Cyberbullying event in Seattle

Next week I’ll be in Seattle presenting as part of a day-long pre-conference panel on Youth Risk Online: Issues and Solutions at the International Bullying Prevention Association (IBPA) November 15-17 in Seattle, Washington. This is a in-depth look at a topic that’s both timely and important for everyone, not just technology using educators.

Last week I posted the details and the list of participants (I’m totally honored to be in this nationally known all-star lineup!).

If you are in the Seattle area, this is a must-attend event for anyone involved with school technology. The issue is timely and the answers aren’t simple. There is no “one size fits all” solution for building the solid policies and practices that reduce risk and expand opportunities for students in the 21st century.

Please consider attending – and if you do, say hi!


New – A Parents’ Guide to Facebook

Anne Collier and Larry Magid of Connect have released a timely new booklet, A Parents’ Guide to Facebook. This link will take you to a site where you can not only freely download the  PDF booklet, but also an interactive at-a-glance chart with recommendations for how teens should configure their privacy settings with links to the pages on Facebook where they can actually change those settings.

It’s designed to help you understand what Facebook is and how to use it safely. With it, you will be better informed and able to communicate with young Facebook users in your life more effectively. That’s important because 1) if something goes wrong, we want our children to come to us and 2) as the Internet becomes increasingly social and mobile, a parent’s guidance and support are ever more key to young people’s well-being in social media and technology.

If you are a teacher teaching Internet Safety, it’s important to get parents on your side – the side of safe and knowledgeable use. Sharing this kind of information proactively with parents BEFORE a crisis is crucial.

Besides this new Parents’ Guide to Facebook, Connect Safely provides other excellent information about youth, social media, and how to stay safe using (not banning) the Internet in homes and schools.

Prairie Elementary Filmmakers Save a Regional Nature Program

From Gail Desler (aka Blogwalker) in a school district near Sacramento, CA.

Prairie Elementary Filmmakers Save a Regional Nature Program | BlogWalker.

“I was there – at the Sacramento Board of Directors – on Wednesday, joining other concerned educators and citizens in a last minute effort to save one of Sacramento’s primo science programs: Spash.

Thanks to Splash, thousands of elementary, middle, and high school students have explored life in Sacramento’s streams and, in the process, have come to understand why taking care of our water supply is so vital to the community. However, the Board was ready to eliminate the program as part of their latest round of budget cuts.

We had our chance to speak out, each person being allotted 3 minutes to justify continued funding for the program. With Splash director Eva Butler leading the charge, I think the 12 of us who took our turns at the podium helped provide the Board members with an understanding and appreciation that for most kids, “Splash is their first experience with relevant science and things that live beyond the pavement in Sacramento’s streams and vernal pools.”

But it was clearly a team of 5th grade filmmakers from Prairie Elementary School (Lesley McKillop’s former 4th graders) who saved the program. In less than 2 minutes, their Saving Splash video (see snippets in the above TV coverage) provided a compelling argument that led to a unanimous vote to save the program.

A huge victory for students all over the Sacramento region – and a powerful lesson to our young filmmakers on the importance of taking a stand and the power of media to sway an audience.”

If you don’t know, California schools are going through some incredibly tough fiscal times. Yes, I know that’s true all across the US, but California school’s are especially dependent on property taxes, and California real estate was subject to some of the biggest bubble bursting in the country. So the fact that these young filmakers changed a decision in these times especially affirms the power of student voice.

Here’s another reason – the subject of water and the science behind it. The city of Sacramento is at the heart of the California Central Valley Delta. This inland water system is the ecological lifeblood of the state and nourishes one the richest agricultural areas in the U.S. On less than 1 percent of the total farmland in the United States, the Central Valley produces 8 percent of the nation’s agricultural output by value, most of it fed by human engineered water systems (source). Understanding water ecology is vital to Sacramento citizens. So this testimonial about elementary school students saving a science program with their media skills is no joke. This is not just media literacy, it’s science, politics, and ecology! This is certainly the “real world” that we want students to experience.

Thanks, Gail, for sharing Prairie Elementary Filmmakers Save a Regional Nature Program


Online safety report discourages scare tactics

A new, really important report has just come out about children and online safety. It is sensible and research-based, with excellent recommendations. The strongest recommendation is that scare tactics DON’T WORK to keep children safe online. I hate to sound surprised, but it is really a breath of fresh air. Educators and parents should read it!

Although unwanted online solicitations can have an alarming impact, recent studies have shown that “the statistical probability of a young person being physically assaulted by an adult who they first met online is extremely low,” the working group noted.

