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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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The Ethics, Hurdles, and Payoff of Advising an Online Student Newspaper

Student journalism has moved into cyberspace, and online journalism advisors need deep experience in the field, as well as cultivating a climate of trust and integrity.

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Brian Silberberg's picture

I think this is a highly productive way of considering the future of teaching kids journalism. I strongly agree with the points that teaching journalism needs to stop being treated as a sort of "pass the buck" subject among English and History teachers. Especially given today's constantly changing media environment it's important to bring people in who are interested and committed to helping students navigate that landscape.

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Mr. B-G's picture
Mr. B-G
English, journalism, and public speaking teacher from Western Massachusetts

Hiring a trained, competent adviser is no doubt essential for a high-functioning journalism program. However, advising a journalism program is more about students and their decision making than the adviser's. The best scholastic journalism publications are open forum, student-run publications, where students - not advisers - make editorial decisions.

Rather than you seeking input on stories, it's the students who should be doing that. While you obviously want your administration to value and trust your judgment, what's more important is for your school's administrators to value the decision making of your students.

This is why all journalism teachers need to have a foundational knowledge of journalistic ethics and an understanding of the laws and cases which affect student speech. It is essential that this information is imparted to students early so they can make sound decisions regarding the content of their publication.

I noticed that you refer to the student newspaper as "a school publication," which makes me question if the online paper is a designated open forum. If it's not, it becomes more or less a PR arm of the school, rather than a service to your student body. The best newspapers serve as vehicles for student voice and watchdogs on the adults who run the school. It can be hard for students to "shine a light" when the focus of that light has to be approved by you, their adviser. You mention that the students have "never been outright censored." I wonder, though, how many stories have been finessed so that readers' "immediate judgments about the school" are favorable.

I would encourage you to empower your students to be the decision makers of their paper. They should be the ones guiding and approving stories, not you. If we want to teach students how to make good decisions, then we need to enable - not handcuff - their ability to do so.

(1)
David Cutler's picture
David Cutler
High School History, Government and Journalism teacher from Boston
Blogger

Mr. B-G, I couldn't agree more with many of your comments. Letting students make the hard decisions, not the adviser, is something that I struggled with for a long time. I still struggle with it. I would welcome any advise you have.

To answer your other questions, The Gator is an open forum in that anybody can comment. That being said, I leave it to my editors to decide whether those comments should be viewable to the public.

I certainly hear your concerns about me offering ultimate approval before posting content, and how in some instances this limits student voice. On the other hand, as I wrote in the piece, my students are still learning the ethics and mechanics of reporting. I don't want them to regret posting something, and if I deem it appropriate I step in. I aim to do less and less of this over time.

Thanks for your comments and insights!

Mr. B-G's picture
Mr. B-G
English, journalism, and public speaking teacher from Western Massachusetts

Thanks, David, for your willingness to foster a discussion about scholastic journalism and the role advisers play. The work we do is important, and, unfortunately, done too often in isolation. I appreciate this post and the conversations I hope it will spur.

I teach in a public high school. Our student media are designated open-forum publications. This means students are responsible - and liable - for all content created. I always begin the year with lessons on ethics and journalistic rights and responsibilities. I teach students that the #1 thing they have as journalists is credibility, and that credibility can be destroyed in an instant by a single ill-informed or inappropriate post.

As idyllic as it might sound, the students hold themselves accountable. Their newspaper has been around since 1919. There is a real sense of stewardship involved in writing for their paper, and the students want to do well by it.

Open-forum status is a legal classification that goes beyond allowing comments on a website or letters to the editor. It has to do with who makes content decisions, and who is liable for those decisions. As soon as we become the arbiters of what students can or cannot publish, we become liable for that content. As you can imagine, students take their work seriously when they realize that they - not their adviser, not their principal, not their parents - are liable and responsible for their content. You can also imagine how empowering this can be, especially given the institutional machinations that consistently work to strip young people of their voice and agency.

I would recommend ensuring your students: 1) have a strong foundation in ethical decision making, 2) understand the responsibilities that come with freedom of the press, and 3) are empowered to have ownership and act as stewards of their student media. I think, with those three things in place, you will see them rise to the occasion.

For more about open/public forum status, check out this article published by the Student Press Law Center: http://bit.ly/15JouEG

Mr. B-G's picture
Mr. B-G
English, journalism, and public speaking teacher from Western Massachusetts

Hiring a trained, competent adviser is no doubt essential for a high-functioning journalism program. However, advising a journalism program is more about students and their decision making than the adviser's. The best scholastic journalism publications are open forum, student-run publications, where students - not advisers - make editorial decisions.

