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Criteria for netiquette, setting the stage
by Daniel Kovach - Monday, June 24, 2013, 6:51 AM
 

From our Module 2 reading, Behaveyourself.com: Online Manners Matter, Weir writes, “Educators have been increasingly, and sometimes uncomfortably, aware that students need education not just in Internet tools but also in Internet behavior” (Weir, 2008), this statement begs to ask what should our reasonable expectations of behavior be with netiquette?  Is there a downside to a cumbersome list of dialog rules, could a lengthy series of guidelines governing discussion behavior stifle creative dialogue for fear of being taken out of context and offending someone?  From your experience in the class room as a teacher and online as a student, perhaps you believe the need for discussion ground rules (netiquette) is a question of maturity (level of students) or could it be more systemic, our cultural?   In the absence of discussion guidelines there are a number of reasons that standards of conduct and communication may seem nebulous in the online setting. Factors like age, level of education, social norms, and multicultural backgrounds may require netiquette boundaries where a more homogeneous group may question the necessity.   

For this discussion please explain what criteria you would use to determine the extent and necessity of netiquette guidelines appropriate for your online class.  Please offer some background as to the student population (age, degree of diversity, level, any relevant demographic information, etc…) and brief course description (however arbitrary).  

References

Weir, L. (2008, August 13). Behaveyourself.com: Online Manners Matter | Edutopia. Retrieved June 23, 2013, from http://www.edutopia.org/whats-next-2008-netiquette-guidelines

 
Picture of Kristen Pham
Re: Criteria for netiquette, setting the stage
by Kristen Pham - Monday, June 24, 2013, 6:51 PM
 

Dan,

The way I would approach netiquette guidelines with my students would depend on their experience with virtual classrooms.  If I was teaching this to freshmen in high school who had never had an academic class online before, I would start module 1 with introductions and a basic overview, and then in addition to the icebreaker activity, I would also have a second discussion requirement where students determined as a class what they wanted the netiquette rules to be.  For example, one student might give a lengthy description of how he doesn't want people making fun of each other and telling him how his posts are stupid, etc.  I might reply and say, "So Dan, it seems like what you're saying is 'no negativity' or 'treat others the way you want to be treated'.  Is that right?"  From what the students post as suggestions for rules, I can come up with the Ten Commandments, so to speak, for netiquette, and because our class generated them together, hopefully the students are more invested in following those rules.

If I was teaching a group of seniors who had taken online academic classes all throughout their high school careers, then I would perhaps post a list of netiquette rules/guidelines and quiz them on those rules.  However, I wouldn't want them to have to do the same activity for every class every semester.  That would be redundant, and as a student, I would be so bored!

Kristen Pham (Crystal Lake, IL)

Picture of Daniel Kovach
Re: Criteria for netiquette, setting the stage
by Daniel Kovach - Tuesday, June 25, 2013, 7:17 AM
 

Kristen,

You made a good point with your comment, “I wouldn't want them to have to do the same activity for every class every semester...”  I think crafting a class and mixing things up speaks to the first rule of course construction, know your students, well as much as we can anyway.  Beginning with introductions and netiquette is clearly important to creating a sense of place, to construct a framework or environment we can conceptualize and feel safe in.  This has long been a criticism of online learning, that people tend to feel distant and alone in an online class environment.  I have taken classes where I felt like part of a family, free to joke, challenge, and be critical and inversely where the course rules or netiquette were quite lengthy, creating ian nvisible barrier that made me reluctant to speak my mind (however respectfully). 

The course was on “Ethnicity and Demographics,” and I couldn’t help but feel there was considerable word and even thought policing going on.  I understand that can be a sensitive topic for some people, but the pre-established rules of netiquette made it uncomfortable to state one's contentions or challenge another’s point of view. 

The topic was interesting and the discussions were relevant, but talking with classmates off line and afterwards in other courses, several of us felt the climate overly liturgical to book of political correctness and stifled the hearty dicussion and debate I believe many of us wanted in such a college course.   

