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Choral Leaders Of Elementary School Children

            In the 1990s I took a class on surfing the web.  When I used the search engine Alta Vista to search for “Music Education Resources”, I got about a dozen useless returns.  Today I got over 30 million results.   How quickly our world has changed.  Every once in awhile I will start to think to myself “I wonder…” and I have to remind myself “There’s the internet, Stupid, just look it up." 
           With all the amazing good that there is to the internet, choral leaders need to be a little careful.  There are three internet maxims that all of us need to know and remember every time we go to hit the return key.  All who post in this forum as editors or contributors should read and understand them.  Choral Leaders can be very public figures.  We use blogs, emails and tweets to stay in contact with our clients and supporters.  These maxims go far beyond what is needed here on ChoralNet to encompass all of our modern forms of communication but especially on the internet.
            Feb. 1 has been declared Digital Learning Day in many states.  Please post in the forum about at least one way you have used the internet or other digital technology with your choirs.
 
Three Internet Maxims
 
Maxim #1: There Are a Lot of Trolls On The Internet
 
            A troll is someone who gains pleasure at another’s expense online. This often takes the form of posting an opposing view, or taking a stance that is controversial just to get a strong reaction from others. Although most trolling is just a harmless but annoying part of the internet world, in the extreme it can lead to identity theft and sharing of personal information about others that can cause them personal or financial distress. One friend of mine who was trolled went so far as to produce a movie for his YouTube channel complete with the use of green screen, costumes, props and existing movie clips to show his pleasure when a troll was banned from the site.
            Elementary teachers are becoming more and more familiar with cyber bullying.  The term cyberbullycide has been coined for people who commit suicide due to being bullied (a form of trolling) online. 
            The very influential anonymous forum on the website 4chan produced a set of rules of the Internet. One of the rules is “Do not argue with trolls – it means that they win.” Even though many of the 47 or so 4chan rules are meant to be a joke, this rule is a good one for directors to remember. I also firmly recommend that directors attain a working knowledge of what constitutes libel. This may help the director choose their words carefully before responding to undue criticism. It also can help the director know when others have seriously crossed the line. 
            Political trolling has become a wide spread problem for teachers.  In Wisconsin our politics are so volatile that over 1 million signatures have been raised to recall our Governor.  Teachers of both political persuasions have been viciously attacked online and in the media.   A recent Ad campaign by our governor included testimonials by two teachers saying that his policies are working.  According to a news report I heard they have been inundated with hate mail and their colleagues have treated them as traitors.   I made a political statement on a site clearly marked as a political blog and was attacked by bloggers all across the country.  That is in part why I have studied these topics in such depth.  You may recall a story in Yahoo news recently about a teacher who changed the word “Gay” in the song Deck the Hall to “bright” to keep her students from giggling.   She was attacked in the media for, well, I’m not exactly sure what except that she was a teacher.   
            Some of our ChoralNet members may be thinking that here in this forum we do not need to worry about trolls. However, what we write here is available to the rest of the web because this site is indexed by Google.  No matter where you are online these topics can creep in.  Being aware of trolls and tolling can help avoid serious consequences.
 
Maxim #2: The Internet is Written in Ink
 
            Although the word ink may not be accurate, posting online should be considered permanent. In an article on the website technewsworld.com, the author took it a step farther saying that “If the Internet is written in ink, then creating a social networking profile is akin to getting a tattoo”. Anything posted to a social networking site, whether protected by privacy settings, moderators and membership logins or not, can be shared around the world in an instant by anyone who has access to that information.
          Many people, especially young adults, are learning that pictures of them in social settings posted on their social networking accounts can cost them their jobs or cause them to miss an opportunity. Many personnel departments routinely search applicant’s online presence for information they could not legally obtain in an interview.
          Though it may be impossible to delete what has been posted on the Internet, it can be pushed to a lower position in the search results. Profiles created on the websites Google, LinkedIn  and ZoomInfo tend to show up higher in search results, and other more recent positive publicity can also push past transgressions or misinformation farther down the list of links in a search result. If directors understand this maxim, they can use it to help control the design of their social media tattoo.
          Related to the permanent nature of the web, are two big DON'TS.  Don’t post while you are really angry and don’t post anything negative about your boss, employer, clients or students.  Always use a word processor and wait a couple of hours before responding to criticism or venting your anger.  If it is important enough to respond strongly, it is important enough to ask a neutral party to look it over before sending.  If you are mad enough to punch someone, don’t punch the return/enter key. 
 
Maxim #3: The Internet is Made Out of Children
 
            It has been my experience that a large number of the people responding to my ensemble’s online content are children. This is despite the fact that it is illegal in the U.S. for social networking sites to gather information from children under the age of 13. Children much younger than that make up a large number of participants on social networking sites. Facebook alone deletes the accounts of 20,000 children under the age of thirteen each day. Despite the legal issues apparent here, word and content choices can be guided by the knowledge that children may be part of the online audience for posted material. 
            It is important for directors to make it clear in all online communications that they are meant to be read by persons aged 13 years and older. If the ensemble includes children under age 13, never address any email, blog post or comment directly to them. Always address such communications to their parents and guardians. Never use online chat with a child you suspected of being under the age of 13, and think seriously before chatting with any children or students. What may be completely altruistic on the director’s part can be viewed easily as inappropriate.  
 
            Remember these three Maxims and the internet becomes a wonderful world and the most powerful tool in history. 
 
Thanks to Shiela Feay-Shaw PhD Associate Professor of Music at UWMilwaukee for her help editing the original document I reworked for this post.