Tuesday, April 25, 2017

7 Strategies for Addressing Digital Confrontation Via @MsCofino

Innovative educator Kim Cofino discusses the topic of digital confrontation via Facebook Live where she shares ideas about how to engage meaningfully and respectfully when encountering uncomfortable online interactions. Once we figure out (or don’t) how to react, she encourages us to share those experiences with young people. She reminds us students are having these experiences everyday. In many cases, they are more familiar with digital experiences than adults. but they’re not talking about them with a trusted adult very often.  It’s up to innovative educators to change that.


Despite young people’s experience and knowledge, with puberty behind us and maturity under our belts, adults can be useful partners to teens in figuring out ways to effectively deal with digital confrontation. Indeed we can learn from each other.  


Here are some ways to do this:
  1. Respect and value their digital spaces. They are a valid place to socialize.
    Cofino reminds us to respect and value, rather than to look down upon or dismiss, the online spaces of teens. She points out that in the overly scheduled lives of teens, young people have less “free time” with their friends than did previous generations. As danah boyd tells us in her popular book, “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens,” online spaces are the malls, drive ins, and streets, of previous generations. It’s where teens go to socialize without having their parents around. We don’t need to pathologize teen practices, rather adults must recognize what teens are trying to achieve and work with them to find balance and to help them think about what they are encountering.
  2. Recognize, learn about, confront norms.
    Teens have well  established norms when interacting online. Ones that adults should take the time to learn and understand. This NY Times article about social media rules from kids, will help.  However, byod points out that while there are accepted norms, that doesn’t mean that teens don’t find some of them deeply problematic. Discussing these norms that don’t work well for teens and addressing them with the guidance and support of adults is important in helping students deal with digital drama and/or confrontation.
  3. Find and reflect upon digital confrontation.
    Cofino pushes educators to think about our own digital confrontations / discomforts and reflect upon on how we handled them them, dissecting what worked and what did not. Confino provides one such example in one of her blog posts where she shares a specific example of how she felt and then what she did when a widely followed person on Instagram shared a powerful photo she took at an event without and mention or credit to her. When she reflected, she realized, she herself had taken and published the photo without permission from the people in it and that too could be considered unethical. She stressed over how to handle the situation. You can read her post to find out how she handled the situation and the outcome).
  4. Converse.
    After you’ve spent some time thinking about digital confrontations you’ve experienced, how you’ve handled that and what worked well and not so well, talk about it with your students. Sharing personal digital dilemmas with students like the one Cofino shared above will help them think more critically when they come across their own.
    Cofino offers this guidance.
    • Before telling them how you handled your situation, ask them what they would do and how they think it would turn out?
    • Share what you did and ask them how they think it turned out.
    • Tell them discuss how their ideas would have had better or worse outcomes than what you did. Then let them know the real-world outcome.
    • Encourage them to think about situations public figures have been in and how they’ve handled them then discuss what would have happened had this been handled differently.
  5. Write Scenarios.
Encourage students to think about situations they have been involved in or are aware of and have them write their own scenarios without naming names and without sharing the outcome. Have them discuss the scenarios and share if this happened what would you do and how might it be played out digitally or face-to-face if handled in various ways. Engaging in this type of dialogue and discussion opens up the space for such conversations to become common place both among peers and with trusted adults.
  1. Recognize resilience. Learn about how to recover from mistakes.
Preaching to students that they should pause before they post is a start, but let’s face it. It doesn’t prevent them, or us, from making mistakes. We also preach that students should learn from failure, but act like if they make a mistake with their digital footprint it may ruin all chances of getting into college and career. We may have gone too far in our advice potentially tramatizing a kid who's made a mistake. It's time to chart a new course and share realistic advice. Be honest. Let students know that everyone (even you) makes mistakes and that’s okay.  Share some mistakes you have made and how you were able to recover. Have students consider when they have seen others making mistakes and discuss what did they do to recover? Confino encourages us to discuss recovery strategies with students as well. For example, when you've made a mistake, who is your go-to core you turn to for help? Recognizing there are people each of us turn to, and identifying who they are, is a strategy used to confront mistakes.
  1. Recognizing role models.
    Ask student to share who they consider role models and examine their online profiles to see what they share, how they share, and examine the types of decisions they’ve made. As an innovative educator, you can also be open to the possibility that you could be a role model for your students too. Cofino acknowledges that many teachers opt out of sharing their lives online with students, but there are many high profile education leaders who share online. Chris Lehmann, Vicki Davis, and Jamaal Bowman are ones who immediately come to mind, but there are likely to be educators like that in your circles as well. Discover who they are, what they do, and consider if you too could be one of the few adults in their lives that would like to meaningfully engage about being social online.


If you want to check out Kim Cofino for yourself, go visit her on Facebook Live by clicking on the caption beneath the photo. In her well organized presentation, she kept her points in mind with her handy dandy cheat sheet which served as a terrific focusing tool. Good low-tech tip for others creating video content for learning.  


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Visit Kim's Facebook Live