Why Netiquette Matters
Have you noticed that your teachers are embracing electronic and online resources for learning more and more each year? Laptops, iPads, online textbooks, simulated experiments, instructional videos, online discussion forums...they’re everywhere these days! Communicating appropriately in a traditional classroom is old hat by now; you know the rules for how to interact respectfully with your classmates when you’re speaking directly to them. But have you given much thought to how acting responsibly in a physical classroom translates to an online educational environment? Check out the rules below to ensure you’re effectively getting your point across, but not doing so in a way that upsets others or damages your reputation.
Rule #1: Treat Others As You Want To Be Treated
Yes, I know you’ve heard this before…and it’s just as true when you’re online as when you’re physically in front of someone else. The reason: words can hurt, whether they are spoken directly to someone or written to/about them online. Just as your teachers ask you to take ownership for the kind of energy you bring to the classroom, you should also take responsibility for the kind of space YOU create online:
- When responding to others’ opinions, you can disagree respectfully by avoiding personal attacks or criticisms. Speak thoughtfully to the quality of their sources and the merit of their conclusions. Never use demeaning words or judge them personally.
- When critiquing others’ work, provide positive feedback and/or suggestions for improvement along with your criticisms. Remember: no one is perfect, and we all have room to grow.
- Avoid sarcasm when commenting. It takes a talented writer, indeed, to achieve a level of “playful” sarcasm that all readers will interpret as good-natured. For this reason, it’s best to avoid sarcasm in most scenarios.
- Don’t feed the flames of war. Always re-read your comments before posting to ensure they are unlikely to be interpreted negatively or incorrectly by others. Alternatively, if you find yourself in a heated discussion that has clearly deviated from the intended topic, do your best to redirect the discussion back to its intended purpose.
Rule#2: Understand Where You Are Online
In the physical word, it’s easy to know where you are. How you speak might differ, depending on the role you’re playing: Are you volunteering in an elementary classroom as a Reading Buddy or in a car with three of your friends on the way to the movies? It’s often not as clear when you’re online: you can change locations (and personas) by simply opening up a new window. You might even have two or three windows open at the same time as you click back-and-forth between vastly different environments – some for school, some for fun. Are there different rules you have to follow depending on “where” you are? Absolutely! When you’re online engaged in a school-related activity, you should:
- Never use emoticons or texting shorthand, even if you’re providing feedback to your BFF.
- Use correct grammar and capital letters when appropriate.
- Avoid sentence fragments.
- Use a “professional” or “scholarly” voice.
- Only use/create images, videos and electronic projects that are school-appropriate.
- Create an email address that you can use for school-related and professional purposes. (While Justin Bieber may be impressed that you scored the email address "No1Belieber@gmail.com", college admission reps likely will not.)
Rule #3: Don’t Be Lazy (or A Thief)
It’s usually quite obvious when you come to school unprepared having not done your homework: you’re speechless when your history teacher asks you to weigh in on last night’s reading on the Civil War and you can’t start the lab in chemistry class because you didn’t watch the YouTube video on how to titrate an acid with a base. Online learning environments are no different: you rarely make significant contributions to discussions that enrich the learning environment if you haven’t done the required reading, problem set or activity. “Show up” prepared and remember:
- Make contributions to online forums that move the discussion forward. Simply adding, “I agree” is not meaningful input in most scenarios.
- Don’t post questions in “Help” forums that you can easily answer on your own by doing the background activity – you’re asking someone else to do your work for you.
- Do your own work. It’s often easier to cheat when the activity is electronic or online (copying takes even less effort when all you have to do is cut and paste). However, remember: it’s dishonest, against school rules and you learn next to nothing by doing so.
- Cite your sources. If you use an image created by someone else, make sure that you have permission to use it and you cite it appropriately. The same goes for quoted words and ideas.