Target 4 — Engaged Community Partners — FWSU staff and students will collaborate, innovate, create and conceptualize ideas and learning with local, regional, state, and global partners to make a difference in their community, state, and world.
Action Step 2 — Engage community partners in a focused collaborative inquiry process.
Indicator of Success — Learning outcomes will be expanded to encourage curiosity, communication, and digital citizenry.
On Tuesday, September 30, 2014, Winooski City Manager Katherine “Deac” Decarreau visited BFA to speak with students in Ms. Shea’s and Mr. Brooks’ Digital Citizenship and Economics classes. She spoke about many of the valuable benefits, and some potential pitfalls, of using digital technology.
Ms. Decarreau talked to students about her role managing the Winooski city government. She detailed how community members and City of Winooski officials communicate with one another using a variety of digital technology, such as the city’s website, Facebook, Twitter, Front Porch Forum, and emails. She talked about how online communication has greatly expanded the ability to quickly share information with the community, but how the city also still relies on phone calls, in-person conversations, and distributing printed information, since not everyone has internet access, and since city council meetings and voting* still occur in person (*or by absentee ballot via postal mail).
The students worked in groups to do an activity that showcased how small conflicts in a neighborhood can become larger if people use social media to discuss it, but they are careless and allow rumors and misinformation to spread.
Next, Ms. Decarreau described a recent situation in which a Winooski resident posted a complaint about a Winooski business on their local Front Porch Forum website. Shortly thereafter, the post became a local news story. Within days, a national newspaper picked up the story, followed by other national news sites, and finally even an international news website ran the story. Along the way, as each news site added their own spin to the story, factual errors were introduced. Amid all the hoopla and international attention, the local business, the original poster of the complaint, and the City of Winooski all received angry phone calls and messages online. The local business even had to disconnect their phones for a time.
The story about a simple local online interaction that quickly escalated and erupted into an “international” brouhaha, reinforced concepts that students have been learning about in Digital Citizenship class, and school-wide. For instance, students are encouraged to be mindful of what kind of information they post online (e.g., by asking questions like: “Is it true?”, “Is it helpful?”, “Is it over-sharing personal information?”), to use good digital etiquette, and to avoid “trolling” and bullying online. They are also taught to try to verify the accuracy of what they are reading online, judge whether it is from a credible source, and to think about the possible biases of the person or group who posted the material.
The students enjoyed meeting with a government leader from a city in our region, and making connections with what they have been learning about in class. We send our thanks to Ms. Decarreau—we were grateful that she gave of her time to come and speak with us!