Pilot program teaches students social media etiquette, safety

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. -- Sixth graders in Mount Vernon are learning more than their ABCs.

They are learning how to conduct themselves properly on social media while learning reading skills.

And Facebook is not a part of the program.

In the corner of Lea Legare's sixth-grade class at Little Mountain Elementary School, students are busily typing away messages to each other on a social media platform called Edmodo.

"It's a closed and secure environment. The kids have anonymous names, so they don't know who they are. No one can come into a group unless I invite them in, so they know it's just our class they are talking with," said Legare.

The students use Edmodo to answer questions that could be asked in front of class, but some kids are shy about giving answers in public.

"It makes us come out of our shell a little better," said student Ian Baisch. "It's easier to explain your feelings."

The class is engaged in a digital discussion in a social media context.

"I get to pretend that I'm on Facebook," said student Josh France. "It's kind of fun because my parents don't let me have one."

"They are learning about digital citizenship, online safety, making sure we are really cautious about what they are saying online," said Legare.

And no abbreviations are allowed.

"You can't do like text message or anything; you have to write full and compete sentence," said student Lucas Rodriguez.

The teacher, just like the students, can have a pseudonym, too, so she can sit down and be herself of act like a student to see what they are really talking about. And if students don't stay on topic, they can have their posting privileges taken away.

Parents go can also go online and see everything their child is posting.

"Everybody is anonymous, so you can always tell ... what you think," said student Emma Gates.

"It's easier because you don't have to be shy," said Josh France.

Edmodo is being used on a limited basis as part of a pilot program in the Mount Vernon School District. Other districts in the area are also exploring the platform.