This past fall, I was fortunate to attend the Project Zero Conference sponsored by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. There David Perkins, Ph.D., one of Project Zero's Principal Investigators, spoke about "Digital Ethics." He talked about the need to speak with our students about communicating in an increasingly complex digital age. He summed up the current state of affairs for our students by saying, "As our collective world gets smaller, our personal world gets larger and more complex."
He said that it was important to help our students navigate through this complicated digital world. The challenge for them, and for us too, is learning how to communicate in a compassionate and competent way, all the while, knowing that everything we say reaches the whole world, in an instant, forever. This seems to bring reading, writing, speaking and social emotional learning to a new level of standards we never had to deal with.
To address these issues in a simple way, I came up with a three word phrase that might help. These words symbolize three steps that can help us communicate in a more compassionate and competent way. I suggest, "Be, Reflect, and Connect."
- Be - The first step is to help students slow down in their communicating whether it be on paper, in an e-mail, or through the phone. It is important to stop, take a breath, notice the place you are in and how you are feeling before impulsively responding.
- Reflect - The second step is to reflect. Take time to think about what you are writing, the message you are trying to send, the voice and intonation. It is important to reflect on the message, reread it, and imagine how the receiver will feel in receiving it.
- Connect - The third step is to connect. Here, we are ready to hit "send" knowing that we are not responding from an emotional, impulsive place and the message we are sending will be embraced by the receiver in the way that we had hoped.
Dr. Perkins is right. As we communicate with the world, our collective world gets smaller, and our personal world and the communication abilities required of that world become more complex. With increasingly complex communications, audiences, speeds, and messages, it is even more important that we teach students to slow down their communication so that it is thoughtful, caring, and competent.
Wishing you and your students the chance to "Be, Reflect and Connect"