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How to educate students on appropriate online behavior in a digital learning environment

Product Updates December 2022-01

There are so many learning possibilities for students online. For starters, students can research a topic online for class and find dozens of sources instantly. Students can also learn concepts through multimedia, online collaboration, virtual simulations, open educational resources and more. With all that learners can do online, though, it’s easy for them to get sidetracked and wander down a rabbit hole of videos, memes, off-task conversations, games or the latest sports scores. They may also put themselves in risky or harmful online situations. That’s why, despite the incredible learning possibilities the internet offers, appropriate online behavior for students needs to be taught.

Set clear expectations

Schools and classroom educators both need to set clear expectations about what appropriate online behavior means. The best way to get buy-in from learners is by leading with what they can do versus only focusing on what they shouldn’t do. When online behavior goals are clearly stated, learners understand what steps they need to take to be successful. It also sets the tone for a trusting, respectful environment. 

You can also include learners’ ideas when developing class expectations. That way their voice is part of the process and they are more motivated to meet goals.

Examples of online behavior expectations include:

  • We will use school-issued devices for classwork rather than personal entertainment. 
  • We will stay focused on the websites related to class activities.
  • We will use respectful language online, in email, on class message boards and in Google Documents. 
  • We will keep our online passwords private.

Learners also need to understand what the consequences are if they behave inappropriately. This is important to share with parents and guardians, too, so everyone is clear about expectations.

Model appropriate online behavior

One of the best ways to build deeper learning connections is through modeling. In this case, staff members around your school should model appropriate online behavior. Learners should be able to observe positive choices, and they should hear you explain the why behind your own online choices. 

For example, when sharing your screen with the class and navigating websites, you can talk through how to make appropriate decisions online. Examples might include:

  • This website is trustworthy because . . .
  • In a Google Doc, I don’t add private information like my password because . . .
  • You’ll see in this email that I’m using respectful language . . . 
  • When I’m posting on our school’s social media account, I’m aware of how it will affect my digital footprint.

Teach learners how to collaborate appropriately online

When learners are in the classroom, it’s a good idea to have structures in place for how to collaborate in positive ways. It’s the same for online learning. Students need to be taught how to collaborate respectfully online. 

For example, let’s say your learners are working on a social studies project about the contributions of the Aztecs. They’ve been placed in differentiated groups, and each group is responsible for researching and presenting a different topic. Depending on their grade level, experience and learning needs, students may need guidance on:

  • How to divide responsibilities for the project
  • How to stay productive during online meetings
  • How to communicate respectfully and honor ideas

Guide learners toward browsing independence

The goal is for your learners to be able to make responsible decisions online independently. But they don’t start out knowing exactly what to do, and individual learners or groups may need different levels of support. For instance, some learners may get immediately distracted by a webpage with math games and lose focus on their formative assessment. Other learners may be able to focus on the formative assessment until it’s completed. These two groups need different levels of guidance. 

That’s why you need to guide them at their level of need and slowly give them more responsibility. How do you do that online, though? Hāpara Highlights is a screen monitoring tool that allows teachers to create guided Chrome browsing experiences for learners. 

With Highlights, you can create browsing sessions that focus learners on specific websites. Or you can create sessions that filter out specific websites. For differentiation, you can even schedule sessions for individual learners, groups or the class. Over time, you can gradually provide learners with more browsing freedom when they’re ready.

Provide formative feedback

One of the best ways to drive home appropriate online behavior for students is through formative feedback. There are times you need to redirect learners or remind them of appropriate behavior. You can also let them know when you’ve noticed their positive behavior or progress in the right direction. This could be when they’re staying focused, treating others with respect online or using appropriate language.

In Highlights, teachers can use the Message feature which allows them to send individual learners, a group or the class an instant message. Examples of messages could be:

  • Great job staying focused on the formative assessment.
  • Thank you for using kinder language today during your group meeting.
  • I’m proud of the responsible browsing choices you made today.
  • You’re not on the website for the science lab. Let me know if you need help.
  • You can visit the vocabulary games page after you finish the writing activity.

