Cyberbullying – finding the relevant solution

It felt like I was living the Breakfast Club.  Here I was on a Saturday Morning, getting ready to talk to kids about the poor choices they made and give them an essay to write about how they were going to change.

Would I be able to get through to these kids any more effectively than all of the Internet Safety assemblies and lectures that came before me?  Would I get the response that they had learned their lesson and would change their ways because I finally reached them?

What got them here:

One student started the Facebook Group.  “Johnny is a Stalker”

Inviting just one friend to the group, that’s all it took.  Within 24 hours, 25 members, 36 hours, 50 members.  It spread over the 3 campuses within our school, K-12,  including some 5th graders and crossed over to two other High Schools through past alumni.  If a parent had not reported it, this would have become a nightmare.

Everyone who posted to the group made clear designations as to what they stood for.  Students posted supporting remarks and even gave their own examples of how Johnny was ‘this’ or ‘that’ in some derogatory tone.  Others spoke out against the harassment talking about how wrong it was to be posting such mean spirited comments about someone.

Where did we as educators go wrong?  Once the students were confronted some commented on how they didn’t think that what they did was  wrong!  “It’s a free country, I was just exercising my 1st Amendment rights.”  We have high performing students….  that apparently don’t understand the full use of their rights…

The plan:  A 5 hour intervention (The Breakfast Club) on a Saturday

This intervention had a multi-pronged approach.  We talked about the impact on the community, to demonstrate that their actions went beyond just the intended victim.  The students watched YouTube videos depicting Cyberbullying scenarios and personal perspectives from other teens on the use of Social Networking sites for bullying.  They participated in an active role playing scenario where they experienced bullying from multiple perspectives: bully, victim and witness.  The instructors, there were three of us, gave them actual personal accounts of bullying and the lasting effects that it had on them and the resolutions that were attempted both successful and unsuccessful.  Students were then asked to write a reflective essay talking about their role in the Cyberbullying incident and what they would like to do differently.

Oh, we were not done yet.  After their essay students were shown the Terms and Conditions of Facebook, MySpace and Formspring pertaining to bullying, harassment and identity.  What many of them did not realize is that Social Networking tools were not designed to protect them in the sense that they can say whatever they want to whomever they want, in fact it is quite the opposite.  Social Networking sites protect them from receiving harmful or hateful content that may result in injury of any kind.  It is not private and it is not free from consequence.   This incident occurred in a Middle School so most of the bullies were under the age requirement of these Social Network sites as it is.  Lying about your identity is frowned upon by Social Network sites and it is this way because they want people to communicate in a positive way across the globe.

The students were then asked to create a PowerPoint presentation depicting multiple Cyberbullying scenarios and their possible resolutions.  They will present this to the student body at a later date.

*  This project is now going to be incorporated into the regular Internet Safety curriculum of our school and is continuing to be developed.

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Using eBeam for Video Tutorials

Creating a database of Video lessons, even just short snippets, truly solves the Substitute dilemma.  I have always struggled with the planning of valuable sub plans.  Pop in a related Video, create a question bank and just hope that the sub can turn on the VCR without a hiccup.  Kids check out with the Video lesson.  I went on family leave 2 years ago, really 2 years already?, and created some short screencast videos and links to powerpoints.   The students loved it and performed a lot better than the usual VCR method.  I have used Jing in the past and am now experimenting with the eBeam video capture feature.

I started using Jing after a Professional Development where Bill Scanlon visited our school.  He talked about the uses of Jing and it is truly an easy to use tool.  The free version only allows a couple of minutes of video recording so I started looking for an alternative.

eBeam to the rescue!  We have interactive whiteboards by Luidia called the eBeam.  One of the tools to use is a snapshot or video feature.  There is no time limit on recording, you can set the recording area of the desktop and it records in Flash format!

Most of the screencast type programs really need a microphone setup to work well.  Using the mic on my laptop results in horrific audio that is not only hard to hear but also gives the lovely ‘inside a tin can’ sound.  My next step is to invest in a wireless mic so I can make videos of actual lectures as they happen.

It’s only Science Fiction until someone actually does it.

I can’t help but think about Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game when looking at today’s blogs.

For those who don’t know what I am talking about, Ender’s Game is a late 70’s early 80’s Science Fiction series that from an internet standpoint, a centralized computer that has become somewhat sentient and filters all net traffic communications across the galaxy.  Interestingly enough, Ender’s older brother becomes the Emperor through blogging on social networks and getting the people of the world to follow his every post.

I just heard the other day on NPR that there are government agencies currently employing blog tracking so they can see who has the pulse of the people with their posts. They are using the information to shape the types of political leaders they want to put forward.  I think it had something to do with foreign affairs and the shaping of new government especially in the Middle East.  Better start blogging now if I plan on running the world anytime soon!