Spreading the good word on the 7.30 Report

My colleague, Sue Miles and I, and a couple of students from Toorak College, had the opportunity to be interviewed by the ABC’s  7.30 Report last week on the issue of bullying in Australian schools. We were approached as a result of our school’s involvement in the Cybersafety and Wellbeing initiative of The Allanah and Madeline Foundation. I was very pleased to be asked, as it gave our school the opportunity to discuss our use of emerging technologies in our curriculum, and explain how exposure to sites like Ning can help teach our students how to behave safely and ethically on the Web.

I  think we managed to successfully convey that message. The interview was obviously cut down to meet the time constraints of the program, but I’m pleased that it was a balanced representation of the issues facing schools today. I really do believe that one of the most effective ways to convey to our students how to conduct themselves in Web environments, is to use the Web in classroom instruction and reinforce the behaviours that are going to keep them safe online.

Take a look and see if you think we’ve done good!

Cybersafety- getting the message

I came across a great video to use for teaching responsible internet use from a Twitter link (thanks Heidi Chaves) today and was thrilled to hear the Australian accent. One of the things that has become apparent to me is the necessity to convey a message in not only student voice, but in an accent they can relate to. The cleverness of this video is pretty cool- even a hardened YouTube watcher will be impressed I’m thinking when you see those students walk out of the screen. I am giving a presentation to the Grade 5 and 6 students at my school this Thursday and I’ll be using this one with them. Unfortunately, I’m continuing to have problems loading YouTube videos using the URL and it’s impossible to grab the embed code so you’ll have to follow the link to see it. It’s worth it, so take the time to do so. I’m pretty sure you’ll be wanting to use it in your classrooms too.

Toorak College (my school) is a pilot school with The Allanah and Madeline Foundation’s Esmart initiative. Here’s what they are hoping to achieve;

The Alannah and Madeline Foundation’s Cybersafety and Wellbeing Initiative aims to make cybersafety a normal part of every young person’s life by equipping them to use technologies in ways that protect them from the associated risks.

The development of the initiative is informed by a number of cybersafety experts from across Australia.  The first major focus of the initiative is to help schools to create a cultural norm of smart, safe and responsible use of communications technologies.  The initiative will:

  • help schools develop policies and practices encouraging students to use technology responsibly
  • point schools to teaching resources on cybersafety, but also to resources to help them create a safe, respectful and caring environment
  • encourage schools to embrace the positives of technology for teaching practice and enhance young people’s learning
  • establish a system for schools to provide evidence that they are actively implementing these policies and practices
  • reduce the digital divide between adults and young people, so adults can become a credible source of advice on avoiding the risks of cyberspace.
  • We had a meeting of local pilot schools last week and I was quick to reinforce that I’m interested in keeping our students safe online, but I don’t want the fear factor message to be the driver. I want a balanced message delivered, one that acknowledges the benefits of sharing in collaborative online spaces. I was very happy to see the dot point above as part of their aims; ‘encourage schools to embrace the positives of technology for teaching practice and enhance young people’s learning’

    As part of our Esmart program, we are introducing the concept to our Senior School students at tomorrows assembly. We’re using the following series of videos, Your Photofate, as part of the presentation (Thanks John Pearce for posting the link to these videos on Twitter -they’re invaluable). Students are presenting to students; our teaching staff won’t be on stage. The students have scripted the presentation themselves and it’s our belief the message will have more meaning coming from them. We recognise the need for our students to see their teachers as credible sources of information about responsible internet use, and for that reason we’re embedding this into curriculum across Years 5 – 12. It’s our Teacher-Librarians who will be driving the teaching and I am very pleased about this. We realise all teachers need to take responsibility for this, but we want some focused instruction to start the discussions that need to take place continuously throughout the education of the students in our care.

    Here are the videos. They’re derived from the AdCouncil in the United States, but this message transcends international boundaries. Sexting has become an issue in communities the world over, largely due to the ubiquitous nature of mobile phones with cameras. I have little doubt many students are naive as to the consequences of their actions, hence the need for explicit teaching in our schools and homes to reinforce the message that what you post in online communities has far reach; consider carefully if you really want to share an image that you wouldn’t be comfortable having members of your family viewing.