Rather than you seeking input on stories, it's the students who should be doing that. While you obviously want your administration to value and trust your judgment, what's more important is for your school's administrators to value the decision making of your students.

This is why all journalism teachers need to have a foundational knowledge of journalistic ethics and an understanding of the laws and cases which affect student speech. It is essential that this information is imparted to students early so they can make sound decisions regarding the content of their publication.

I noticed that you refer to the student newspaper as "a school publication," which makes me question if the online paper is a designated open forum. If it's not, it becomes more or less a PR arm of the school, rather than a service to your student body. The best newspapers serve as vehicles for student voice and watchdogs on the adults who run the school. It can be hard for students to "shine a light" when the focus of that light has to be approved by you, their adviser. You mention that the students have "never been outright censored." I wonder, though, how many stories have been finessed so that readers' "immediate judgments about the school" are favorable.

I would encourage you to empower your students to be the decision makers of their paper. They should be the ones guiding and approving stories, not you. If we want to teach students how to make good decisions, then we need to enable - not handcuff - their ability to do so.

(1)
Brian Silberberg's picture

I think this is a highly productive way of considering the future of teaching kids journalism. I strongly agree with the points that teaching journalism needs to stop being treated as a sort of "pass the buck" subject among English and History teachers. Especially given today's constantly changing media environment it's important to bring people in who are interested and committed to helping students navigate that landscape.

(2)

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5 App and Mobile Use Guides for Parents

Matt Davis has curated a list of resources for parents for using mobile devices and apps with children, tweens, and teens.
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Jhoelli Tan's picture

It's good to have a cellphone yet children must be guided how to use it properly. Parent should be aware of what their children do in handling cellphones and using applications.

norie gonzaga's picture

Using a mobile device is a great help for the children and also to the parents for it serves as a communication tool and in teaching learning process. But these devices should be used only for important purposes.

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Digital Citizenship in Upper Elementary School

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I am looking for ideas through which I can incorporate digital citizenship practices into everyday learning. Something which 8-10 year olds can relate with. We have an yearly Digital Citizenship Week in which we have intensive five-day long activities comprising of games, quizzes and talks which emphasize on the wide and varied range of integral points to keep in mind while using technology. But, this year I thought to give it a new flavour where I could integrate normal classroom learning with responsible usage of technology.

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Social Entrepreneurship: 7 Ways to Empower Student Changemakers

Tap into students' heartbreak to discover how they want to change the world, and the power of social media will launch them toward great accomplishments.
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Meriwynn Mansori's picture

What a fabulous blog post, Vicki! Using social entrepreneurship based on "mapping heartbreak" is such a powerful tool to engage students in global challenges. As a curriculum writer, I am always looking for ways to make learning relevant and meaningful for students. In fact, next week I'm presenting at ACTFL about this topic with a 7th grade teacher who is using this curriculum, which combines social entrepreneurship with global studies and language learning for middle-school immersion students. Thanks for sharing these ideas.

Angela Ribo's picture
Angela Ribo
Bilingual/ESL/Pre-K Program Specialist

This is right on! I see a correlation between "mapping heartbreak' and my sister, June McBride's work in her Path to Scholarships books and workshops.

Pauline Roberts's picture

Thanks for the mention Vicki! With a focus on sustainability,we kicked off Sciracy this year by asking the kids to think about and finish the statement, " I think our community needs..." They have developed and supported their claim with research, including interviews with local experts,surveys, and data collection.They have addressed potential counter claims and when they have completed final drafts of their persuasive essays they present them to our principal for approval. I am looking forward to seeing how math and geography comes into play as they put together and implement their plans for improving our community. Projects in the making include building a greenhouse from used soda bottles, growing organic vegetables for the school cafeteria and persuading restaurants to buy produce from local farmers.So much fun and so much learning!

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Zachary Ramsey's picture

This is an AMAZING post! I learned so much and am so inspired to challenge my students to map their heartbreaks and start making a difference. I can't wait to apply this information in my classroom. Thank you, Vicki!