Dan in Washburn

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Re: Criteria for netiquette, setting the stage
by Kristen Pham - Thursday, June 27, 2013, 1:44 PM
 

Dan,

I know exactly what you mean in terms of thought policing (1984 reference, anyone?).  As an English teacher, I'm against censorship of ideas, generally speaking.  I feel it is difficult to learn if I'm limited as to what I can contribute.

Kristen Pham (Crystal Lake, IL)

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Re: Criteria for netiquette, setting the stage
by Stacy Drinkwine Hauser - Tuesday, June 25, 2013, 10:15 AM
 

Dan,

Excellent choice for topic discussion. You and I started this dialogue last week which prompted Becky's question about the necessity of the creation of netiquette guidelines. I'm glad you chose this topic for further analysis.

I'm considering this class to be my first legitimate experience with online learning since my past experience has just included minor blogging and required online readings. In my limited online learning experience, I appreciate the informative set up of this class, the icebreaker, and the discussion about setting up guidelines.

In my vclassroom, as you and I had discussed, there are some of my seniors that do need to be reminded of my procedures/ guidelines at the beginning of the year, but there is more of an expectation of behavior at their level. My sophomores who have never had a class with me would need more information. If I were to incorporate online teaching/learning techniques at the high school level, and there were students present in the class who had experience with online learning, they could lend a hand in teaching others what they knew about netiquette. If I were teaching a strictly online course, I believe I would follow suit of this class as I find it is effective, and at this point, have no past experience of which to compare.

You had referred to the class you took where "the pre-established rules of  netiquette made it uncomfortable to state one's contentions or  challenge another’s point of view." This is defnitely something to take into consideration. It makes me think of Harry K. and Rosemary T. Wong's book, The First Days of School. It states when creating the discipline plan, to limit the number of rules to three to five since "people find it easier to remember numbers in groups of three to five" (147). They also suggest involving students in the process with guidance from the teacher. There's always the comedian with his rule of "A's for everyone and no homework." 

I guess in summary, netiquette guidelines are a necessary part of the online classroom structure to aid in classroom mangaement which we can all agree is an important part of every classroom.

I would really like to hear everyone's take on this topic as to what their plan of action would be.

Reference:

Wong, Harry K. and Rosemary T. Wong. The First Days of  School.     

      Mountain View: Harry K. Wong Publications, Inc, 1998. Print.

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Re: Criteria for netiquette, setting the stage
by Kristen Pham - Friday, June 28, 2013, 4:19 PM
 

Stacy,

I, too, felt that grade levels were an important variable.  I like the idea of creating 3-5 rules.  I've done more than that before, and it's much less effective.  Great resource.    I also viewed netiquette as a proactive strategy toward (virtual) classroom management.  I supposed online teachers will be taught different classroom management strategies for this new classroom environment!

Kristen Pham (Crystal Lake, IL)

Picture of Jennifer Morris
Re: Criteria for netiquette, setting the stage
by Jennifer Morris - Tuesday, June 25, 2013, 9:02 PM
 

Hi Dan, 

I think that the extent of netiquette guidelines definitely depends on age, level, and maturity of the class in question. The first two of these - age and level - are quite obvious, but maturity is a class characteristic that may need to be observed over time.

This past year I had two preps. One was a junior level AP Physics class, and the other was a regular level physics class comprised of both juniors and seniors. Both classes are composed of fairly motivated students who are, for the most part, digital natives (meaning they've been exposed to online technology for most of their lives). Since only two years of science are required at our school, all students enrolled in physics at any level have chosen to be there and therefore have a higher set of expectations.

Regardless of the class, however, I think I would approach the topic of netiquette cautiously and not assume anything based on just the students' age and level of physics. One of the most important precursors to any online activity could be an informal survey of what students know about internet safety and behavior. From there, the teacher, as a professional educator, could make a judgment call as to whether or not a more formal netiquette lesson is needed. 

