Many of the students I work with are on the autism spectrum, and qualitative impairments in communication and social interaction are at the core of this disability. This includes things like limited joint attention, difficulty relating to people and events, limited understanding of nonverbal communication skills, and inability to initiate or maintain conversation. Because I am starting to use Twitter as a communication tool in my work with students, I decided that it was particularly important to address part c of the digital citizenship standard: promote and model digital etiquette and responsible social interactions related to the use of technology and information.
We are lucky to have so many digital teaching resources already organized and available to us through our Tech for Teachers Digital Citizenship Page. Using that as a springboard, I looked more closely at the Relationships and Communication lessons on Common Sense Media’s scope and sequence for digital literacy. My goal is to weave the social thinking curriculum I use with kids on the spectrum (Michelle Garcia Winner’s Think Social!) with the Relationships and Communication elements of digital citizenship.
Plan for teaching:
Main lesson 1: My online community
This is part of the curriculum posted on Common Sense Media, with the overall goal of understanding how people connect on the internet and build communities based on shared interests. Activities include:
- Watch the video “What is the Internet?”
- Compare the internet to other places we gather together, how it looks the same/different
- Complete the Circles of Connection activity; tie this to Michelle Garcia Winner’s “different types of friends” activities
- review what kind of online communities we’re already part of, and how we figure out the “unwritten rules” for navigating those communities
Main lesson 2: Show Respect Online
While the stated goal for this lesson on Common Sense Media is to write clear and respectful emails, my focus with students will be our Twitter interactions. When working with students on the spectrum, we try to be very specific about what behaviors are “expected” and “unexpected” (vocabulary from the Social Thinking curriculum) in every social situation and environment we enter. Likewise, there are some expected/unexpected ways to communicate via Twitter. Activities include:
- Watch the “Mindful Messaging” video, identify how small changes in text/font/emoticons can change the tone and direction of a message
- Develop expected/unexpected communication guidelines for tweets
- Read sample tweets (created/adapted by me) and identify the tone for each one
- Write our own sample tweets to suit particular occasions/situations
- Identify similarities and differences in face-to-face communication and digital communication
- Eventually...complete a Social Behavior Map to reference when using Twitter
After moving through those two lessons (which will take several sessions), my plan is to review our Social Behavior Map with my students with ASD before lessons that will involve composing tweets (in writing groups, or my math group).
- Michelle Garcia Winner's Social Thinking website
- Common Sense Media's lessons for My Online Community and Show Respect Online
- 50 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom (even though I usually don't like articles that start with "50 ways to..." but this was an informative, easy and yet substantive list)
Because so much of our work as teachers is directed by others--teach this, send out this, report this, read this--it’s initially tough to have an open-ended assignment that basically allows us to research what we’re interested in. I definitely have things I want to learn more about professionally, things that will help me support my students. What was tricky for me in this assignment was trying to winnow my specific interests into the parameters of digital citizenship.
Much of my time for this assignment was spent thinking :) I could easily spend all of those 5 hours just thinking! I compared the scope and sequence of our Social Thinking curriculum with the Relationships and Communication lessons on Common Sense Media and figured out what our students on the spectrum would struggle with. I appreciated having time to plan ahead for some of the work I will need to do with students at some point in the near future.