A teenager in Georgia has decided to take things into her own hands after her school and police said they could do nothing about the classmates bullying her on Facebook.
Fourteen-year-old Alex Boston and her parents are filing suit against two classmates and their parents for libel after the two classmates allegedly created a fake Facebook account in her name, using a photo of her that they distorted. The account was also used to post a racist video to YouTube that implied that Boston hated African-Americans, and to leave crude comments on the Facebook pages of other friends, suggesting she was sexually active and smoked marijuana.
My first instinct is that this is a typical misuse of the US legal system: suing someone over a personal disagreement. Couldn’t the situation be dealt with through a conversation, a sit-down between the aggrieved parties? Boston and her parents pursued several avenues of recourse: contacting school officials, the police, and Facebook. But nowhere is it indicated that they tried to contact the bullies and their parents directly to address the situation. This demonstrates why a lawsuit is an excessive response: simple personal contact wasn’t attempted.
On the other hand, online bullying takes a schoolyard activity and puts it into the context of the real world, where we might call it libel or harassment. Even if the suit doesn’t go to trial, might this be the smack across the head that the bullies need?
In sixth grade, I was the victim of bullying. Looking back, I can kind of see why: I was unassuming, not terribly self-aware, I wore chunky black wraparound glasses that reflected my parents’ values of function over form. Not that this excuses the bullying. Thank god, though, that at that time the “internet” was accessed on a 14.4k modem that you used to login to a unix terminal and check email using pine. You couldn’t get into Facebook wars or anything of the sort. The bullying stopped when I came home.
That’s not the case these days. The Internet and cellphones mean that teenagers are always connected – to their friends, and to their bullies, and we don’t know what to do about it – call parent meetings? File lawsuits? Danah Boyd tells us: “No amount of legislation requiring education is going to do squat until we actually find intervention mechanisms that work.” Ah, intervention. In other words, trying to solve a problem after it happens. But as Boyd herself acknowledges later in her article,
The issues here are systemic. And it’s great that the Internet is forcing us to think about them, but the Internet is not the problem here. It’s just one tool in an ongoing battle for attention, validation, and status. And unless we find effective ways of getting to the root of the problem, the Internet will just continue to be used to reinforce what is pervasive.
“Getting to the root of the problem.” In other words, we should find the cause and prevent the problem before it happens. So how do we do that?
My school is finally jumping on the smart board bandwagon and installing several dozen Hitachi Starboards over the coming months. My understanding is that by the time the next school year starts, every instructional space will have one, and that this is part of an initiative to have our school be a model of technology use in our city (I would rather have a one-to-one program, but I’m not one to inspect the oral cavities of equine gifts). I was fortunate enough to be in the initial pilot group, so in mid February the school installed one in my room along with an Elmo document camera. I didn’t have any formal training for the Starboard since I was out of town on school trips and conferences for both sessions, but I’ve been playing around with it and collaborating with my common planning colleague. I’ve always thought that smart boards had more applications in the maths and sciences where graphing was important, but I’ve also seen several distinct uses in high-school level humanities that I presented to my department at the last meeting: Categorization, Annotation, and Visual Notes. Continue reading Pimp My Whiteboard→
Here’s a perspective on the role of copyright and the new digital skills that we should be teaching to our students:
Memorizing is a necessary skill. Accessing our memory is indeed quicker than accessing the net. Whether that information is accurate is another story. The problem is that in this Information Age too many educators are only teaching and testing memory skills, wallowing in that lower end of Bloom’s. If they’re not teaching students to discover, curate, and manage information, though, they’re missing the realism in GenZ’s future. This is also necessary before they move to the upper end of Bloom’s. Information management is the memory’s next door neighbor.
Renfro goes on to aver that “Teaching about copyright and proper content sharing should be an essential standard. Students should respect the work of others just as they will want to protect their own work that they upload to the net.” This begs Week 3’s assessment question: How do we teach copyright in Asia, in countries where international copyright law is not followed to begin with? What is our obligation as educators?
I think the issue should be separated as Renfro unintentionally does. In other words, we should consider 1) copyright law, and 2) proper content sharing with the understanding that 1) Copyright law should NOT be universally taught, and 2) Proper content sharing SHOULD be a constant, though not necessarily central, part of our curriculums.
In my Course 1 Project, I used this past quarter’s UbD unit, which contained several assessments requiring the use of technology. The students submitted two of the assignments last week – a group project in which students created a propaganda video for the fictional state of Totario, and a Prezi timeline of significant events in World War Two. I was quite frankly blown away by some of the products the students turned in, and am showcasing some examples below.
The first is a video promoting the leader (Great Magister) of Totario. For this assignment, students were really creative, filming mock scenes, writing their own anthems, and remixing YouTube videos (especially of North Korean and Chinese military parades). The video editing skills shown by those students were impressive, especially since I followed Tara Waudby’s advice to give less guidance to stimulate creativity. But one student went totally new media, using the tool Garry’s Mod to create an almost completely professional machinima video. I’ll let the video speak for itself:
The timelines also evinced a high level of professionalism. Students demonstrated their understanding by using Prezi’s Path feature to show cause and effects and significance – it was a visual way to make connections. They also did a great job of finding relevant images.
Will Richardson gives us more pithy analyses of the current state of technology and learning:
“It’s becoming clearer by the minute that, as Web technologies open more and more doors for learners, they also pose more and more challenges to traditional thinking about schools. At the center is figuring how best to prepare students for the vast learning opportunities they have outside of the traditional education system. While the challenges are different for each individual school and district, all will be forced to come to terms with five new realities in the short term.”