Introduction: Social Networking Theme Unit

With the help of a few colleagues, I have put together a series of lessons and activities for students to develop their understanding of online communications. It takes place over the course of a few weeks, and includes different activities and assignments.

The learning objectives of this unit are:

1. Students will critically evaluate internet content to determine origin and appropriateness. (Self created or existing content)
2. Students will identify inappropriate online behaviour by completing a Web-quest on the topic of cyber bullying
3. Students will demonstrate the utility of online communication by producing a blog, structured to a specific audience. They will also respond to classmates blogs and provide constructive feedback.
4. Students will demonstrate proper online behaviour by writing appropriate internet content in various places. i.e. ClassBook wall, blogs etc.
5. Students will examine the characteristics of various formats used to communicate a message to others. i.e. blogs, messages, skype etc.


This theme unit was part of a project done in my final year of University. There are many parts, and quite a lot of teacher-speak to try and get marks. Use as much or as little of this as you would like (but I would highly recommend downloading the lesson plans).

In addition to the lesson plans and justifications, there is an online presentation of the unit, and an example video of the project assignment on cyber bullying. This instructable is more of a brief overview of the unit, with more resources linked in each step.

All of the materials are offered with a creative use and re-use licence. That is, feel free to use or modify the materials as you see fit. It would be nice to get credit for the ideas, but really, I just want students to benefit from the work I've put into this.

Thanks to Candice Madden, Carleigh Moore, and Doris Medeiros for all their hard work, and for enthusiastically allowing the sharing and re-use of their great ideas. Images are courtesy of http://openclipart.org.

Step 1: Original Presentation

Here is a presentation with links to materials that might be useful:

Step 2: Blogs

Students will begin the unit with an introduction to blogs. What is it, how does it work, how can it help students, and how they can participate.

The purpose of the blog will be to facilitate teacher-student and student-student communication. Posting related to class work (such as assigned homework) can be made available by the teacher, and students can use the comments to communicate. Blogs can also be used as online journals. If you've got another idea for how a blog can be incorporated into the language arts curriculum, please leave a comment!

Step 3: Cyber Bullying WebQuest

A WebQuest is like a virtual scavenger hunt. In this lesson, students will use the web to research the topic of cyber bullying. Because I'm a Canadian, I tried to incorporate Canadian data into the research. If you are in the United States, there is plenty of research available as well.

The lesson plan is available for download at https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B9exArxMGDDtZmZhMzIyMWUtNTAzYS00ODFlLThjMWItOTNiMDMxM2U4MTg1&hl=en_US

Once students have completed the WebQuest, they will create a multimedia presentation on the topic. These could be presented to other classes in the school, or recorded and published online. Here is an example of what students might come up with:

Step 4: "Classbook"

There are many reasons to integrate a popular social networking site into your classroom. Facilitating communication, sharing ideas, and online collaboration are all possible through social networks. Unfortunately, there can also be many drawbacks to social networks in a classroom. Sharing too much information (especially at that hormone-charged age) may cause issues. Parents may also be concerned about their child's exposure online.

To avoid the potential hazards, an actual, physical social network can be created within the classroom. Hard copies of profiles, walls, and communications can be created and implemented. Because it is within the physical classroom, realities of online behaviour can be made more tangible to students - the similarities between the virtual world and the real world are easily seen, discussed, and explored.

We created a detailed lesson plan explaining what to do to create a "ClassBook" in your classroom - it is available at https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B9exArxMGDDtMmQyNDQ0MzgtOWMzMS00MzA3LWJiMTAtZWM3NGFhNDI4NGI4&hl=en_US

Step 5: Evaluation

For this unit, there are many opportunities for formative and summative evaluation. Because of the length of time involved, students should get feedback throughout the unit in order to help them achieve the learning objectives.

For summative evaluation, we have included a thorough rubric for evaluating the cyber bullying web quest lesson. Students should be made aware of the criteria of evaluation before they begin working on their project. If they know what they are supposed to do, and they know how they will be evaluated, it will be easier for them to succeed.

However, student evaluation is not the only part of this unit. There is a feedback sheet for students to evaluate their own learning, and the effectiveness of the unit as a teaching tool. Students will also get to provide their assessment of their experience working in a group, and how they felt about themselves and their peers.

Step 6: Conclusion

This instructable has hopefully provided you with a clear overview of what is involved in the social networking theme unit. There are a wealth of learning opportunities for students to develop their understanding of social norms both in real life and online. By integrating technology that is important to students, hopefully we can make their learning relevant and engaging.

If you are interested in using any of the lessons I have described, you can access all of the documentation for the theme unit at https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B9exArxMGDDtZTRkNTdmYjgtOGM4Ni00MGYyLTg3MGMtODM0M2NjODdkODIz. If you use any of the ideas, please leave a comment to let me know how it went, and any changes, improvements, or additions you would make.

This is my entry into the teacher contest, so please rate it! Comments are appreciated, too - feedback is always helpful.

Enjoy!

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Bio: Teacher in Canada. Complete techno-junkie. Open-sorcerer. Scriptographer. I am devoted to learning - teaching just sort of follows...
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