    Choose what happens next

    Sorry

    Out of your hands

    I’m pretty sure the message will translate.

    The thin red line….

    We walk a fine line in our schools today.

    To block or not to block, that is the question.

    Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
    The slings and arrows of outraged parents,
    Or to take arms against a sea of misinformation
    And, by unblocking, free them.

    OK. My apologies to William Shakespeare, who’s probably rolling over in his grave right now!

    But the issue of blocking vs unblocking is a vexed one in schools. At my school, we are trying to be as open as possible. We want our students to learn how to navigate the Web responsibly. For many of them, there are no filters when they use the net at home. I think I’m right in saying that the philosophy we’ve adopted is that school should be a place where students can make the most of the resources the Web offers, with the help of responsible adults guiding them in their learning.

    I’ve said it many times before, but it’s worth repeating. Sites like YouTube are at the core of my teaching now; I really don’t know how I’d function without them. I was speaking with a public school teacher today who was telling me how the Department blocks this wonderful site. It bothers me greatly that my counterparts in the public system are forced to download videos at home if they want to use them. Some of my best teaching over the past year has sprung from moments when we’ve been able to jump into sites like YouTube to enhance discussion and extend our thinking. Because we have a 20mg pipe, the videos load quickly and we are streaming just as quickly as our ideas are forming.

    But sometimes, you just have to block. Sites like Omegle and ChatRoulette, where you are encouraged to talk to strangers, are just not appropriate in any school setting. ChatRoulette has upped the ante, using WebCams as the basis of their communication. I found out about ChatRoulette via Twitter last week, and immediately notified our Network Administrator to put a block on it. I was surprised this morning to see The Today Show, here in Australia, feature it as the site for discussion for their technology segment. Their pitch was that they were helping parents out there, and to some extent they were. But they were also giving national exposure to a site that may not have hit some teen’s radars yet. Plenty of families would have had television sets on this morning, and if the teenagers today are anything like I was when I was young, a segment like that would have been the Pandora’s Box I just had to open. I know, it’s probably spreading like wildfire through sites like Facebook and Myspace and old media like television is probably not where the kids are. But still, I wonder where the thinking comes from sometimes with the media; do they want to fire up a debate for ratings purposes or genuinely help out the unsuspecting public?

    Danah Boyd has written an interesting post about ChatRoulette. I’d encourage you to read it to gain her perspective. She makes this interesting observation;

    What I like most about the site is the fact that there’s only so much you can hide. This isn’t a place where police officers can pretend to be teen girls. This isn’t a place where you feel forced to stick around; you can move on and no one will know the difference. If someone doesn’t strike your fancy, move on. And on. And on.

    The problem as I see it, is that our young people are not always blessed with enough maturity to make wise decisions like ‘move on’, particularly if they are with their peers while engaging with a site like this. The thin red line that is our ability to block is a defence needed in schools for sites that put our young people in situations that many do not have the maturity to handle.

    Cyberbullying – videos help convey message.

    I used the above video, Cyberbullying – Talent Show,  from the Ad Council with my Yr 7 students today. What began as a bemused audience settled into uncomfortable silence as the 50 sec video panned out. It’s a really useful video to show – the  message is delivered convincingly and with real impact. It sparked a lot of interesting discussion about the damage done to individuals from cyberbullying.

    DK from Mediasnackers switched me on to the video below also about cyberbullying. This one, Let’s fight it together, was produced by Childnet (a non-profit organisation working with others to “help make the Internet a great and safe place for children”) for the Department for children, schools and families in England (DCSF). It highlights the different ways that Cyberbullying can happen and the how the victim is affected by the bullying. The target is male and my students made some interesting observations about how differently boys react to victimisation compared to girls. Good discussion. Once again, it managed to pack a punch, far more than any information I could relay by simply talking about the issue. Make sure you watch both and think about using them in your classrooms. These are messages that need relaying.

