Muddling through the blogosphere

November 4, 2011
by blogwalker

Digital Citizenship Summit – Thank you, Yahoo!

Yahoo Safely Digital Citizenship Summit

Besides the really cool Yahoo book bag and equally cool Yahoo lunch bag, what else was great about the 5th Annual Digital Citizenship Summit? Everything, including:

  • The panel of speakers: Experts from Project Cornerstone,, Common Sense Media, iKeepSafe, NetSmartz, Connect Safely, and attorney Charles Leitch. Throughout the day, this outstanding team guided whole group and small group discussions on how to successfully implement the elements of the “Five Building Blocks for Digital Citizenship:”
    1. Build a culture of ethics and safety
    2. Implement a network of support and leadership
    3. Align policies and procedures
    4. Provide professional development
    5. Integrate student curriculum for safety and ethics
  • The highly enthusiastic, participatory group of participants
  • Yahool headquarters

The speakers, panel discussions, and breakout sessions affirmed much of the digital citizenship work I’ve been doing over the past few years through my district’s Internet Safety Task Force. But one speaker caused me to rethink our approach to teaching about cyberbullying.  Larry Magid highly suggested, and backed it with the research, that we approach cyberbullying as a problem rather than an epidemic. Larry is co-director of and founder of  He is also the technology analyst for CBS News and writes for CNET News, Huffington Post and the San Jose Mercury News. Along with Anne Collier, he is co-author of A Parents’ Guide to Facebook and MySpace Unraveled.

Much like the “stranger danger” predator panic of 2004-2006, the media is now hyping big time incidents of cyberbullying.  The reality is that far more kids are bullied offline than online.  Larry pointed out the dangers of exaggeration, which can destroy credibility, can cause “boomeranger effect,”  and can cause people to believe that behaviors are “normal.”  His recommendation is to stop the  “fear messaging” and to emphasize the positive.

People, especially youth, can benefit from positive images and role models. Creating a culture of respect actually can lead to respect. Respectful behavior truly is normal.  Most kids do not bully.

Use ‘positive norming,’ such as the Craig, Perkins 2008 – Strength in Numbers report – 80% of Crystal Lake 6-8th grade students say students should not tease in a mean way, call others hurtful names, or spread unkind stories about other students.”

I’m hoping to go live with Larry’s “positive norming” concept at several of our middle schools by having students participate in Nancy Willard’s Cyberbullying Survey. But that’s a topic for another post;-)

I’ll end this post with a huge thank you to the Yahoo Safely team for hosting the Digital Citizenship Summit and to Diana Paradise for being the guiding light of the event – and with a closing question: What if districts approached the topic of cyberbullying as a problem, not and epidemic?


October 1, 2011
by blogwalker

Cyberbullying – Resources for an October Campaign

October is National Bullying Prevention Month.  What’s happening at your sites this month – and throughout the year – to help students “be the change” and stand up against bullying and cyberbullying?

If your district is like mine, then I’m guessing that cyberbullying is a huge issue, starting at the elementary level, escalating exponentially in middle school, and continuing on into high school as a colossally destructive force.

As part of my job (tech integration specialist), I do Internet safety workshops for parents. During a cyberbullying session last week at an elementary site, a parent confronted the principal with an incident that had happened during the school day.  The parent was taking care of a 3rd grader (not her own child), who stayed home due to illness. The child received a mean-spirited text message, with extremely inappropriate language, sent from a classmate – during recess time. (And, yes, we do have a “no cell phones during the school day district policy.”) At our middle schools, a huge chunk of a counselor’s day is spent dealing with cyberbullying issues – with sexting increasingly the seed for incidents that can so quickly spiral out of control. Facebook “burn pages” at our high schools pop up just as quickly as an administrator is able to have one removed.

OK, so from primary grades through high school, we have a problem. Fortunately, the resources for educators to bring cyberbullying into the school day and right into the core curriculum are plentiful, excellent, and growing. Here are some of my current favorites:

Common Sense Media – Free, age-appropriate, thematically grouped, and updated almost weekly, an outstanding resource for teachers – and parents too. Let’s take the Connected Cultures lesson Group Think (for grades 4-5) for an example.  The essential question for this lesson is “How can you be an upstander when you witness cyberbullying?” I truly believe every classroom in the universe should be having conversations around this question.

Common Sense makes it easy to include parents in the conversations and activities. Like all of their lessons, Group Think includes PDF printouts for the lesson – along with parent resources, such as Cyberbullying Parent Tips, Digital Citizeship Parent Letter, and a Connected Culture Parent Video.

NetSmartz – I value and appreciate all the resources provided by NetSmartz (sponsored by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children), especially the Teens Real-Life Stories collection of videos based on actual experiences. It’s the emotional impact of stories such as You Can’t Take It Back and Cyberbullying: A Broken Friendship that I’ve watched draw in middle schoolers – and their parents.

