What would you choose to do?

When I first started to use social media both professionally and in the classroom, I had some reservations. All I heard about in the news were horror stories about social media done wrong, and I wondered if I really wanted to get into this. When I started blogging and using Twitter in the primary classroom, my impression of social media changed. I saw the great ways that interacting with others can help further student learning and critical thinking skills. Even though I changed grades this year, I still planned on using social media in the classroom.

Older students are different though. Many of them have already entered into the realm of social media — whether through Twitter or Facebook — and while they’ve started using these sites, they’re still learning about how to use them well. Mistakes happen. That’s all part of learning. I get that. So when these mistakes happen, in my opinion, it’s how we deal with them that matters.

I’m fortunate that many of the students that use Twitter in my classroom also follow me. I can easily see their tweets, and I look at them. I do so because I care about my students, and I want to make sure that what they share online is appropriate. While there haven’t been any major problems, the other day, I noticed a couple of students tweeting some thoughts that probably shouldn’t be shared in a public forum. Now I had a choice to make. How do I choose to deal with this problem?

Here’s what I did. Yesterday during our literacy time, I put this Thinking Book question up on the board:

I gave the students about 10 minutes to write down their thoughts in any way that they chose. Here are a few examples:

As the students were sharing their answers with the class, I noticed that many of them spoke about the public nature of a blog and Twitter. I asked them what this really means. While many of them said that “the world” could read their work, I think that this became more powerful when they realized that a teacher, the principal, or their parents could read their work.

While we were talking about this, I asked the students how many people follow me on Twitter (I knew the answer to this, but I asked anyway). I then asked if anyone knows what I do when someone follows me. Many students seemed surprised when I mentioned that the first thing I do is read their tweets. I told the students that I read what they write because I care about them and about what they share.

Then we went through some examples of what people should not share and why (e.g., they should not share information about a class that they don’t enjoy, or mean comments about peers, or too much personal information). I told students how easy it is to take a screenshot of what is tweeted an email this screenshot to a friend, a parent, or even the principal. I didn’t want to scare students, but I wanted them to realize just what a public audience means.

I taught students my favourite rule about what to share and what not to share (and one that I actually use): before you tweet or blog, ask yourself if you would go up to the principal or to a parent and say what you’re going to write. If the answer is no, don’t post it. I think that this helped simplify things for the students. 

Knowing then that some minor mistakes have happened, I showed the students how to undo what they’ve done: I logged into my Twitter account and showed them how to delete a tweet. I encouraged the students to go home, read the tweets they wrote, and if any were questionable, to delete them. The students watched and listened, and I knew that my message was making an impact. 

Last night when I got home, I looked at the Twitter accounts of my students, and all of the questionable tweets were deleted. They followed through. Yesterday, I could have done things differently. I could have pulled aside individual students. I could have called parents and gotten them involved. And these are things that I would choose to do if the problems occur again, but mistakes happen, and I think that my students learned from these mistakes.

What do you think? What would you do in a similar situation? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!


22 thoughts on “What would you choose to do?

  1. For me this is part of the power of Edmodo. My students are a little younger and less sophisticated when it comes to SM. Edmodo gives them a safe place to try SM, learn about etiquette and how to manage it without doing too much damage. If there’s anything to inappropriate I can delete it right away and we can discuss the problem. Obviously, these are only training wheels and they will eventually have to push off into the bigger, public world, but as a place to learn Edmodo works well.

    • Thanks for your comment, Andrew! I agree with you: Edmodo is great for this, and I’ll definitely be using Edmodo this year to help students as they continue to learn about their “digital footprint.” Seeing as though many of my students are already experimenting with social media in the public realm, I’m glad that I can support them this way as well.


  2. The impact of your choice in dealing with this situation clearly made a positive impact. The students learned a great deal about you yesterday. Taking the time to teach them about their digital footprint and then seeing them follow through tells me you made the right decision. Generally when kids make a mistake for the first time we teach them a better way. I appreciate that your reaction was in keeping with the mistake made and you allowed them to make it right. You’ve set the tone and expectation and I imagine that you will have many positive experiences with this new group of students.

    • Thanks Angie! This really did seem like the right approach, and so far, it’s working. Mistakes do happen. The students need to know that we’re there to support them though as they continue to learn. This was definitely the intent of my lesson yesterday.


