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Archive for the ‘Cybersafety’ Category

Reminding us to connect by disconnecting

October 15th, 2010 Dennis Harter No comments

A wonderful reminder by (ironically) DTAC Thailand to appreciate our human connections.  Love it.

Do creepy people only surf the web?

November 30th, 2009 Dennis Harter 1 comment

Inspired by the return to the cross-linking blog post conversation, like the Lehmann (via status update) to Shareski to Fisher to  Utecht to Warlick posts about the value of audience, I’d like to bring together a couple of ideas that have come across my reader and my mind of late.

Like all schools, we talk about polices to keep our students safe online.

Recently, I came across the article from the NYTimes reporting on the study commissioned by 49 state attorneys in the US for the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University to look at the dangers for children in social networking.  Their findings:  on- and off-line bullying are real issues for students and online solicitation is no greater than it would be offline.

From the article:

…children and teenagers were unlikely to be propositioned by adults online. In the cases that do exist, the report said, teenagers are typically willing participants and are already at risk because of poor home environments, substance abuse or other problems.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t teach our students to be safe with their contact information, who they talk to, and how to protect themselves.  Of course we should.  But the typical blanket policy keeping student names away from photos may need re-thinking.

Dean Shareski’s very smart post (via Kim Cofino) reminded us how much we have always celebrated when our students are mentioned in the newspaper.  As they win awards and scholarships, schools honor them in publications and even school websites. But do we provide this opportunity for all students?

One of Shareski’s district leaders replied,

There are kids with special talents that few people know about. What about them? I would bet our schools are full of kids like Tanner but their talent is in Art, or Drama, or Math, or Writing etc. Most kids probably don’t even know where their talent is! But if they did, would they be able to open the doors like Tanner has? How does a superior math student get “recruited” to a University? Can a dance student get into the National Ballet if nobody knows what they have accomplished? At some point everyone needs to “sell themselves” in a job interview, or a business proposal, or even a meeting with the bank manager for your first mortgage.   If we can show kids that their accomplishments are to be proud of, and that the accomplishments are not anonymous, we can teach self confidence, and true self esteem.

Why didn’t I think of that?

No, really, why didn’t I?  Why have I along with others never seen that side of it?  If most believe it’s okay wonderful that students’ accomplishments are celebrated in the newspaper and on TV, why do we have such a problem attaching a kid’s face to a name?  Have we deluded ourselves into thinking that predators don’t read the paper or watch television?

Do creepy people only surf the web?

Working with high school students on blogging this year, I have emphasized taking control of their online persona to present a side of themselves that their Facebook accounts probably don’t.

And the kids get this.

In fact, they want this.  They see the value, they want their voice to be part of conversations and they want to be associated with intelligent writing, their passions, and their accomplishments.  How can they do this if they don’t have a blog associated with their name and media associated with their joys and successes?  They can’t and shouldn’t have to.

When schools develop or rethink online safety measures,  their programs must educate children in stages (dare I say, build understanding?), gradually lowering the walls of their online gardens so that when they are wise enough to recognize threats, they are also given the opportunities to showcase themselves.  At appropriate ages, students NEED to be able to put their name on things.

Not just because it’s theirs, but because they deserve to feel proud it’s theirs.

Online Safety is for Teachers Too

April 30th, 2008 Dennis Harter 5 comments

Ian Shapira from The Washington Post has written an article this week describing how many young teachers in Washington DC have Facebook accounts that are publicly accessible and are filled with content that represents them in inappropriate ways. Essentially, they are being young adults, but in a way that they don’t realize is in the public domain.

It’s almost like Googling someone: Log on to Facebook. Join the Washington, D.C., network. Search the Web site for your favorite school system. And then watch the public profiles of 20-something teachers unfurl like gift wrap on the screen, revealing a sense of humor that can be overtly sarcastic or unintentionally unprofessional — or both.

The article goes on to ask whether teachers should be judged on their out-of-school lives if it doesn’t affect their effectiveness with students:

Do the risque pages matter if teacher performance is not hindered and if students, parents and school officials don’t see them? At what point are these young teachers judged by the standards for public officials?

In states including Florida, Colorado, Tennessee and Massachusetts, teachers have been removed or suspended for MySpace postings, and some teachers unions have begun warning members about racy personal Web sites. But as Facebook, with 70 million members, and other social networking sites continue to grow, scrutiny will no doubt spread locally.

Whether they “should” or not is a big discussion point, but whether they “will” or not really isn’t.

In today’s society where political correctness reigns and public scrutiny and “moral” standards are held in front of everyone’s face, there is no doubt that Washington DC will follow the other states in removing teachers for social networking behavior.

Do adults need to be re-taught what privacy means since it’s meaning has changed with the coming of the internet?

Do they know how to manage their own Facebook accounts – never mind teach students how to protect theirs?

Like several other teachers interviewed, Webster said she thought her page could be seen only by people she accepted as “friends.” But like those of many teachers on Facebook, Webster’s profile was accessible by the more than 525,000 members of the Washington, D.C., network. Anyone can join any geographic network.

