Top 10 Dos and Don’ts: Online Communication and Cyber Bullying

In my recent article for the SF Examiner “Can Teaching Online Communication Skills Effectively Combat Cyberbullying?” I discussed the importance of teaching students how to engage in positive online interactions. Although many students spend time each day communicating online, they have not been taught online etiquette.

“In a recent survey of recruiters from companies with more than 50,000 employees, communication skills were cited as the single more important decisive factor in choosing managers.” The way people communicate is changing. An increasing amount of communication takes place via email, social networking sites and text messages. Teachers need to embrace this change and adapt their curriculum to meet evolving needs of this generation of students.

Teachers who have adopted an online discussion tool to complement their in-class curriculum can begin by teaching the simple Dos and Don’t of Online Communication. Prior to adopting Collaborize Classroom – a structured online discussion tool that is free for teachers – with my own students, I reviewed these ten tips for behavior in online discussions. It helped to create a safe space in our online forum that has made our discussions more effective, supportive and respectful.  There are a variety of free tools – such as Collaborize Classroom – that allow for structured online discussions that can increase comprehension and engagement while teaching students the art of online discourse.

Dos and Don’ts of Online Student Communication

Encourage students to:

1.     Respond instead of react. If a student is angry or upset, he or she should allow time to calm down and collect their thoughts before responding to a peer.

2.     Avoid emotional punctuation, like exclamation points, when a conflict arises.

3.     Avoid using all caps when writing as it is interpreted as yelling.

4.     Reread messages before sending them to ensure that their ideas are clearly and courteously communicated.

5.     Be considerate and keep language direct. Remind them that their peers cannot see their body language or hear their tone of voice, so they need to keep their language direct and respectful.

6.     Use each others’ names. Using a person’s name in responses creates a friendly tone and fosters relationship building.

7.     Listen to all ideas presented. Remember there is no right or wrong in a discussion. A variety of perspectives adds depth to a conversation.

8.     Really read their peers’ responses. Respect the time they have spent articulating their thoughts by reading carefully and thoughtfully. This will help them avoid misunderstandings

9.     Ask questions if anything is unclear to prevent unnecessary confusion.

10.  Remember not to present their personal opinions as facts.

If you have had success using an online discussion tool with your students and have additional “tips” to support students in online communication, I welcome your expertise! What guidelines for online participation and behavior have you found helpful? What successes and challenges have you encountered with student online communication? I look forward to your comments and ideas.

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