Sunday, April 27, 2008

I love it when...

I love it when students write to me about the lessons that I have on the WiredSafety website. Today I got one about my presentation titled, Beware of Geeks Bearing Gifts. It said:

HI,
My name is Eva and I listened to this for an assignment. It got me very interested though...

She then went on and asked my advice about a problem she was having with spam, a topic covered in the lesson.

While there is no magic "interest meter" I can attach to my lessons, email such as this is all the feedback I need to be reassured that I'm on the right trail by focusing on Cybersafety through Information Literacy.

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posted by Art @ 6:15 PM   0 comments links to this post

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Take 5... or is it Take 82,000?

It seems as if every time you turn on the TV there is a news story about teenagers in trouble because of their online behavior. Everyone is scratching their heads wondering why and wondering what can be done. In part, that will be the topic of an upcoming episode of "Real Talk" with Brenda Blackmon on WOR-TV, My9.

Today, Ryan, one of our Tweenangels and I taped a segment for that show, but this entry is only peripherally about us. Ryan talked about advice that we give teens and tweens who encounter cyberbullying. We tell them to Stop, Block, and Tell and Take 5! Stop what you are doing and don't respond. Block the bully. Tell a trusted adult and then Take 5. Walk away from the computer and do something you love for five minutes.

While this is good advice, Morgan Simone, the teen who taped the next segment seems to have taken the Take 5 concept to heart and then some. As many youngster do, she had bully problems, but she also had good friends to help balance things out. That all changed when she moved away. As the new kid in school she was without friends and the subject of constant attacks.


Rather than lash out or attack back, this amazing 15 year-old didn't take five minutes. She took her experiences, her feelings and her insight poured out 82,000, words that became "I'm Still Here", a novel for other teens.

The title is testament to her spirit and subject of her dedication, that along with the book, seeks to instill hope in others who suffer as she did. She dedicates the book to those who felt as if they were not good enough, not beautiful enough, and just not accepted, because you can still proudly say "I'm Still Here."

With all the negativity in the world, I look at youngsters like our Teenangels, Tweenangels like Ryan, and other exceptional youngsters like Morgan, and realize that with future leaders such as these, there is hope.

Oh, and while I don't have a signed first edition Hemingway, I do have a signed first edition, Morgan Simone, and it may be worth just as much some day.

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posted by Art @ 7:37 PM   0 comments links to this post

Monday, April 14, 2008

From the Frying Pan into the Fire

If there is any doubt about the poor state of online safety and appropriate netizenship in this country, it should be erased by the two latest incidents. We are all aware of the Florida teens who brutally beat another teen for postings she supposedly made on MySpace. There was no remorse and little understanding of the consequences of their actions. I'm sure they had little or no idea of how serious their actions were.

Whose fault is that? Obviously, there is no easy answer, but I do know this. I began teaching Internet basics in 1995 and even at that early date, every one of my students knew the ramifications of that kind of action. I recognized that this was the world that they would be in habiting and I wanted to make sure they lived by a set of rules and guidelines that would keep them safe and out of trouble. Schools need to develop cyber citizenship!

Compounding the problem is schools that make the situation worse by not acting responsibly when things happen. This week, Jolita Berry, a teacher in Baltimore was attacked by a student. The majority of the class stood by and watched or cheered the girl on. One student went for help. One filmed it with a cell phone and then posted it on the Internet.

Apparently, before the video surfaced, the school's initial reaction was to blame the teacher for using a "trigger word". The student threatened to hit the teacher and the teacher said she would defend herself. Is saying you are going to defend yourself tantamount to inciting a riot?

Of course, once the video surface and word of this hit the media, the school's response was that they take the incident very seriously and it would be investigated thoroughly. Too little, too late. What measures were put into place to prevent this sort of thing from happening?

What should happen here? I don't know what the school will do, but personally I would expel the student and take serious action against the student who posted the video. How is it possible that someone can witness a crime and then post that video on the Internet without passing it on to the authorities? It would be interesting to find out whether there is a school policy about use of cell phones. If there is, certainly using it to film a crime in action and turning it over to authorities would be reason to excuse breaking the school policy, but not turning it over and then posting it to the Internet creates a serious breech of policy, if not a violation of law.

We have to stop turning a blind eye to this sort of physical confrontation. The more we ignore it the worse it becomes. We have to stop making people folk heroes for posting this kind of outrage.

