication is not simply limited to Email. It includes chat, instant messaging (texts), social media, online forums, help centers of all types (including educational), video/audio conferencing, and many others.
    2. Communication can be one-way, two-way, or fully-interactive between many parties. As these tools are used, it is valuable to recognize "who is in the conversation" and "who could be brought into the conversation" and "who may end up seeing/hearing this communication" (which, by the way, could eventually be anyone).
    3. Communication can include written words, pictures, and graphics. However, it can also include video and audio, even sometimes when you don't realize it.
    4. Cyberbullying is an unfortunate reality of the digital world. Students should learn to cope with cyberbullying, including the ability to not incite it, to ignore it, and to know when to report it.
    5. On the other hand, Internet-based communications can foster, enhance, and strengthen positive relationships. It allows for continuing a relationship across virtually any distance. Its "always available" nature allows for positive reinforcement notes that simply may not be possible otherwise.
    6. People should be very careful about communications that originate on the Internet and to keep the communication appropriate to the context. For example, if someone in an online math help center asks where you live, that is communication that is probably not appropriate to the context.
    7. Internet-based communication is often characterized by an ability to "retain" the communication for future reference and can also be forwarded. 
    8. Much Internet communication, in its various forms, provides an opportunity to form and refine thoughts, to review the words and the "message" from various angles, and to introduce extra care. People should take advantage of these aspects of the communication medium so as to communicate well and not in an overly reactionary fashion. Even when a particular tool is supposed to be a "fast communication" tool, it will only move as fast as you make it go. Always feel justified to "slow down".
    9. When an online communication is beginning to "flame", it is sometimes wisest to simply stop the communication - a virtual "walk away" - before unintended or regretful things are said, written, or otherwise communicated.
    10. Written communication on the Internet, even when augmented with graphics, emoticons, and pictures has limited ability to provide gestures, tone fluctuation, or posture all of which are "core" pieces of verbal/visual communication.
    11. Video/Audio conferencing are very powerful tools on the Internet. These tools, especially when accompanied by transcripts, notes, or slides can bring the power of written word together with the positive aspects of verbal/visual communication.
    12. You should assume that any communication you have, in any form, on the Internet could be tracked and/or monitored. Don't ever think that an Internet-based communication is "private" - this is good advice even with services that claim to remove content, like SnapChat.
    13. School staff should limit social media communication with students, especially to single students. Text messaging with students should also be limited. The nature of these realms, even though they are where many of our students exist, are prone to communication delving into areas that would be inappropriate for student-adult communications.
    14. If your computer has a video camera, it is not a bad idea to cover the camera with a small piece of tape when you do not intend it to be in use. Similar attention is wise in relation to "muting" a microphone on your computer.

    As with previous month's emails about the Digital Citizenship Theme of the Month, we are not necessarily asking teachers to do anything directly in relation to this topic, although that would be GREAT! A simple and fairly short activity relating to Relationships & Communication might be: Ask your students what they would and should do if they received a communication from an unknown source or of a nature that makes them uncomfortable, and just let the ideas/conversation flow.