Are young teachers in training ready to defend their Facebook profile in an interview?

“I know for a fact that when a superintendent in Missouri was interviewing potential teachers last year, he would ask, ‘Do you have a Facebook or MySpace page?’ ” said Todd Fuller, a spokesman for the Missouri State Teachers Association, which is warning members to clean up their pages. “If the candidate said yes, then the superintendent would say, ‘I’ve got my computer up right now. Let’s take a look.’ “

Ultimately, the lessons of cyber-safety and responsibility that we teach our students needs to be shared with our teachers too. It should be included in their professional training (along with learning to use web 2.0 tools to enhance education of course).

All students, no matter what future profession they go into, also need to see the importance of knowing what they share and how they share online. And what better way to model this for a teacher than to share the very impact it has on our own lives and how we are perceived through what we and others share online.

Too many believe that the rules of public behavior are abandoned in Facebook. Here’s a terrific video which makes this very clear. Thanks to Brian Lockwood for the link to this on Twitter.


Teens protecting themselves

July 31st, 2007 Dennis Harter 1 comment

Not to belabor a point, but here’s another article on social networking safety. In particular, I like this quote:

Increasingly, it’s the teens who are starting to protect themselves.

According to the article, a Pew Internet & American Life Project study indicates that about 1/4th of teens with online profiles use their full name and only 11% make them visible to the public eye. Most are marking their sites as private, only for friends (or people they claim to know…an important distinction that we can’t forget).

I like the sound of this. My worry has been that we need to teach this stuff…I think that we still do. But it’s good to know that despite our slowness to change in schools, that kids are figuring this stuff out. Not enough though, as I mentioned in another post.

Safety by accidentStill, this is good news. With our help, just imagine how safe they could be.

Then again they are also still behaving irresponsibly…and that’s our job too.

Here are some other stats (good news and bad news) from that same study that the Washington Post shared in another article:

  • 82% include their first name.
  • 79% post photos of themselves.
  • 66% include photos of their friends.
  • 61% include the name of their city.
  • 49% include the name of their school.
  • 40% have included an instant-message screen name.
  • 40% stream audio to the profile.
  • 39% link to a blog.
  • 29% include an e-mail address.
  • 29% included their last name.
  • 29% post videos.
  • 2% include a cellphone number.

And if you are really interested here’s a third WashPosting with data on teens and maintaining privacy from that same Pew study.

By the way…I’m back from vacation…lots to do…write…think….not in that order, I hope.

Photo found through Flickr Creative Commons.

Photo by Endlisnis.

The price of fame without being famous

May 30th, 2007 Dennis Harter 2 comments

In her high school track and field career, [Allison] Stokke had won a 2004 California state pole vaulting title, broken five national records and earned a scholarship to the University of California, yet only track devotees had noticed. Then, in early May, she received e-mails from friends who warned that a year-old picture of Stokke idly adjusting her hair at a track meet in New York had been plastered across the Internet. She had more than 1,000 new messages on her MySpace page. A three-minute video of Stokke standing against a wall and analyzing her performance at another meet had been posted on YouTube and viewed 150,000 times.

This is a quote from a Washington Post article on how a high school senior girl’s privacy and life has been turned upside down by the internet. A photo of her (that she didn’t even post) circulated and created “celebrity” status for her when she didn’t want it and didn’t ask for it.

We live in an age where celebrity life is scrutinized by paparazzi and Web 2.0 tools have allowed non-celebrities to actively seek their 15 minutes of fame through blogging, social networking, and YouTube.

But Allison Stokke didn’t actively seek anything. She is now living her own life, suffering the invasions of privacy, accepted by movie and rock stars, without any of the “perks” of that stardom.

Stokke has decided that control is essentially beyond her grasp. Instead, she said, she has learned a distressing lesson in the unruly momentum of the Internet. A fan on a Cal football message board posted a picture of the attractive, athletic pole vaulter. A popular sports blogger in New York found the picture and posted it on his site. Dozens of other bloggers picked up the same image and spread it. Within days, hundreds of thousands of Internet users had searched for Stokke’s picture and leered.

Creepy.

Now her father has to come home from work and scan message boards for potential stalkers!

Why am I blogging about this?

safetypin.jpgBecause, to me, this emphasizes the overwhelming obligation educators have to teach responsible use of the internet.

We need to teach being safe alongside acting responsibly.

We already teach kids to drive safely.

We have health classes that teach students about eating healthy, sex, and drugs.

We teach them to be safe.

And we teach them to act responsibly for the safety of others.

Now we find our students living in a world where their own safety and the safety of others is global in the blink of an eye.

So how can we not teach them the same things as they apply to the Internet?

Image by Marshall Astor, found at Flikr Creative Commons

Our Imperative to teach Safe, Responsible Social Networking

March 20th, 2007 Dennis Harter No comments

(originally posted on harterlearning on Mar 7, 2007)
The Washington Post has had some gems lately…glad I have them on my Netvibes.