What will happen to the person who went for help. I'm guessing he or she is worrying about becoming the victim of the next beating. It is a sad, sad day when brutality is perceived as not having serious consequences and acting against it results in fear from one's own safety. It is just so wrong on so many levels that it boggles the mind.

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posted by Art @ 3:19 PM   0 comments links to this post

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Can I Get a Dr. Here?

Ok, it's time for some no BS talk. I'll begin by making it clear
that the opinion about the state or educational technology and
Internet safety education are my opinions and not necessarily those
of WiredSafety.

Thirty-eight years ago I was a new teacher sitting in classroom with fifteen other new teachers. The then Superintendent of Rockaway Schools, Bob Linette, was conducting the class and asked us one by one what we thought of the American educational system. One by one each person sung the praises of our system. I was the last to reply and when he asked me, I said it stunk. The silence and looks on the faces of the other fourteen people said volumes.

Without pausing, he asked me to explain. I asked him and the group what part of their day was the math part, what part was the science part, what part was the social studies part? I said we were supposed to be teaching kids about life and how to success. I failed to see how this achieved that goal. I felt that school should be more like life, that kids should be solving real world problem and doing real world work. When I was done, he just said, "You're absolutely right."

Those three words set the course of my career and from that day on, I never looked back. Ever since then I've been trying to get schools to change the way they deliver instruction. It's thirty-eight years later and things have changed very little. Yes, technology is now in the picture, but technology implementation without changing how we deliver instruction is not going to work. In many ways technology has worsened the situation. There was already disconnect between curriculum and the skills that the 20th and 21st century required. With kids knowing more about technology than the teachers, the gap became a chasm.

As a result, the state of educational technology infusion in this country is a shambles. I'm not talking about the cables, routers, and computers. They are nothing to brag about, but compared to the hardware, the effective implementation of technology is in such a state that if it was in an episode of M.A.S.H., it would be on a gurney, with Hawkey and BJ doing everything they can do to keep it alive as it was heading for the operating room.

Lack of visionary leadership, lack of technical support, lack of professional development, budget constraints, NCLB, pressure to perform on high stakes tests that measure all the wrong things, and other mandates that hamstring teachers, make them little more than paper shufflers and test tutors. Yes, there are pockets of excellence. There are exemplary schools and programs, and there success stories, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

I've spent the last ten years of my life trying to make a difference in this arena. Now I've retired from that life and have perhaps jumped from the frying pan into the fire. I'm attempting to develop Internet safety instruction that schools can use.

If you believe what I say about the state of educational technology in this country, then it isn't a stretch to realize that the state of Internet safety education is in worse shape. If teachers don't have the time or expertise to implement effective use of technology in the core curriculum, expecting them to implement Internet Safety instruction is total folly. It's like strapping a couch to the back of a sprinter and asking him to run a marathon.

I'm not sure if it's because I'm an optimistic masochist or because I graduated from Rube Goldberg High School and McGuyver High School, but I liked the challenge. Two years ago I started a program that I felt dealt with both problems at the same time. I coined the phrase
and began my program of CyberSafety through Information Literacy. It was a series of lessons that could serve both as professional development for teachers and Internet safety instruction for students. The lessons are aligned to the National EducationTechnology Standards and other core curriculum standards. Instead of being add-on curriculum, it could be integrated into the existing curriculum in a number of ways.

Inexperienced teachers could run the Flash based lessons and let me provide the instruction. Because the software allows teachers to control all phases of the presentation, including sound and sequence, as inexperienced teacher became more comfortable with the material,
they could make it their own by substituting their narrative for my audio tack and by selecting what to present and when to present it.

Now I think it's time to take the next logical step. We at WiredSafety have found that two of the most effective tools for getting teens to listen to our message is to have it delivered by other teens and to have the message wrapped around real stories about real people and real events. Our Teenangels have stories of their own that they relate. You can find out more about them by visiting Teenangels.org.

We at WiredSafety have stories activities and suggestions that we relate to parents, teachers, and teens in our presentations. Some of those stories are already contained in my CyberSafety through Information Literacy lessons. Over the coming weeks and months, I'm going to begin extracting those stories, add new ones, offer short suggested actions and activities, and create a library of 5-10 minute learning objects that teachers and parents can use whenever they have
time or whenever they see a teachable moment.

I'll blog about them here and post them on the WiredSafety site. As they begin appearing, I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.

Maybe together we can help Hawkeye and BJ get a patient off the critical list.

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posted by Art @ 7:40 PM   0 comments links to this post