One question that still remains is what if you have students of varying maturity levels with respect to appropriate online behavior within a given class? Do you feel that a topic such as netiquette could be differentiated if some students need more information/practice with proper behaviors while others don't?

Jenny in Chicago

Picture of Daniel Kovach
Re: Criteria for netiquette, setting the stage
by Daniel Kovach - Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 7:20 AM
 

Well stated Jenny, varying age, online experience, and maturity seems to blur the parameters and expectations of the amount of rules of netiquette a teacher might find necessary.  As to your question, “…what if you have students of varying maturity levels with respect to appropriate online behavior within a given class”, this is where some basic foundational rules are crucial. 

Again, I tend to keep my rules very basic and hold reasonable expectations for the students to conform to environment they dwell in.  As a student and teacher of online learning, I’m willing to call a student’s online behavior out if it seems snarky (not joking) or disrespectful (not competing or challenging). 

Similar to a traditional classroom that has surpassed a dull roar requiring an, “Alright tone it down class,” even if it is only a few students triggering the warning, I would post a simple reminder along the lines of, “Just a reminder that I’m counting on you to be respectful in your posts and responses.”

Dan in Washburn (Stout/Menomonie Wed/Thurs)

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Re: Criteria for netiquette, setting the stage
by Kristen Pham - Thursday, June 27, 2013, 1:48 PM
 

Jenny,

I love the idea of a survey at the beginning a a course to gauge the students' prior knowledge about netiquette.  Like you, I tend to err on the side of caution and assume they know nothing rather than assuming they know too much.  I'd rather overemphasize/overteach than under.  My geometry teacher sophomore year was a math genius who taught all the AP Calc classes, but it was hard for him to teach students who didn't have the prior knowledge the advanced students did.  I'm sure your students appreciate your sensitivity to info they may not know!

Kristen Pham (Crystal Lake, IL)

Picture of Lori Amsellem
Re: Criteria for netiquette, setting the stage
by Lori Amsellem - Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 12:44 PM
 

Hi Dan,

There is definite truth in the statement you quoted, “Educators have been increasingly, and sometimes uncomfortably, aware that students need education not just in Internet tools but also in Internet behavior” (Weir, 2008). It would be nice if that were not the case and students just knew what to do. However, I am seeing more and more students not even using traditional etiquette in their lives. I am hearing less please and thank you and excuse me coming from the students. In our reading by George Collison, Facilitating Online Learning, he states that “the term ‘netiquette was coined to describe the online equivalent of politeness or civility in the day-to-day physical world.” If students are not doing that in their everyday lives, why would we expect them to know to do it online?

My example is a college level online collaborative class that fulfills a general education requirement at a big university and the class is being taken by all grade levels. Even though it is a college level course, it is possible that for some this would be their first online class and therefore they might not be familiar with the netiquette guidelines. Since the students taking the class come from different age groups with different maturity levels they all need to be working from the same place. In order to do that it is crucial to present the netiquette guidelines and ground rules at the start of the class. In addition to that, I would add a list of consequences that would occur if they were not followed. For this example, all of this would be done in the form of a contract the students would be required to sign stating that they understand and accept the netiquette guidelines, ground rules and the consequences and pledge to maintain a safe and respectful learning environment.

Honestly, for me no matter what online student population I might have or what factors might be in play, I would still believe it is always important to establish from the start those expectations and consequences.

Lori

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Re: Criteria for netiquette, setting the stage
by Daniel Kovach - Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 2:55 PM
 

Lori, I think you made some very valid points, especially how the level of civility has taken a beating by this younger generation (Gen Z) and that a mixed bag of students makes for a challenging arena of idea and perception.  To your first point, I agree that a young gentlemen or young lady (teens) really stands out these days. 

“Sorry Gen Z, you do not impress me with your manners” (off or online), but I find students (of most ages) to be very perceptive at reading their teacher’s inferences (however cryptic or nonverbal).  By raising the bar of maturity, often as simply as informing the younger (less mature) students of the privilege they have to “work at this level”; it implies a certain expectation of conduct.  I tend to avoid establishing consequences before I get to know the group, unfair as this sounds, it has the potential to put you in a more awkward or confining position than the one who commits the infraction.

