Pursuing Positivity

Don’t sext. Don’t put revealing photos of yourself online. Don’t friend those you don’t know. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your grandma to see.

The list goes on. We’re full of the “don’ts,” but we should be promoting the “dos.” We should pursue positivity. We should challenge students to do positive work online. 

The truth is we all do the “don’ts” online. I still keep my phone on and next to me while I sleep – a major “don’t.” At times, I feel anxious if I haven’t checked my phone for notifications. And, I know not to do this. 

It isn’t that we want to do the “don’ts.” We know it’s not right, yet, we still do it because it’s easy and we aren’t faced with alternatives. We are not educated on the positive uses of the online world. These are the alternatives.

So, let’s educate. Let’s pursue positivity. Let’s create. And, let’s share.

Step 1: Start with a simple brainstorm

Recently, I met with seventh and eighth grade students to brainstorm a positive online presence. We used Google Docs so students could type simultaneously and all ideas could be present whether or not they are verbalized. 

I challenge you to challenge your students or children to discuss orally and in writing.

Ask them:

1. What makes a positive online presence (POP)?

2. What are examples of positive online presences at [your school]? 

3. What are examples of positive online presences outside of [your school]? (Start a list for students so they can visualize what POPs look like. This is the list I started for students.)

4. What types of positive online presences would you like to see at [your school]? 

5. What platforms work best for positive online presences at [your school]? (Provide students with a few examples to help them get started. Then, ask them to think deeper.)

  • Examples: app creation, Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/SnapChat, blog, Website…

6. What are the obstacles/negative sides of those positive online presences? (Challenge students to consider all populations and their obstacles. For instance, will males feel as open to be express positive images on Instagram as females?)

  • Consider all students – what will we use and what helps us?

7. What will we create today? (Challenge students to work together to create one for the school and then, if they’d also like to create one on their own, they can.)

  • You can create individually as well, but today we will create one for the school

8. How will we continue this and ensure it stays positive? (This is the most important question – how will you ensure longevity and monitor negative infringement?)

9. Other thoughts? 

Allow for all opinions. Redirect those who fall off-task. Check out our first brainstorming session

Step 2: Small group discussion

Quickly break into groups of 2-3 students. Challenge them to brainstorm positive online presences they would like to create. Ask them to think of:

  • a name for the online presence (some said “Meet the Spar-dashians” since we are the Spartans)
  • who is the audience
  • what is the purpose
  • what is the content
  • how can we be sure it stays positive
  • how can we ensure all are represented 
Due to time limitations, students received only 20 minutes for this process. However, this can be stretched longer. We resorted to traditional pencil and paper to reiterate positive behavior in all media. 

Some examples:

Step 3: Draw it out

Due to time restraints, I was not able to include this important step in all classes. After students map out the outline of their “POPs,” ask them to draw a sample of the product. If it is an app, what will the home screen look like? If it’s a Website, what will it look like. 

This does not need to be a full storyboard. Rather, the intent is to get students to refine their ideas.

Next, we will begin the creation, sharing, and maintenance of the “POPs.” We must decide how to fit in the creation. When will we find time in the schedule? Who will be part of this – will we include all students are just some? 

Step 5: Creation is equally as important as brainstorming. 

Step 6: Sharing.  Sharing instills intrinsic motivation. We like to see our work get attention. Share the “POPs” in a way students receive some attention and others see positive work showcased. We need to bring attention to positive behavior. 

Step 7: Maintenance. Maintain the positive presence. Will this product stay with students, the school? 

Stay tuned for follow-up on the final three steps when we meet again. 

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