Track engagement of distance learners

One of the ways you can help students behave appropriately online is by keeping them engaged. That can be challenging online, though, for times when you aren’t face-to-face with learners. So how can you track whether or not distance learners are actually engaged with the content?

A student is engaged with online learning when they:

  • Have a positive attitude toward the class activities, their teacher and their classmates
  • Participate in class discussions online and provide meaningful responses 
  • Collaborate with their classmates
  • Show curiosity and search for more information after completing an activity
  • Ask questions about the content
  • Take ownership of their learning online

Hāpara tools provide a few ways for you to track learners’ engagement online:

  • With Highlights, you can see a learner’s open tabs to find out if they are on the right website or document. 
  • With Teacher Dashboard, you can see which Google file they recently opened, and for collaborative activities, you can see which group members have accessed documents. Then you can quickly click on that file and check progress. From there, you can leave feedback to keep learners engaged in the online activity.
  • With Workspace, you can differentiate instruction and create personalized learning opportunities. It’s an easy way to provide learning choices and incorporate student voice in assessments. You can also see who’s completed activities and assessments and is staying engaged throughout the Workspace day to day.

Learners can also use Student Dashboard to stay engaged. Student Dashboard is a central hub for learners that helps them take control of their online learning. It shows all work through Hāpara Workspace and Google Classroom, as well as class announcements and school emails from teachers. This streamlined view helps them better manage their online activities and stay motivated.

Communicate with families about learners’ online behavior

Communicating with parents and guardians is a big part of ensuring learners are successful. Aside from their academic progress, you should also keep them informed about their children’s online behavior habits. 

That’s not to say that you should only get in touch when their child has made the wrong decision or taken a step back. It’s also impactful when you inform them about their child’s positive decisions and progress. In this case, not only does the parent or guardian know their child is on track, but it motivates the child, too. 

Hāpara offers three tools that help educators communicate with families about their child’s online behavior and progress.

Snaps in Highlights

Snaps is a feature in Highlights that allows teachers to grab a snapshot of what a learner is currently viewing in their Chrome browser. You can share this with the learner directly, but you can also email it to families or save it as part of a file for a parent-teacher conference.

Student Dashboard

On any device, even their phone, learners can show their Student Dashboard to families. This gives parents and guardians a clear understanding of their progress online.

Hāpara Workspace

Learners can also show their parents or guardians what they’re exploring in Hāpara Workspace. They can see a full view of an activity, lesson or unit so they can understand in detail exactly what their child is expected to accomplish online.

Hold conversations about appropriate online behavior

Another way to educate students about online behavior is through conversations. Hāpara Card Talks covers a range of topics about how to navigate the internet appropriately. Each card asks a question or includes a prompt that relates to real-world situations. Learners will have the chance to think about their choices and how they can protect themselves online.

Choose a web filter that promotes digital citizenship

To help students make appropriate choices online, it’s also crucial to have a powerful web filter in place. Even better is to choose a web filter that promotes digital citizenship so that learners can practice responsible decision-making. 

Deledao ActiveScan, presented by Hāpara is an AI web filter that is specifically designed for K-12. If a learner comes across a website that is blocked, but they want to use it for a class activity, they can send their teacher an unblock request. They need to include a short explanation so their teacher understands how it relates to the class activity. If you see that it has academic merit, you can approve the learner’s unblock request during class time. Or you can deny the request and include a reason for doing so. This is a great way to have a digital citizenship conversation and for learners to practice their skills.

Key takeaways

☑️ Clearly communicate online expectations so learners know how to meet goals.

☑️ Keep families in the loop to support appropriate online behavior and motivate learners.

☑️ Lead by example and explain why you make certain online choices. 

☑️ Use tools that make it easier to guide students on appropriate online behavior.

Explore digital citizenship conversation strategies for teaching and learning

Learn what to focus on when building a culture of digital citizenship, digital citizenship conversation starters for learners and digital citizenship conversations starters for teachers!
Student getting feedback from Hāpara Teacher Dashboard

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