Excerpt from Chapter 6: Creating and Maintaining a Safe Space Online

Teachers begin the year by establishing clear guidelines for student behavior, fostering relationship building and creating a safe environment in their classrooms to ensure that students feel safe, supported and respected. This necessary work done in the first month of school is critical to lowering students’ affective filters and laying a strong foundation on which to build throughout the year.

Private Online Community

Just as it is essential to begin the year in a classroom by creating this safe space, establishing an online community must be done with intention if it is to be successful and sustainable.

The Dos and Don’ts of Student Communication Online

To be effective, an online learning platform must be a safe space where students feel their voices will be respected, supported and heard. Establishing clear guidelines for online interactions is a critical step in creating an online forum that will be successful long term. A stronger in-class community will form as a result of establishing and maintaining a safe space in your online portal. I’ve included some strategies below you should encourage your students to use in their online environment.

Strategies for Creating and Maintaining a Safe Space:

Use each others’ names. Using a person’s name when you respond to his/her postings creates a friendly online tone.

Read questions and conversational postings carefully to avoid unnecessary confusion.

Compliment your peers when they post strong responses or contribute original ideas.

Ask questions. If anything is unclear or you want further information or insight on a topic, just ask. If you have a question, there are probably other members of the group who are confused and need further clarification as well. Remember: There is no such thing as a dumb question!

Be considerate. Remember that your peers cannot see your body language or hear your tone of voice, so you need to keep your language direct and respectful.

Avoid slang, jargon, and sarcasm. Some slang or jargon terms may be familiar to you, but not to others. Sarcasm is negative and can lead to rifts in what is meant to be a comfortable, safe online forum.

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

Stay open minded. If you expect others to respect and consider your comments and ideas, you must do the same for their comments and ideas.

Respond instead of reacting. Do not write a response if you are angry or upset. Instead, wait until you have had time to calm down and collect your thoughts.

Really read your peers responses. Avoid skimming. Respect the time your peers have spent articulating their thoughts by reading carefully and thoughtfully.

Reread your messages before sending them to ensure that your ideas are clearly communicated and supported.

Critique the content, not the person.

Do not present your personal opinions as fact. Back up your ideas with information to strengthen your statements.

Courteously answer all questions addressed directly to you.

Make I statements when respectfully disagreeing. Sharing an opposing opinion or idea is an important part of discussion, but it needs to be presented in constructive manner that encourages further discussion.

Do not use all caps when writing. It is interpreted as yelling.

Avoid emotional punctuation, like exclamation points, unless you are complimenting an idea shared.

Providing a variety of sentence starters that show students how to build on another student’s point, respectfully disagree with an idea or compliment a peer is helpful prior to work done online. Students can practice these skills more effectively if they can refer to a resource like the list below.  I like to post these “Dos and Don’ts of Student Online Communication” and “Sentence Starters” on my site for students to reference throughout the year.

Modeling sentence starters and creating a class code of conduct are also discussed in this chapter…

I welcome questions, comments, feedback!

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One Response to Excerpt from Chapter 6: Creating and Maintaining a Safe Space Online

  1. Pingback: Freedom of Speech: If Not at School, Where? | User Generated Education

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