By Courtney Dickinson
In this era of remote schooling, there are new tech platform norms and social coaching advice that we, as parents and educators, need to expressly spell out for our children. Framing “netiquette norms” and coaching how students can engage productively will support their success in on-line learning and social collaboration in a video classroom world. Students need explicit guidance to know how to bridge to this virtual world.
Being in a virtual classroom is a social experience and requires conscientious self awareness and self management. As is the case when students are together at school, there are many behaviors which can be inappropriate and risky; comments and actions can be misconstrued and backfire. Make it clear to kids that when they are not in person, there is an even higher risk that they will be misinterpreted by others. The following are netiquette norms that teachers can implement in online classes:
- Location matters! Find a spot in your home where lighting and sound work well, where you can be physically comfortable, and distractions are limited.
- Be dressed for class. You wouldn’t wear pajamas to school on a regular day, so don’t wear them now.
- Listen and avoid interrupting verbally or through chat, just as if you were sitting in the classroom. You might need to mentally “bookmark” your idea even longer than you would during an in-person discussion. Write it down so you don’t forget it, and then insert it later when it fits.
- Don’t YELL by using capital letters, bold font, or excessive punctuations. You won’t get the result you want. You will just make people feel annoyed at you, and then they may YELL back – which is unproductive – or not listen to you at all.
- Attempt to find your own answer. Take the time to read and reread directions and information in emails and other written messages. See if you can figure it out before asking for the answer. Believe in yourself!
- Keep your writing in the “chat” function formal. Textspeak can b gr8 4 ur friends, but in class your written communication should reflect proper writing style.
- Be respectful and kind. While it feels easier to say hurtful or disrespectful things when you are not standing face-to-face with someone, remember that your classmates and teachers are real people who are affected by the words you say and write.
- Think before you type. You can even say the words out loud before you send a response. Written communication is not the same as an in-person conversation because important cues like tone, body language, and immediate listener feedback are missing. Sarcasm can – and will – backfire.
- Be forgiving! This is different for everyone, mistakes will happen, and plans may not come together as intended. Pause to take a breath and be kind. You will be back in person with them, and you want to keep these friendships!
- Don’t abuse the chat box and avoid using or changing your virtual backgrounds. If used at all, the chat box should improve the conversation, not distract from it. Changing the virtual background distracts others in ways that may feel fun to you but actually are just annoying to others. If what you really want is to connect with friends and laugh together, set up a video chat time to socialize at a non-class time!
For parents serving as the school-day facilitators and monitors of your child’s focus, accountability, and morale, there are home-based norms which you might consider as well:
- Keep habits and norms on a schedule at home with consistent wake up, meal and bed times.
- Expect that everyone in the house gets dressed every day.
- Have family meals whenever possible. Even historically snarky teenagers may actually really be craving conversation, even with uncool parents!
- Expect that everyone goes outside every day and, ideally, exercises every day.
- Limit the amount of discussion and newscasts about COVID to which your kids are exposed. They have even less reserve to process this than we do, as adults.
- Say “no” and shut off TV and video games with clear, firm, consistent limits when you see that too much screen time is eroding your child’s mood, undermining their willingness to go outside, or distracting them from school work.
- That said, proactively help your child set up video chat meet-ups with their friends outside of school day hours. This additional “screen time” is valuable and worth it.
- It is difficult to support your child to stay engaged and to follow through and also to know when to “let them off the hook” and opt out of school for emotional wellbeing. Emotional well being and feeling connected with other people is far more important than any academic learning or growth right now. Without emotional health, no academic learning or growth can occur, anyways. Prioritize your kids’ time this way. It’s OK to say “yes” to video chatting with friends as more important than the on-line math tutorial program.
- Reach out to your child’s teachers and school counselor to share your observations and kids’ needs. The ways teachers and counselors monitor kids’ wellbeing and engagement are no longer available to them, and they still worry and care. They may be able to set up additional supports if they know what you are seeing at home with your child.
- Assess if a child’s behavior is truly problematic or if they are doing something which may be a coping mechanism. Try to understand what is at the core of your child’s choices and behaviors when you intervene.
All the norms that make things work during in-person schooling still apply in this remote schooling world. The benefits of a clear and consistent daily schedule and rhythm top the list of things parents can provide their kids. For students, engaging with heightened awareness about how they impact others will be best supported by adults who convey how in-person social conventions and kindnesses translate into netiquette in the video chat world. Making things clear to them supports kids to feel safe and to know what to do to be successful.
Courtney Dickinson is founder and director of Acera: The Massachusetts School of Science, Creativity and Leadership. Acera’s free downloadable remote learning lessons for K-12 schools can be found online at www.aceraschool.org/remote-learning.