  3. Thanks for the comment, Susan! Based on the type of issue that it was, I really thought that this was the best way to deal with it, and it definitely worked. Another type of comment, may have produced a different type of response. I was fairly certain though that this mistake was just part of “learning,” and it seems that this approach worked. I hope that all of my students continue to think about their audience before tweeting or posting. This is definitely something I’ll be reinforcing all year long.


  4. Aviva, I love the way you handled this and de-escalated potential problems rather than the other way around. We can shame students and force them to comply,or we can give them information and trust them to make wise, informed choices. I suppose if the nature of the indiscretion was one that indicated someone was in trouble or in danger there would need to be a different reaction, but by the sound of what you describe, your solution is a thing of beauty 😉

    • Thank you, Steve! Yes, if the issue was a different one, I may have had to handle it differently, but this definitely was nothing that severe. I hope that this solution allows all of my students to continue to make “wise, informed choices,” and so far, this seems to be working. 🙂


  5. Hi Aviva
    I like the way you used the unacceptable tweets as a teachable moment. It occurred to me that students who are not using twitter in the classroom do not have the advantage of learning how to use social media responsibly. Where will they learn these skills?
    I believe the strategy you used is an excellent example for teachers who fear misuse if they use twitter in their classroom. A great lesson for my teacher candidates.

    • Thanks Carol! I’m so glad that you’re going to be discussing this with your teacher candidates. While many students started using Twitter after I started using it in the classroom, many were already on Facebook (and this is something I don’t use). I suggested students check their Facebook accounts (if they have one) for these “problem posts” as well. Hopefully they will!

      While I understand those that fear social media (I WAS one of those people for a very long time), ignoring it does not make it go away. Students will use these tools if we teach them how to or not. As I’ve told numerous teachers before, I want to teach children how to use these tools responsibly. Thanks for reminding me about this!


  6. Aviva, I think that you handled the situation great! The child(ren) who had tweeted some inappropriate comments without really thinking about it didn’t feel isolated by being pulled aside, you still want to encourage them to use Twitter and grow from it.

    I think it was a wonderful idea to express it to the whole class, you are their teacher and you were teaching everyone the etiquette of Twitter in a non-confrontational manner. You know that if you did it individually, someone else who was not pulled may write inappropriate comments. You potentially could be spending your year speaking individually to each student, which may have caused some frustration. By doing it as a whole, you nip the situation in the butt and each student is given the independence to become young adults that have to be responsible and take responsibility if they want to tweet.

    You did a great job Aviva.

    • Thank you so much, Rebecca, for adding to the conversation! Students do need to learn how to use this tool appropriately, and I’m glad that I can support them as they do. We all make mistakes. It’s what we learn from them that matters the most. Thus far, I’m seeing the students have learned from this mistake, and that makes me very happy!


  7. Great teachables! One other issue is to now cast a critical eye on other tweeters. What will they do if a friend follows them and is posting inappropriate tweets…perhaps knowing who to follow and when…using multiple accounts…one for personal tweets…one for work/school. Teaching kids the link to writing in that your text=audience + purpose.

  8. I love how you handled the situation. You are such a great model for your students and for us Aviva. I would like to think I would have dealt with it the same way, but depending on my mood and “tired” level I may have not. I also enjoy the examples you provided us with of how you differentiated for your students. Sounds like a great learning environment!

    • Thanks R.T.! I think it was beneficial that I saw the comments in the evening, so I had a chance to think about how I wanted to handle the situation. We talk about the need for our students to have “wait time.” I think we need it too. 🙂


  9. I agree with Steve, you de-escalated the situation beautifully and made it a teachable moment for all, even those who may have had similar postings on other social media sites.
    Was wondering how you were doing in Gr 6 and am glad I did!
    Best of luck Aviva!

  10. Thank you so much, Lucy! So wonderful to hear from you too.

    Glad you liked my approach to this. I really do hope that students applied what they learned about tweeting to other social media sites. I mentioned Facebook in the class to have them think about this application as well.

    Hope all is well with you and your family too!

  11. Quite a powerful and memorable lesson Aviva. So many times we preach to our students about what they should not do without fully explaining what the follow-up results could be like. You ‘showed’ not ‘told’ them what sometimes happens to our actions if we don’t really think before we act. Good job, loved the way you went about this.

    • Awww … thanks Jo-Ann! I really appreciate your comment. As I mentioned to another teacher, I think that seeing these tweets the evening before gave me a chance to really think about how I wanted to handle this situation instead of jumping in and probably “telling” instead of “showing.” This “thinking time” was good for me. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *