like this

Students weigh ethics of Facebook at West Side Collaborative

Seventh-graders Dasbry Enriquez and Ousmane Niambele created a chart about social media ethics during their English class at West Side Collaborative Middle School on Tuesday.

Dasbry Enriquez doesn’t have a Facebook account. But if the seventh-grader did, she said she would refrain from posting personal information about her friends to the site without their permission.

“It’s not my business,” she said.

Her classmates agreed, but several noted that if someone else posted personal information, it would be hard to ignore, especially if it said somebody they knew was hurt or in trouble.

Enriquez was among two dozen students who spent Tuesday morning debating the finer points of Internet privacy and social media ethics during their English class at West Side Collaborative Middle School. The lesson was planned for Digital Citizenship Day, meant to educate young people about the right ways to use the web.

Almost all of the students were in agreement how to handle a number of hypothetical dilemmas that social media users might face. But they also acknowledged that the most ethical course of action is not always obvious, or easy to take.

Their teacher, Novella Bailey, asked them what they would do if a friend created a Facebook page railing against a teacher who gave him a tough homework assignment. The students said they would resist the temptation to join the page. But what if a student copied some of their ideas on an assignment after it is shared online?

“There’s no way this is not plagiarism,” one student said, looking at the example Bailey gave them.

“But it’s not copyrighted like music is,” another reasoned. Other students said the copied assignment was a form of plagiarism, but it wouldn’t have been if the second student credited the original work.

The crash course in copyright ethics is part of Bailey’s annual efforts to help students navigate the countless unsupervised, online interactions they will likely have with each other between middle school and college. Asked how many have identities on social media websites, every student in Bailey’s class raised his or her hands.

In a column on the white board labeled “ethical,” Baily wrote “apologizing,” “taking down posts,” and “trustworthy,” as the students brainstormed behaviors they could use to combat Internet bullying. Unethical online behaviors, they said, included lying, “not respecting privacy,” and “telling someone’s business.”

Bailey’s curriculum came from Common Sense Media, an education nonprofit that creates lessons in digital literacy and developed Digital Citizenship Day. Within New York City, 615 public and private schools have registered to use the group’s resources.

Visiting for the lesson, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott applauded West Side Collaborative’s efforts to teach students about the pitfalls of technology use and make them more aware of their behavior online. The school has a laptop for each student, making the digital ethics lessons all the more pressing, Principal Jeanne Rotunda said.

Earlier this year the city updated its social media policy, which stipulates how teachers should interact with students online. Rotunda said the changes to the policy have not affected her school much because she has instructed teachers to be judicious about their digital interactions with students for years.

And for the past three years, teachers have led orientations on Internet use during the first weeks of school. Rotunda said students who have had the training are more willing to seek advice from teachers when problems arise later in the school year.

“Those students … were making really unwise choices with digital media both inside of school and outside, and we were spending a tremendous amount of time addressing those issues,” she said of graduates from before WSC began training students on appropriate Internet use. “We’ve seen an incredible decrease in that. Now, it’s a part of our world. All the teachers are trained in it and involved in doing it.”

Bailey said the digital curriculum is also helping students prepare for upcoming research assignments. New curriculum standards, known as the Common Core, require middle school students to complete more nonfiction reading and research assignments than in past years.

“The lessons line up with the Common Core really well,” she said. “We  did one where they had to analyze videos on the Internet for fair use, and how to cite evidence to support your ideas and be clear with your argument. It all fits together.”

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.