Dan in Washburn

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Re: Criteria for netiquette, setting the stage
by Lori Amsellem - Thursday, June 27, 2013, 11:06 AM
 

Hi Dan,

I can see your point about not wanting to set up certain types of consequences before you get to know the group. It makes a lot of sense. Those are the consequences that I call the “add ons” created when certain things happen along the way that warrant consequences.

The netiquette rule about no flaming or personal attacks. Hopefully teachers and students all know that this is something that is not tolerated. What if in the heat of the moment a student starts to ”flame” and then remembers what would happen if they do that and stops. Do you think the same student would have continued if there was not a consequence set up for that rule or if they did not know the consequences of that action ahead of time? 

Lori

Picture of Becky Mather
Re: Criteria for netiquette, setting the stage
by Becky Mather - Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 3:57 PM
 

Dan-

I am glad you chose this topic for your prompt! In this particular course we try to provide a general overview of online learning- rather broad and shallow. (The next four courses in the certificate program go deeper.) As such, we hopefully model best practices in online learning. In module 2 the topic of netiquette serves to make us focus on the basic concept of netiquette- its usefulness and boundaries. Opinions on this subject cover the gamut- from "my class needs 25 written rules" to "let's all just use common sense". Of course I'm simplifying a bit.

Your forum has helped open up the whole idea of netiquette and has helped everyone see that there is not one correct answer or rule. Every situation is different, with different age groups, different teacher personalities, etc. This says to me that there are more similarities than differences in running a F2F or an online class.There are great and mediocre teachers in each environment, and various styles of classroom management in each. As someone pointed out, students learn what each teacher's expectations are and choose to coexist with them, or not.

In summary, it seems that a set of classroom/expectations or netiquette are an extension of the teacher's personality or management style. What do y'all think?

Becky/Sturgeon Bay

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Re: Criteria for netiquette, setting the stage
by Stacy Drinkwine Hauser - Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 10:04 PM
 

Becky and all,

In summary, it seems that a set of classroom/expectations or  netiquette are an extension of the teacher's personality or  management style.

I have to agree. Each teacher has a unique teaching style; each teacher has a unique management style as well.

StacyDrinkwine Hauser

Picture of Daniel Kovach
Re: Criteria for netiquette, setting the stage
by Daniel Kovach - Thursday, June 27, 2013, 9:20 AM
 

Thank you Becky for boiling it down, “… classroom/expectations or netiquette are an extension of the teacher's personality or management style,” and with that a resounding Bingo!  I think, like most people, I like to know my boundaries; I believe we are, quite simply, wired this way.  Until we develop that “sense of place” with any new environment and begin to make our own judgments about the established boundaries and begin to challenge them, knowing the boundaries gives us an innate sense of security and in the absence of any pronounced boundaries we tend to seek them out.  Watch any group of people (especially kids) when put into a new environment, the first thing they (many of them often and seemingly uncharacteristically) do is test the boundaries.  We’ve all seen what substitute teachers (with ambiguous boundaries and untested “teeth and claws”) endure in their role when this little experiment plays out in the classroom. 

I take classroom management seriously, as I believe order is essential to any structure, including and especially, learning.  I also recognize I’m the leader and I set the tone, I can be drill sergeant Dan or the class clown when the need arises.  My theory of netiquette is designed to set the stage with as basic and subtle a boundary as I can establish.  To me this implies, “I’m human too and I respect your ability to exercise discretion in your postings, but as your teacher I do have a reasonable measure to which I will hold you accountable to.”  One could argue that online learning is too distinctly different from the face to face environment of learning in terms of classroom management, but to that I say …  “classroom/expectations or netiquette are an extension of the teacher's personality or management style” (Mather, 2013)

Thanks for that Becky!

Dan (at Stout)

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