Patrick Abraham's picture

What a great idea and concept you are promoting in supporting students through your social entrenprenership! Helping students become empowered through learning and self-advocating for the many talents will lead students to better outcomes both academically and social-emotionally! You are not only connecting with your students and showing them that they matter and are relevant, but you are promoting social justice in the process. All students deserve nothing less than to feel relevant and important. I love this idea and the fact that you are incorporating technology in this digital age in teaching students to engage in entrepreneurship through social media and connect to the global world is fantastic. Thanks for your creativity and supporting students.

Pauline Roberts's picture

Thanks for the mention Vicki! With a focus on sustainability,we kicked off Sciracy this year by asking the kids to think about and finish the statement, " I think our community needs..." They have developed and supported their claim with research, including interviews with local experts,surveys, and data collection.They have addressed potential counter claims and when they have completed final drafts of their persuasive essays they present them to our principal for approval. I am looking forward to seeing how math and geography comes into play as they put together and implement their plans for improving our community. Projects in the making include building a greenhouse from used soda bottles, growing organic vegetables for the school cafeteria and persuading restaurants to buy produce from local farmers.So much fun and so much learning!

(1)

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Digital Citizenship Pinterest Board

Related Tags: Digital Citizenship

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10 Takeaways From Teens on Digital Media

When asked about living on social media, teens seek parental guidance while dreading embarrassment, crave closeness while preserving individuality, and try balancing pressure and silliness.

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S_A_Smith's picture

Last week, I asked high school sophomores about instagram and snapchat. Many still use instagram but snapchat is where the majority of students are spending their time. So much change! What's next!?

djo's picture

Many of my students still enjoy paper versions of handouts as opposed to posts through Schoology

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Why I Hate "Digital Citizenship"

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As educators, we seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time talking about the notion of digital citizenship. I've seen posts all over the place - including on Edutopia - outlining to teachers and educators what is meant by digital citizenship and how important it is for students to be aware of it. I highly recommend reading them - they're full of useful knowledge and helpful tips for teachers to consider when they help their students establish a foothold in the digital world.

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What Your Students Really Need to Know About Digital Citizenship

Teach your students about the "9 Key Ps" of digital citizenship as you help them acquire both proactive and experiential knowledge of the online world.
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Scott McLeod's picture
Scott McLeod
Director of Innovation, Prairie Lakes AEA

Vicki, you and I are both strong believers in student empowerment but I notice that there's not much about empowerment here. Can we add to your list some items like 'productivity' or 'power?' Some folks may see this as reinforcing the predominant paradigm of 'digital citizenship' as 'do what you should' and 'be good' not also 'do what you could' and 'be powerful?'

Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher's picture
Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher
Computer Fundamentals, Computer Science and IT Integrator from Camilla, GA
Blogger

Really? I guess to me student empowerment is a given and a must in such an environment where "Students need experience sharing and connecting online with others in a variety of environments." Sharing and connecting empowers because we aren't premoderating (censoring) comments but letting students have free conversations about the things that matter.

However, if you don't see empowerment then others will agree with you and see that too. So, as the author let me reiterate that digital citizens as regular citizens should be empowered to have a voice. As I teach I want to unleash student's energy and excitement by tapping into their passion and causes that matter.

So, yes, Scott- empowerment is vital and thank you for adding your voice to the conversation on this topic and clarifying something that is certainly central to this conversation--- the empowerment of students to be digital citizens.

In fact- if we take one important issue-- that of cyber bullying and bullying-- the only research proven thing that helps is empowering bystanders. We must not be bystanders but must be voices to speak for things that matter. And, Scott, thank you for being a voice that matters and speaking out for kids! They are worth it!!

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Five-Minute Film Festival: Teaching Digital Citizenship

VideoAmy explores the topic of digital citizenship with this playlist of videos on the importance of online safety, manners, privacy, and responsibility.

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Bonnie Bracey Sutton's picture
Bonnie Bracey Sutton
Teacher Agent of Change, Power of US Foundation
Blogger

The link and a summary. This is very important work. Thank you.

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Digital Citizenship: Developing a Culture of Trust and Transparency

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dwillard's picture

Love this, Andrew! We have most recently adopted this more positive and proactive approach at Providence Day School. We developed a digital citizenship compass with 7 precepts to help empower and guide our students.

Here is the web version (with compass graphic) of our parent/teacher resource: http://pddigitalcitizenship.wordpress.com/

Here is the website that supports our monthly town-hall meetings with parents called Parenting in the Digital Age: https://sites.google.com/a/providenceday.org/digitalparenting/

KatieDiebold's picture

Andrew this is GREAT! I can really relate to the way you think! Do you have any examples of the documents you have parents sign off on?

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