Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bullying 2.0

Two years ago, the sixth grade core teachers were required to help out the PE/Health department cover a unit. There were several subjects to be covered in this unit: nutrition, smoking, hygiene and (predictably for this blog post) bullying.

Bullying became my topic to cover with the 6th grades and it was considered a significant topic by the admin as a "consistent message to be sent to all middle school students at the start of the school year".

The majority of the curriculum focused on typical scenarios of the school yard bully, and what could be done to avoid him or her. We then shifted focus to cyberbullying.

The discussions were interesting because the initial reaction by the students was that cyberbullying was a less threatening means of intimidating victims. As we further examined the issues, the means, the outcomes and impacts of cyberbullying, a stronger awareness of just how damaging this kind of bullying can be.

At one point in our Apr 8 f2f, the instructor was asked if there had been any formal survey done on the prevalence of cyberbullying at the school.

In my class of two years ago, I did survey the students specifically about cyberbullying. The results that came back were negligible and those that did report to be bullied online, claimed only mild irritation and nothing that needed intervention.

That was two years ago. A lot can change in that amount of time - especially when technology is concerned!

I think a new survey should be created, and amendments to the ISB AUP should strongly reflect the wrongitude of cyberbullying!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Digital Fearmongering

Techin' PE recently wrote a very worthwhile entry on the issues of privacy and the online footprints that follow us through our digital lives (nice one Andy!).

In his post Andy mentions two common fears:
1. Our online behaviour from our deep, dark past follows us to job interview and university admissions tables.
2. The possible threat of others creating a negative footprint for us through rumors and online gossip.

Both scenarios are real and significant.

Special Guest from March 18th's f2f, Silvia Tolisano made mention to an entirely opposite and far more optimistic approach to tackling the issue of students' digital footprints. Tolisano endorses us educators to harness this unstoppable force and make digital footprints work for our children!

We should show our students that it is never too early to start down a good path that will leave nice footprints that reflects positively on us. This idea is similar to Friedman’s in his novel, The World is Flat: "In the future, you must be good."

It's optimistic, but not very realistic.

The extension of this "do good" approach sounds to me like we are asking kids to start building their ‘resumes’ in grade school! -Step out of line and run the risk of wide-spread and far-reaching ostracism.

How utterly stifling it all sounds.

The thing is, both sides of the footprint issue end up at the same place: an over-exposed and all-too-transparent society whose citizens are fearful of failure. As a teacher, it would be tragic to see risk taking and out-of-the-box thinking decline any further in our classrooms.