by Rebekah Hopkinson
When I got a message from Oliver asking to speak to me about “online stuff” I figured something bad happened. Why else would a student email his Cyber Civics teacher and ask to talk? After all, digital learning was brand new five weeks ago, and most of my sweet and earnest sixth grade students hadn’t had much exposure up until recently. My heart sunk at the thought of what could have happened. Our Cyber Civics classes were going so well. The students were engaged, asking great questions, and starting to really understand the importance of positive digital citizenship. Had they all gone online and completely forgotten all our lessons? Was someone being left out? Was Oliver reaching out to tell a trusted adult about an incident of cyberbullying or digital drama as I teach my students to do? Did he encounter something online that was inappropriate? Would I be able to help him? When our Zoom meeting chimed in and I saw Oliver’s beaming face smiling back at me I was bracing myself for something hard.
I needn’t have worried. It turns out that Oliver was seeking my advice because he was thinking of starting a YouTube channel and wanted advice beforehand so that he could make sure he was creating a positive digital reputation for himself.
I shouldn’t have been surprised that the concepts taught in Cyber Civics were taking hold in real ways. Now that school is online, students are putting into practice all of what we learned this year: positive online communities, thinking ethically online, digital reputation, digital communication, online privacy. And here was proof!
Now that school is online, students are putting into practice all of what we learned this year: positive online communities, thinking ethically online, digital reputation, digital communication, online privacy. And here was proof!
In this time of social distancing and online learning, not getting real-time feedback from students has felt discouraging at times. And then something, someone surprises me. A hidden note on a Cyber Civics assignment from a cool seventh grader saying, “I miss you.” An unexpected email from an aloof eighth grader asking how I’m doing. Or a YouTube Channel created by a sixth grader encapsulating an entire final project, completely unprompted. Congratulations, Oliver, you pass Cyber Civics Level 1!
Oliver is a sixth grade student at Lake Champlain Waldorf School in Shelburne, Vermont. He is spending this time of social distancing reading his favorite author Roald Dahl, playing in the woods and stream around his house, digging a hobbit hole with a pickax, and promoting that kindness really does matter.
Be sure to follow Oliver's YouTube Channel: Kindness Matters!
Author: Rebekah Hopkinson is a middle school teacher and Cyber Civics teacher at Lake Champlain Waldorf School in Shelburne, Vermont. She received her Master's in Education in Integrated Learning with a Waldorf teacher training certificate from Antioch University in 2011. Hopkinson is passionate about meeting the students of the 21st-century and helping to prepare them to be informed and thoughtful citizens with the ability to meet unprecedented challenges. She lives in Shelburne, Vermont with her partner and son. You can find her on Instagram @peaceofchalk