Monday, November 24, 2008

Response Blog # 3: Safe Practices with Web 2.0

Warning! This is a long, but thoughtful post!

Web 2.0 has opened many doors for educators who wish to use technology to enhance learning opportunities. When considering using these technologies, however, educators must keep student safety in mind. The internet is open to the world and there are some things that the world doesn't need to know about our students. So how can educators keep students safe in school and to what extent are they responsible for students out of school on-line behavior?

Teachers need to encourage students to examine, realistically, the consequences of improper use of the web. In my district we utilize a program called NetSmartzKids. This tool encourages elementary students, in a non-threatening way, to evaluate the web and also discusses the importance of privacy and other threats. Since it uses games and songs, it is very elementary friendly, but I do worry sometimes that the some kids miss the message behind the game. When we first started using this, we actually had an FBI agent come and share the tool with the kids. This immediately got their attention and he discussed all the risks as he went through the activities with the children. I also came upon a compilation of on-line resources for teaching kids internet safety at Teacher's First. I thought these would be a great way to have kids explore safety and provide teachers with excellent resources to share with parents. The most important activity for keeping kids safe on the internet is to open discussions between teachers, parents and students. The more students know about internet safety, the more likely they are to apply these skills independently. Educators and parents need to model and discuss proper internet use with students. This includes research skills, copyright information, and appropriate use of personal information.

Teachers also need to be cognizant of the types of internet tools they are using. For instance, many tools have a "private" or "public" sharing feature. Teachers need to discuss specific projects with students and make good judgement calls on when to make student work public or private. Older students need to be encouraged and guided to think carefully about the work they are about to publish and decide whether it should be public or private.

So where then does the school's responsibility end? Cyberbullying is a new phenomenon that surpasses the school's control. In most incidences this bullying is taking place via home computer usage. In the case of Megan Meier the act of cyberbullying is believed to have led to suicide. So what can schools do? Vicki Davis's entry Techlearning blogs focuses on the need for schools to educate students on the fact that virtual worlds have an impact on real life and vice versa. These aspects of their lives are interwoven and students are responsible for their own behavior in both places. Students who are able to make this connection are able to use the web responsibly and develop critical skills necessary for making informed decisions. Student need to think critically before they act, and meta-cognitively evaluate their online behavior before they press "post". For more information about cyberbullying, I came across the book, Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard, written by Hinduja and Patchin. I have not read it, but would be interested in hearing from anyone who has read it!


Mike Donlin said...

Good Afternoon,

I wanted to pass along the link to the cyberbullying curriculum which we developed here in Seattle Public Schools.

Here it is:

The curriculum you find here is complete and useable. However, it is not done. Over the next few weeks, there will be even more wonderful student writing activities from Neilia Solberg, a national teacher trainer on with Sopris West, and home-school-classroom communications incorporated into it. (I have the first materials with me and we’re about ready to add them in.) As they are added, we will seamlessly change out the pages. We are also hoping to get some good feedback as people use the evaluation/feedback forms which are included on the web site with the materials. Even as we say that, we also know that this curriculum will never be really done. Things change too much and too fast for that.

Internet safety and cyberbullying are not specifically “technology” problems. They are social-educational issues around the use of technologies. With that in mind, the development team included people a combination of classroom, curriculum development, educational/instructional technology, bullying prevention and writing instruction backgrounds. These materials were designed to be incorporated into ongoing bullying prevention programs. The individual Lessons were created to be flexible enough shorter classroom meeting-type settings or to be used in longer classrooms periods. If they are used in longer classroom settings, they would also fit nicely into existing Technology, Health and Language Arts units. They can also be used as stand-alones within an Exploratory-type setting. Over time, Dan Coles and I have also had conversations about these materials and how they fit in with Balanced Literacy.

Unlike much of the other materials which are available online, these Lessons were also designed around our WA state standards by educators with teachers in mind: all the information and materials which a classroom teacher needs to present a Lesson are self-contained. Teachers who may think of themselves as less-than-tech-savvy will be able to use them as easily as high-end tech users. We plan to pilot these materials – and incorporate feedback suggestions – over the coming months.

The work, thus far, has been funded by a grant from the Qwest Foundation with additional dollars made available through our SPS Prevention-Intervention programs. Along with the great curriculum materials, we also have educator and parent training materials available. Ideally, we’d also have funds to do some real, systematic roll-out training. We hope to be able to expand on this core from cyberbullying to a more complete internet safety curriculum. The plan is to ultimately have a 3-part set of materials - cybersafety, cybercitizenship and the cyberbullying - like those you see here. This will take time and resources. We have some folks who are interested in expanding on the current MS /JrH cyberbullying into both higher and lower grades. I think that that may happen quite a bit. We can then take input, vet it, massage it, and coordinate all the look-and-feel. (In the meantime, I’m reading up on Senate Bill 1492 which would require districts across the country to offer internet safety courses to students.)

In the meantime, we’ve also been doing a lot of training for adults – administrators, counselors, teachers and parents. A lot of it is awareness raising; there is also a lot of idea and resource sharing.

Please feel free to share this information. If you have any questions, please let me know and, of course, any and all feedback will also be greatly appreciated.

Long reply! Thanks again,


Carpe diem!


Mike said...

By using a program such as NetSmartzKids, I think the district is on the right track. Thanks for sharing that site... it is new to me! When I was teaching at the elementary level, I sat through the internet safety assembly. It was run by a local police officer who probably lacked the technology expertise to effectively run the program. The emphasis was on "what could happen," not how to safely use the internet. While I think students need to be aware of the dangers, they also need to aware of the fact that they can safely and effectively use the internet.