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Online comments:
Allow anyone to post,
or monitor and approve first
An ethics lesson

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Considering online comments: Allow anyone to comment to protect the forum or keep comments focused?
by John Bowen

Description
Should online comments be allowed without review? Does doing so protect the forum concept?
Students will examine the following questions:
• What are the purposes of having comments for online and social media, for news as well as opinion pieces?
• What, if any, are difference between print and online comments.
• What are the pros and cons of allowing online comments, reviewed or unreviewed?
• What should student media consider before allowing online comments?
• What should guidelines for handling online comments include in scholastic media?

Objectives
• Students will read guidelines for online commenting
• Students will evaluate real-world issues concerning online comments.
• Students will create guidelines concerning online comments and posting.

Common Core State Standard
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.7
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.1
Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.2
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.6
Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1.C
Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives.

Length: one day
50 minutes

Materials / resources
• Allowing comments or keeping people silent: which is more ethical?
http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2013/11/new-media-new-ethical-considerations-for-the-buisness-side-too/
• Scholastic Press Rights Committee’s guidelines
• Computers

Lesson step-by-step
1. Introduction — 2 minutes
Survey students to find out how many have read an online comment within the past week.

Ask students how many of them have commented.

2. Transition — 3 minutes
Explain to the students that today, they will be examining whether student publications should allow online comments and if they do, what type of comments they should allow.

3. Readings — 10 minutes
Have students read the “Commenting vs silence” section of this article and guidelines from JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee. Click on the online ethics guidelines link, and go to Section 5, handling online comments.

4. Group work — 10 minutes
In groups have students list on paper the pros and cons of allowing online comments. Part of their discussion should look at:
–Allowing any comments
–Allowing reviewed comments
–Allowing unfettered comments

Students, as a whole, or in groups should prepare a process for handling comments, and be able to explain their decision in a press release, to:
–Their audiences/general public
–School administrators
–School board

5. Group reports — 10 minutes
Ask groups to debrief on what they decided.

6. Assessment — 15 minutes
Ask students to prepare guidelines for their ethics and staff manual, and for publication concerning online comments.

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