Blogging with R.E.S.P.E.C.T.
Several years ago, our school suspended a teacher after students began anonymously posting negative criticisms on a now-defunct social media app YikYak. Curiosity won, and I downloaded the app to see what all the buzz was about. I wish I could say I was surprised, but unfortunately, over 14 years of working with teenagers had appropriately prepared me for what I found there. Hiding behind anonymity allowed users to post negative, critical, and often hurtful comments about people and events happening in their communities. The incident got me thinking about how, as an English teacher, I could teach students how to use their words more wisely. How could I help students decide when, where, and how to responsibly engage in public conversations online and on social media?
The question began a year-long inquiry into using blogs as an entry point for respectful online commentary. Students created and posted to their own blogs, then read and responded to their classmates’ and peers’ posts. I used the acronym RESPECT as a protocol for engaging in online discourse.
Read and Evaluate
Before engaging with online content, read it carefully and thoroughly–don’t assume you know what the author is trying to say unless you’ve read something from the beginning to the end! Make sure you understand the writer’s position, purpose, and conclusion. Evaluate the subject, occasion, and audience for the piece of writing. Consider whether your reaction to the ideas is personal, academic, or political.
If you find the content relevant and think others would benefit from reading it, share it with the people you’re connected to. You can repost to friends on social media, hyperlink to it in a comment, or reference it in a blog post of your own.
Participate and Publish
You can participate in online conversations in a number of ways. Before writing your own response, consider chiming in by posting a public comment. On social media, reply to others’ comments. If you’ve got more than a couple of sentences to say about a topic, write your own blog post and share it with others by publishing it on your own blog or an online publishing platform.
Engage with Caution and Thoughtfulness
Remember that you can control your tone and content. Follow the Bloggers Code of Conduct. Most importantly, never say anything online that you wouldn’t say in person. Remember to THINK (is it true, is it helpful, is it inspiring, is it necessary, is it kind) before you speak–or write!