What Teaching And Learning Practices Are Problematic Online

We’ve got everything from grade-fixing to kids taking classes off the internet—here’s what we’re watching online.

What Teaching And Learning Practices Are Problematic Online

Social media presents a host of challenges for teachers. On one hand, classrooms with a widespread reliance on technology encourage creativity, collaboration, and connection with their students. But they also create opportunities for real-world, unhealthy, and sometimes unsafe experiences.

Such an environment can be detrimental to learning environments, leading to pain and dissatisfaction from students, heightened motivation from teachers, and a host of other issues. School is increasingly an all-or-nothing world where the value and effectiveness of teachers is being lost in the popularity contest of social media.

So, what’s a teacher to do? How can educators best navigate this changing school environment? What are the best practices for schoolwide online learning? What are the most problematic online trends?


Perhaps one of the biggest issues with electronic learning is the pursuit of conflict. In a recent study, educators we spoke with, cited a concern that digital devices can foster an environment of “competition” which can damage student focus.

This troubling exchange (emphasis mine):

(T)his competition can be personified as popular versus lazy or filling-with-shit behavior — common in high school and college settings. In particular, a student who has online access at home, but not at school or in a digital learning setting, may develop the attitude that if they don’t impress their teachers and their peers, they’re not worthy of love, care, and support from their teachers and peers.

It is important to note that the digital divide in our schools can create a gap between the types of online learning experiences our kids are accustomed to and those in our school culture.


Another big issue is making sure that the environment online resembles the type of learning environments in which we’ve come to rely in the real world. To do this, educators need to make sure their students feel welcome and safe. Cyberbullying and harassment in schools has become a major concern for educators, since technology often makes a school a perpetrator in these situations.

When thinking about how digital learning is disruptive to school culture, keep in mind that the behavior depicted in these incidents on a regular basis in schools is far more common than most realize.

What are the steps you should take to combat these issues in your school?

The answer is not one size fits all, but it will all depend on your own individual experiences. Consider the following five approaches.

Talk with students about their experiences. Establish strong boundaries in how resources are used. Make sure they are safe on both your school computer and their home computer. Clarify expectations about online content that’s appropriate and not appropriate for students. You can find help here from BestSchoolForMe, a site which provides a detailed schedule and procedure for the topics above. Set consequences. If you encounter violations or harassment, look at what you could do to remedy the situation. One option, if you know that parents will be receiving texts from the student who’s at risk, is to cut off or delete their internet connection during class. This can help curb aggression. See below for some practical tips on how to set limits. Use common sense. The Internet is a tool, and it shouldn’t be mishandled or mishandled in the wrong way. Take care not to overreact or assume the worst. As educators, we understand and empathize with students who may feel vulnerable online, and we want to do all we can to help them feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings with us.

Teaching online learning in today’s schools requires thoughtful, sophisticated planning and careful implementation. It’s not enough to just have the power to create and spread content, it also takes significant professional development and good judgment to use that power correctly.

As educators, we have the power to be guardians of student experience, or we can be simple tools –– a set of words and images a student can click on and share in hopes of connecting with their peers. We can’t have our both eyes closed when it comes to the demands on school culture and its evolving technology.

Teachers: put your power to the test. Embrace the roles and responsibilities that come with digital learning. Work to establish rules and discipline so that students know what is and isn’t appropriate. Teachers: stay alert and observant; and most importantly, stay in touch.

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