The internet is a scary place full of predators and viruses but it is also a magical place with double rainbows and every book ever written. It is the single most valuable resource for both teachers and students. This makes web awareness not only useful but essential for children growing up in a digital world. The internet threats to students are both personal (web safety and marketing) and academic (authenticity and copyrights) making it an important issue to tackle in the classroom. We as teachers must go beyond preaching against the evils of the internet and avoid simply reciting frightening facts. Teachers must provide tools, or at least provide the steps to create the tools, necessary for students to exist autonomously and safely online. Students will not always have guidance when navigating the internet and they will frequently end up on new sites and faced with new information. Teachers cannot prepare every student for every situation, instead they must create savvy students who can make judgments and adjustments on the fly in the real world. So how do we do it? Well since I'm not even really a teacher yet I can't really tell you. But what I can offer is some strategies that have helped me in my past that I found particularly effective:
Stress the connection that the online world has with the real one, ask students if they would behave in a similar manner if the online interaction was taking place face to face.
Don't stress the small stuff. Too often young people are criticized for their slang, online behaviour or choice of picture. Be critical about it, don't just react to something that you don't understand or are uncomfortable with. By staying quiet for the small things it will make your voice louder when you speak about the bigger issues.
Be a role model. Use the internet in positive ways and expose your students to it. Show the potential of technology and show that "old" people love technology too. Then your issues with it will come from a place of knowledge not from being "out of touch."
I'm sure I have a few more strategies but this post is way too long for what it was supposed to be. I'm not even sure I really talked about "web awareness" as much as I should have. Oh well, if I helped one person with some ideas then it's worth it.