To start with, it's important that students understand that they are responsible for their devices. They need to take care of them and make sure that they are charged so that they are ready for use. They also need to understand ethical use: that we are using the internet for researching and for communicating and therefore it's important for them to consider what they view online and what they post about themselves and others. I will talk to them about the websites that we want them to visit, and what to keep in mind when uploading or downloading. Students also need to consider the effect of what they are doing on others. Email can be monitored and students need to understand not to spam and to think about the effect of their words before they hit the send button. I will be reminding students not to share their passwords or to use another student's account. It's important for students to know how to use the internet safely and legally.
Another aspect that I want to touch on is being responsible digital citizens. These students will all be doing independent studies this year where they will be able to use their laptops to investigate something of interest to themselves. They will need to know how to find and use copyright free material and how to cite sources.
As I was thinking about this today my daughter told me that she had received an SMS message informing her that from now on she will only be able to send 5 text messages a day. For a teenager used to sending sometimes hundreds of messages this is quite a restriction. It's been caused by the fact that mass text messages have been sent out in some Indian cities as Eid approaches, warning Muslims to return to their homes in the northern states before the end of Ramadan. Doctored videos have been circulating of Muslims being attacked, and these have led to retaliations. Messages about these supposed attacks have been posted on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, which has inflamed the situation further. These posts have led to panic and unrest in a number of places.
In previous posts I've written about how open authorship has had a positive impact - for example in getting information about the Arab Spring out to the rest of the world or in supporting 9 year old Martha Payne in her campaign to highlight the quality of school meals in Scotland. I think it's important for students to know that there is a darker side to social media too, and that when social media is used in negative ways there are consequences. In India right now the consequences are that we are restricted in sending text messages. For our students, if they choose not to use their computers in responsible ways, they need to know that there will be consequences too, which could involve restricting their use of computers or their connection to the internet.
Photo Credit: Text Message by Ian Lott, 2008