Wednesday, March 16, 2011

It's All About Community

Last Friday Mr. Keller’s class and I explored the notion of community in our Cyber Civics class. I learned a lot. We talked about what Common Sense Media calls “The Rings of Responsibility”, that is, we all have responsibilities to three entities: ourselves, our friends and family, and to the larger community. This holds true whether we are offline or online. Responsibility and respect know no digital boundaries.

    From: Common Sense Media

The sixth graders enumerated all the things that can cause a community to break down: meanness, gossip, lies, exclusion of others, unwanted matchmaking, pretending to be something/someone you aren’t. It was a good lesson. I came home determined to be a kinder member of all my communities.

I couldn’t help thinking of these 6th graders over the weekend when I heard about the third year political science student at UCLA who videotaped herself ranting about Asian students in her school community and then posted the video on YouTube for all the world to see.  While this brings up all kinds of questions about the ethical thinking (or any kind of thinking, for that matter) required to get into a university like UCLA (a subject for another blog), you do have to feel sort of sorry for the girl. After all, her lapse in judgment will live on in cyberspace for the rest of her life.

In Young People, Ethics, and the New Digital Media: A Synthesis from the Good Play Project (2008) authors James, et al, explore the "ethical fault lines" that young people experience online and remind us, 

Mentors play an important role teaching young people to view themselves as participants who do not simply use media, but shape it.  This perspective is echoed by Jenkins et al. (2006) who consider the new media literacies to entail not just traditional literacy skills such as writing and research, but social and ethical skills as well. Youth need social skills to interact with the larger community and see themselves as part of it.  Furthermore, they need to be thoughtful and reflective about their actions. These key skills are not learned in a vacuum, and certainly cannot be assumed to accompany technical skills. Here the responsibility lies with adults (educators, policymakers, parents, etc.) to provide young people with optimal supports for good play and citizenship. (pp. 42-43)

So while I can’t begin to imagine any of the 6th graders in Mr. Keller’s class ever having a similar lapse in judgment, it is important to remember that part of the job of being young is making mistakes. But, hopefully, if any of them are tempted to make a mistake that might break down a community they belong to, like this poor UCLA student did, they’ll think back to what they learned from their classroom community one Friday morning.


James, C., Davis, K., Flores, A., Francis, J.M., Pettingill, L., Rundle, M. & Gardner, H. (2008). Young people, ethics, and the new digital media: A synthesis from the Good Play Project (GoodWork® Project Report Series, Number 54).  Project Zero, Harvard School of Education. 

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