The internet can be viewed as an expansion to the communities that we live in and frequent on a daily basis.  The internet has given way to cyberspace learning communities. As an educator, I recognize the similarities between their every day and online communities.  I am an educator and my work place community is located in Hunts Point. Hunts Point is a neighborhood located in the South Bronx; the Bronx is one of five boroughs that make up New York City. Hunts Point has suffered from crime and poverty for many years and is part of the poorest congressional district in the country, with over half the population living below the poverty line. Furthermore, Hunts Point is home to one of the largest food distribution centers in the world, covering 329 acres (1.33 km2). The Produce and Meat Distribution Center were opened along the Bronx River in 1967 and 1974, respectively. My school serves students in grades K-8 in one building and high school students in another; the buildings are approximately a ten minute walk from each other. Unfortunately, this area of the South Bronx is littered with “red light” district activities. There are gentlemen clubs a stone’s throw away from the schools and prostitutes soliciting truckers that deliver goods to the surrounding distribution centers.  This is the community my students must pass through on a daily basis to get to school.  Some walk to school, others are driven by their parents, yet others take public transportation. Yes, the students must navigate through socially unacceptable behavior often.

CriticalThinkingSkills Similarly, the internet is made up of many communities whose borders are very blurred.  As educators, we want our students to indulge in and enjoy cyberspace learning communities. In cyberspace our students will stumble across sites that relay racist, sexist and socially unacceptable content.  To facilitate safe movement around cyberspace for our students’ educators and parents must teach and remind their students of proper conduct and pre-cautions to take; just as a parent would advise a child on how to move around the community in which they live.

Students must employ the same inter-relationship behaviors they practice in face-to-face encounters.  To negotiate  the world and cyberspace, educators and parents must  teach students how to be critical thinkers. Young people must apply critical thinking skills to all aspects of their life. What it takes to be a critical thinker can be learned from Blooms Taxonomy, a framework that is often used and measures the critical thinking process.

Bloom's_Digital_TaxonomyTo help discern acceptable and unacceptable behavior in cyberspace I would require them to conduct a Web Quest. A WebQuest is a specific kind of web-based learning activity. It was developed by Bernie Dodge, a professor of educational technology at San Diego State University. WebQuests provide students with the opportunity to work independently or in small group activities that incorporate research, problem solving, and application of basic skills. This teacher-created lesson guides student research using the Internet while incorporating skills such as problem solving. (What Is A Webquest). To practice their critical thinking skills, the Web Quest would be measured against Blooms Taxonomy. The students would be allowed to work in groups. In addition, students would be required to verify their findings using a few sources not found on the web. The acceptable sources would include text books, journals, interviews or news clippings. Finally, they would be required to provide proof that they presented their work to their parents. I would provide the students with the following Web Sites to get them started on the Web Quest 1) Netsmartzkids  2) Wiredsafety  3) San Diegos AUP  4)NYC-DOE-Internet Acceptable Usage Policy and Safety   5) Acceptable Usage Policy For Students  6)BrainPopjr-InternetSafety .

Yes, in cyber communities students will come across information that is unacceptable and or controversial. In many ways, this mirrors their day to day experience. The necessity to interpret, analyze and evaluate data and information never ceases. The ability to self-regulate their behavior, make sound inferences and explanations is paramount for their success. They must be reminded, while in cyberspace, not to relinquish their moral compass, to think critically about all information that they ingest, and view the cyber experience not as separate from their physical community but as an extension to that community.