Will etiquette lessons work?

My friend Frank Baker posted this on our SCASL listserv recently and included a link to this article:

With the increased popularity of social media have come more bullying, cheating and privacy concerns. Now, some are questioning whether schools — where students learn many lessons in morality — should include social media etiquette as part of the curriculum. Some, however, say teachers already have too much on their plates and that it is the responsibility of families to teach students moral and ethical lessons.


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A response was soon after expressing what I interpreted as maybe fear and perhaps anger at school librarians being overlooked as a source for teaching the very core of media literacy, specifically media etiquette, safety, and more.  In a sense, this is a standard of ours–>ethical use of resources–even electronic ones, so does indeed fall into our job description.


Now I am not so immune to such feelings myself, and on more than one occasion I’ve had my own knee-jerk response to being ignored or left out when it comes to curriculum decisions.  But I do think if a school or school district does not turn to their librarians when a need like this arises, then it’s our own fault.  Here is how I responded to the thread:

It is [our job] if we are proactive about it. Today’s  teacher librarian must educate the masses about what we bring to the table. If those powers that be don’t know we can bring this to the curriculum table, we will continue to be left out. A good start might be sharing this very article with admin and other colleagues in your school as a conversation starter to a collegial discussion. I just don’t think many admin realize what we offer, and that is our own fault.

Now that I’ve had some time to really digest this, I want to add to that statement.  One truth I learned a long time ago about teaching is that everyone needs to have a personal investment in the tasks at hand so the goals and objectives can be achieved. This is true in  any curriculum area, and I especially learned this when trying to use technology integration.  Kids don’t take to it when it is “schooly.” Many actually turn away. This is one reason I  have not really pushed hard for students to blog or tweet with me around school or curriculum concepts.  If it is made “schooly,” it becomes an isolated lesson that doesn’t always carry over into personalized learning. It becomes a means to an end, a hoop to get through. The challenge is to make students WANT to participate in these tools in a school setting. Just having students blog does not make them 21st century learners. A vision must be cast in the setting that students wil buy into. Then and only then is using social networking or educational web 2.0 tools a viable avenue to integrate etiquette lessons and ethical use conversations.  This is why “character education” programs don’t stick, even though schools still very much do them..


So the real challenge is how do we bring into a lesson ethical use of social media without 1) turning it schooly and making it an isolated lesson that won’t stick, and 2) make the powers that be understand these lessons should be fully integrated throughout the curriculum and therefore more likely to be meaningful to students?


Instead of teacher librarians focusing on being left out of this decision making process, let’s be a catalyst for collegial conversations around the topic, which just might make those decision makers see that teacher librarians are much more than collection development specialists and reading advocates. Bonus, we become sought after for thoughts and ideas for improving a variety of instructional units, and we model effective integration  (which could also include ethical lessons and etiquette.)


Picture Attribution:
Huynh, Tommy. “Sneaky Messages.” Flickr. Yahoo!, 1 Aug. 2007. Web. 05 Jan. 2013  <http://www.flickr.com/photos/tommyhuynh/1219122548/sizes/n/>.