And young people’s use of social networking sites does not increase their risk of victimization, according to a 2008 report that appeared in American Psychologists.

via Online safety report discourages scare tactics | Featured SAFE |

And kudos to eSchoolNews for an excellent report on a complex and highly charged subject.


Eisenhower School Internet Safety Project

The Eisenhower School Internet Safety Project began with Tech Team teachers, Angelo Bonavitacola, Marc DeBlock and Harold Olejarz, joining forces to develop a sixth-grade Internet course to address these issues and to encourage students to be active learners by using the latest technology to learn about the latest technologies. To produce the videos, the students view online videos, visit web sites and discuss Internet safety topics. The students begin by developing a storyboard in ComicLife, a MAC OS program designed to create comics. Students then use digital cameras to capture images that are added to their comics. When the comics are completed the pages are exported to iMovie. In iMovie the students add voice-overs, sound effects, titles and transitions to complete the Internet Safety project.

Many of the student videos have been or will be shown on ETV, Eisenhower’s morning TV show. ETV is broadcast to the entire school and the town of Wyckoff, NJ. In addition, the videos are posted on a resource web page that includes links to sites with information and other videos on Internet safety. This Internet Safety web site was also used in a presentation to seventh-grade parents. During the presentation it was suggested that parents watch the videos with their students and use the experience to begin a dialog on the issues raised in the videos. (via LearniT-TeachiT)

This is a great example of the “technology ecology” that I’ve been talking about. Sure the students could have learned to make cartoons in Comic Life or how to use iMovie. They could have gotten lessons on Internet Safety. Parents could have been invited in to hear a lecture from an expert on cybersafety.

But instead, all these came together in a way that is greater than sum of the individual parts. They used an authentic problem to build internal capacity and learn how to learn.

In this school, students learned about Internet Safety AND how to communicate it to others, reinforcing the lessons and making them more relevant. They learned to use a technology tool for an authentic purpose – to teach others and engage the whole community in the complex issues of Internet safety. They learned that they have the power to learn new things and transform their community. They learned that their voice is important and that their parents and community will listen to them if they know their stuff.

Way to go Eisenhower!


Digital natives/immigrants – how much do we love this slogan?

How many times have you heard that kids are “digital natives” and adults are “digital immigrants”. That adults will never “get” technology like the kids do, because their brains are actually wired differently, and as digital immigrants, we will always “speak with an accent” — we can’t really see what they see.

This catchy turn of phrase seems to completely capture the ease with which kids accept technology that baffles adults. However, it creates a number of traps in its use. We don’t want to pretend that jargon is a guiding principle for education.

It’s attributed to Marc Prensky, but even he says the concept was around before he made it popular.

Calling students “digital natives” is an excuse for not actually teaching them about technology. Even if we accept that many students are more facile and less intimidated by technology that many adults, it doesn’t mean they know anything.

Digital natives they may be, but they still need teachers and parents. Kids need adults to guide them to use these tools wisely and for appropriate academic purposes. A teacher can take them further and to a place with real meaning. Parents can model values. Kids are less afraid of technology, and don’t usually worry about breaking things, but this doesn’t translate to intellectual curiousity or comprehending boundaries. They are just used to having technology around, but also more than willing to just ignore it when it isn’t immediately obvious what to do with it.

If we walk away from our responsibility to teach them about appropriate, academic uses of technology, it’s our fault when silly, or worse, inappropriate uses of technology fill that vacuum.

And we should go further than just helping them use technology. They should know why we think it’s important. By giving students a role in helping out, and insight into how decisions are made to use technology in education, we give them the excitement of discovery and empower them to think beyond themselves and their own enjoyment of the moment. We have to share the “whys” of educational technology with them.

And just like “digital native” is an easy label, “digital immigrant” creates the same problem in reverse by providing a convenient excuse for teachers who don’t want to learn something new. I have all the sympathy in the world for teachers who are overburdened, and who patiently listen to all the hype that never pans out. But it’s time to accept that the world has changed.

No one is saying that fundamentals aren’t important, or that critical thinking and reading and math aren’t required for today’s world. But technology makes those things accessible to students who might have been left behind before. Blogs allow shy students to have a voice in a class discussion. Or allow a student who is not even physically in the classroom to participate. Wikis represent the technology of democracy. It’s everything we try to teach students about collaboration and teamwork. Getting these tools up and running is important, using them even more so.

Creating labels like native and immigrant only solidify boundaries and create implied adversaries. It’s simply the wrong mental picture for a collaborative learning environment where teachers and students are all lifelong learners.

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