     

    From little things big things grow

    Funny how life is isn’t it. Sometimes a smallish idea can manifest into something that could be great. Sue Tapp set up a Flash meeting tonight for Oz educators as an  opportunity to touch base and make some connections outside of our blogs and twitter. She planted a seed and didn’t even know it. It was great and I want to publicly thank Sue for making the effort to get this meeting organised – 20 people participated and it was useful but we did have problems with the setup. This led to the always thinking Sue Waters moving to ustream and then elluminate to see if they worked any better.

    Once in elluminate the seed started to grow. I came in late after attending to homework and kid’s bedtime and the discussion was in full swing. Vicki Davis was acting as moderator with Sue Waters and the discussion focused on  digital citizenship and the best way we could educate our students, parents, colleagues, administrators and education departments about the value of participating as global citizens via digital means.  As a reult of the discussion, a Google group has been set up  – Advocates for Digital Citizenship, Safety and Success. If you’re a Teacher-Librarian join and contribute to the discussion. This is an area where TLs should be active and an active TL is their own best advocate. We don’t need policy documents drawn up to prove our worth -we need to be active in our schools and leading the charge in terms of modelling and no-one will question the need for TLs in schools.

    There was a lot of energy in the session and twitter talk was buzzing afterwards. It’s promising to have a global group forming and will give people an avenue through which ideas can be shared which may affect perception and initiate education and change. Let’s see what kind of tree grows from the small seed. (Being an Aussie seed it’s bound to be a eucalypt – huge with lots of vigorous growth!) 

    We need some support!

     Anne Mirtschin, a teacher at Hawkesdale P12 College, in country western Victoria, Australia, has just posted about another Australian Blog closure. It seems that an early childhood centre blog has been asked to close due to photographic content being in the public domain. This comes a week or so after Al Upton’s mini-legends were shut down in Adelaide. Anne makes some very apt comments re our responsibities as educators to have our students learn to become effective digital citizens;

    “will we continue to ’see the world through the eyes of predators and other minority unsavoury characters’ and force our students to learn independently the traps that may be out there waiting for them, or will we stand up and fight for our children and students, and teach them how to live in a rich and rewarding global world giving, them the knowlegde and ‘know-how’  for avoiding, protecting from and dealing with such ill-characters, should the need arise. Many of our students are already using these web2.0 tools at home and we must prepare and instruct them for this world that they live in and for future digital citizenship that they will all experience in the future.”

    I agree with your sentiments entirely Anne. I teach in the secondary sector and there is no doubt that our students are actively engaged and already have an online presence. Isn’t it better that we guide our students and help them learn to navigate this digital climate in a safe and responsible manner? I can, however, understand concerns parents and teaching bodies have about the use of student images and full names online, particularly in the pre-teen years.

    This is why I think it would be great to be supported by our State Governments and teaching associations. Perhaps it is now obvious that the need has arisen for policy statements that schools could have access to to support them in their endeavours to create these type of rich learning experiences for our students. I think that’s what’s needed – support from higher bodies that would then give schools and individual teachers the confidence to move forward with teaching strategies reflective of our 21st century world.

    What’s really interesting is how international schools address blogging. I’ve been in talks with a teacher from Shanghai – at their school no parent permission forms for blogging exist. According to the teacher I’ve been talking to, the parents see the value of blogging from how their children interact with their blogs and they enjoy being able to have access and insight into what their children are doing. This was a recent discussion point on SOS podcast with Jeff Utecht who works at the Shanghai school I’ve referred to. Hopefully here in Australia we will start to hear more of the success stories with no more closures. 

    Think before you post part two.

    I’ve been looking at my blog stats and have noticed a lot of interest in a previous post that featured a ‘Think before you post’ internet safety television ad. Here is another one. Of the two, I actually think this one about Sarah has the most impact. I used it in classrooms last year and the students really took notice of the message. It promoted vibrant class discussion, particularly surrounding the guy taking the theatre tickets. ‘Creepy’ was the overwhelming verdict. I think these are fantastic learning tools for our students – they are quick and easy to digest, but spark much comment and leave a mark.