National Holocaust education organizations – In recognition that “It’s small things that set bigger things off” (Sam Edelman), the organizations below have created some wonderful anti-bullying classroom resources.

  • Museum of ToleranceAnti-Bullying PSA: The Price of Silence – A great snippet (cell-phone style) of a schoolyard fight scene. Students will easily pick out the obvious victim, the bully, the bystanders, and upstander(s).  It’s a good piece for talking about when kids have that gut feeling something is not OK,  that they’d like to step across the line – or at least step away – but haven’t the courage or skill set to do so (yet). Appropriate for elementary through middle school.
  • Facing History and Ourselves – As a long-time fan of Facing History and Ourselves, a site and organization dedicated to “helping classrooms and communities worldwide link the past to moral choices today,”  I was thrilled to discover their new resource: Ostracism and Bullying: An Online Case Study for Educators. If you’re not familiar with Facing History, here’s a quick window into their work:

National research organizations:

  • Cyberbullying Research Center – The site is ” dedicated to providing up-to-date information about the nature, extent, causes, and consequences of cyberbullying among adolescents.” But it’s more than just legal information. From the downloadable activity sheets, scenarios, and quizzes to videoclip presentations from researchers Sameer Hinduja and Justin W. Patchin that are perfect for sharing with staff and parents, this is an excellent resource for better understanding the causes and consequences of cyberbullying.
  • Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use – CSRIU Dirctor Nancy Willard, a regular presenter at ISTE conferences, deserves a medal for the Cyberbullying Survey she has created and posted with an invitation for educators to copy and tweak as needed. The PDF even includes a parent letter. I truly believe the survey could have a significant positive impact at school sites.  As she explained in a recent interview,

“The basic format I am now recommending is that you survey students at the school location about their standards and why they adhere to these standards. Schools will find that the vast majority of students are making positive choices. Then you tell students what the majority of their peers are saying – and this should result in a greater number of them choosing to make positive choices.”

I really like Nancy’s suggestion of sharing the results on posters placed visibly around a school site.  The survey questions are geared for middle and high school, but could be adapted for upper elementary grades tool.

Do you have cyberbullying resources you recommend? If so, please jump in and leave a comment. With input from readers, I hope to add to this list throughout the month.   I’d like to include a section with links to  lessons from the core curriculum into which teachers are weaving cyberbullying connections.  Getting students to see that they need to be the change means continuing conversations, lessons, activities, and campaigns across the school year and beyond the school day.

July 3, 2011
by blogwalker

ISTE Day 4: Facing History & Ourselves – Ostracism & Bullying

I’ve been a long-time fan of Facing History and Ourselves, a site and organization dedicated to “helping classrooms and communities worldwide link the past to moral choices today,” so I was thrilled to find a seat in their Tuesday session: Ostracism and Bullying: An Online Case Study for Educators. If you’re not familiar with Facing History, here’s a quick window into their work:

John Englander opened session with the statement that ostracism and bullying are affecting kids’ opportunities to learn in a safe environment. His opening activity was to turn to someone and think/pair/share and “reflect on a time in your adolescence/youth when you saw, heard or experienced bullying.” It’s one of those 100% inclusive topics, so we quickly and easily delved into small group and then a whole group discussion.

An interesting point raised by John is that “elementary students think standing up to a bully is cool; by middle school, students no longer think it’s cool. He also shared research by Catherine Bradshaw (Johns Hopkins University) showing that kids believe that teachers who try to stop bullying only make it worse.

We then moved on to Facing History’s amazing new resource: Bullying: A Case Study in Ostracism. The study evolved as part of research conducted by Harvard and Facing History and Ourselves and with funding from the Carnegie Corporation. At the heart of the project is a collection interviews with five girls around a simple problem that began in 7th grade and quickly escalated into a complicated and serious ostracism issue. (Click here for an overview of the project.)

After a brief introduction and tour of the site, John invited us to do a jigsaw activity with groups picking one case study to listen to and to then share out some of the experts who’ve reflected on study – many provocative thoughts! My partner and I picked Sue’s case, starting with the audio file, which comes complete with a verbatim transcription. We moved on to listen to the case study review – the classic, snowballing effect, so typical of middle school bullying scenarios.

Facing History’s Ostracism & Bullying case study and accompanying resources is one of my best ISTE 2011 take-aways – a resource I’ll be sharing with district colleagues as we come together this summer in search of online resources and assistance with the horrific issues of cyberbullying that currently occupy well over 50% of our middle school counselors’ case loads – and so quickly spiral out of control, negatively and too often disastrously impacting the lives of our students.

Thank you, Facing History visionaries, for providing this beautifully constructed/scaffolded resource!

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