School creates digital code

Teenagers and teachers at John Oliver secondary have just completed the school’s Digital Code of Conduct.

Acting responsibly, respectfully and safely are the three keys of the code the school has worked on for nearly a year.

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“Co-creating a code of conduct like this with students is a really powerful experience,” said principal Tim McGeer. “It really speaks to the idea of… reflecting the inner values and desires, hopes and dreams of our learning community.”

The first point of the code states, “I will demonstrate ethical behaviour in the digital world just as I would in the real world.”

Grade 11 student Ben Segall said he was struck by the disconnect some students and teachers felt between their online and
offline personalities.

“And how really it is the same thing and should be the same thing,” he said. “When you realize that, that they’re both the same thing, it’s much easier not to bully online, not to harass people, not to do those things. It’s much easier to realize ‘that’s me.’”

McGeer and Segall say racial and other negative remarks made online by J.O. students have virtually vanished.

Social media expert Jesse Miller showed J.O. students last spring how swiftly a text message can spread. He had one student text a message to one friend who forwarded to another and so on, with 90 per cent of up to 650 students in one assembly receiving the text within 80 minutes.

All 1,100 students at the school wrote 10 statements about how they would act online. Each classroom submitted its top 10 statements, and student leaders and teachers synthesized the final statements for the code.

“Going through the process of having that school-wide conversation, that’s not just about awareness, it’s about creating a community set of standards and really letting kids take a major role in that,” McGeer said. “We can attribute that to a lot of the decrease in the behaviour.”

He noted students have not only considered how inappropriate behaviour could hurt themselves when applying for jobs and scholarships and also hurt the subject of their comments, but also how wired they want to be all the time. 

To that end, the code of conduct states: “I will work to have a balanced, healthy lifestyle relationship with technology,” under its safety category.

The code was serendipitously ready for the anti-bullying Pink Shirt Day, Feb. 26, McGeer said.

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