A recent article delves into a continuing, but also growing problem in online social networking sites where rumors and disinformation and personal attacks are impacting people’s lives negatively (to understate it). It’s a very scary article on what happens when the Web 2.0 tool gets used badly.

The article starts with the story of a Phi Beta Kappa, Yale Law graduate who did not get many call backs and received no job offers. Though admittedly difficult to prove, she claims that this was a result of deragatory postings about her in a well-read public forum on AutoAdmit.

The woman and two others interviewed by The Washington Post learned from friends that they were the subject of derogatory chats on a widely read message board on AutoAdmit, run by a third-year law student at the University of Pennsylvania and a 23-year-old insurance agent. The women spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared retribution online.

The forum in question contains useful information about law schools and law firms, but also contains hundreds of posts filled with racism and bigotry. But the site’s founder says it’s free speech.

The students’ tales reflect the pitfalls of popular social-networking sites and highlight how social and technological changes lead to new clashes between free speech and privacy. The chats are also a window into the character of a segment of students at leading law schools. Penn officials said they have known about the site and the complaints for two years but have no legal grounds to act against it. The site is not operated with school resources.

This is out there. It’s real. How much more hiding from it can educators do? Ignorance on this type of thing is simply no longer acceptable for teachers. This is the world that a participatory web 2.0 has created. One in which anyone can say anything about anyone else. We can’t just teach kids to protect themselves, instead teachers have to assume the responsibility of teaching students to be responsible users as well.

The technology is new(ish), but it isn’t going away. As a teachnology facilitator, it’s my job to make sure that teachers get this. I need to show them how important it is for our students to learn how to use the tool properly AND responsibly. It is worth noting here that the “misuers” in this article are law students slandering their peers.

Dare I quote it? “With great power comes great responsibility.” (Thanks, Spidey.)

The educational power of Web 2.0 is out there for us to embrace: collaboration, critical thinking, communication. But not all teachers have jumped on board. Maybe we are still too content focused in our curriculum. Maybe “the kids are going to learn the technology anyway”, since they spend so much time on it outside of school (side note: why wouldn’t this be a reason to make school more like that?). But even if that’s the case, this article reminds us how important it is to have conversations with students about the implications of their actions.

So whose job is this? Only mine as the tech. guy? Parents? What about all educators? What about the village? But here in lies the rub: most of those people don’t even know what’s out there. They don’t know that this technology exists, that kids are using it, that kids are learning in it, and that kids are misusing it too.

Like so many things, the answer lies not in protection, but in education. But that adds to our problems as more and more schools are knee-jerking their way to blocking access and sealing off their schools from the participatory culture that’s out there. So we emphasize the good, make little of the bad (see Jeff’s ThinkingStick post on this), and get people on board.

So when’s a good time to bring in the bad? To have those real conversations with kids? How about ALL THE TIME. Damn…that puts me back at square one…I have to get our teachers to see this as their job. I want to be obsolete as Jeff suggests (well, the job anyway…not me personally), but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

That’s the key to this Web 2.0 participatory environment…it’s put power into everyone’s hands. And we just haven’t prepared everyone for that kind of responsibility.

It’s no wonder that there is misuse, just as it is no wonder that some are learning on their own how to behave well and how to protect themselves (great post on this from Justin at Medagogy and teacher directed kids learning based at ThinkingStick).

But we can’t rely on self-learning anymore, because it is about more than skills that we can scope and sequence. It’s about responsible use as well. It’s the job of all educators to make sure that students get that. And teachers will get there, because we can’t afford not too…I just hope it’s fast enough for our students’ sake.

2 Cents Worth » Social Networking Examined

March 20th, 2007 Dennis Harter No comments

(originally posted on harterlearning on Jan 9, 2007)

2 Cents Worth » Social Networking Examined:

The principal finding of that study revealed that 55% of online teens use social networks. To some degree, this percentage, though high, seems to contridict society’s notions about teens and their online world.

There is a widespread notion that every American teenager is using social networks, and that they’re plastering personal information over their profiles for anyone and everyone to read,” says Amanda Lenhart. “These findings add nuance to that story – not every teenager is using a social networking website, and of those that do, more than half of them have in some way restricted access to their profile.”(55% of online teens)

Findings of the study indicate that 66% of social networking teens have their profiles blocked from view by anyone but their friends.

So should we be scared? Maybe the numbers are not as bad as media makes them out to be. Warlick goes on to ask the more profound question though: “what should we be doing to embrace that 55% number?” After all what other activity do you know of that 55% of the population do? Not sports, not painting, not chess. His point is a good one…55% may be less than we thought, but 55% is a lot more than anything else.

How do we make it meaningful and educational? Can social networking be used as a learning environment? We are hoping to answer that with the creation of an e-learning community at our school in which teachers and students will interact with their students on course matter. Not that revolutionary, but at the same time we want to provide RSS and other features that allow for some customizability and some pursuit of personal interests – without turning it into a MySpace clutterfest (though our visually-literate students don’t seem to mind).