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Posts Tagged ‘teens’

Working towards a positive school culture

January 14th, 2011 Dennis Harter No comments

I had the fun privilege of addressing the student body with the “message” to start the semester this week.  When you plan, write, and ultimately deliver these things, you worry and wonder how students (and teachers) will respond to what you have to say.  I have received some positive feedback and in an effort to document my forays into school administration and the learning I make every day, I am posting what I had to say (minus the slight improvisations and the minor word choice changes in delivery).

I hope that it set a tone for positivity and looking out for each other in our student body.  I admit I had a particular issue in mind as I considered what to say.  We have great kids here – welcoming, warm, and globally minded.  But they are also incredibly privileged teens.  Here’s hoping the students responded well to the message and it continues to build understanding for a positive school community and culture.

What I said:

Welcome back everyone.

As we head off into the second semester, I wanted to remind you that your friends, your school, your community need you. At the start of the year, Mr. Bradley, his geese and I reminded you that your success DEPENDS on the people around you. Your friends, your teachers, your counselors, your parents, even your administrators.

We are all in this together, I said. Well okay, Zach Efron said it in HS Musical, but I wasn’t quoting him at the time.

But as we head into this semester, stay together. Help each other out. Stand up for what’s right. I’ll say that one again. Stand up for what’s right.

We all know how we want to be treated. How people should be treated. And we know when we are being hurtful or teasing or just being mean. There isn’t a person in this room who doesn’t know what that looks like, sounds like, reads like on Facebook, or most importantly feels like (from either side).

So don’t let it happen. To you or anyone else. Don’t be that guy or that girl. It is possible to approach each other with optimism, friendliness, and respect. Idealistic, sure…but all it takes is choice to act positively rather than negatively. To act instead of turning a blind eye. You will never regret helping someone who needed help even if they didn’t know it. But you will always wish you had if you don’t help and something really bad happens.

It is your choice to treat others well. Your choice not to tolerate it when others don’t. It’s your choice to help keep your friends safe and ensure EVERYONE gets the respect we all deserve.

Yesterday, I asked the seniors to make sure that they got to know each other in the next 5 months. To enjoy their last semester together before everyone heads off after graduation.

Maybe the rest of you are luckier…you have even more time to get to know the amazing people that are sitting all around you… think about it…in this room are amazing people… people who sculpt or sing, or write, or run really fast, or make music or poetry or find math as easy as breathing. People who dominate on a court or field or video game … and people who somehow know exactly the right thing to say when you feel sad. You all shine somewhere, somehow. Honestly, this theater is filled with awesomeness.

Some of you are shy and some of you are bold. Some of you talk and some of you listen. But all of you have feelings. All of you can feel proud and all of you can feel hurt.

I can stand up here and ask you to follow rules, but instead on this first day of the semester, I remind you what looking after each other means. It means making sure EVERYONE has a chance to shine, to feel good and be true to themselves. It means not tolerating gossip or hateful comments and catching yourself when you might be making them. It means being honest and fair rather than hurtful and mean. It means understanding that obstacles can be overcome if we help each other. All it takes is for each one of you to decide, “I can do that.” “I can treat people well.”

I’m excited about the semester. Before you know it, it’ll be June. Balance your learning, your school life, your social lives, and your family. Look after yourself. Look after each other. Ask for help when you need it. Stand up for what you know is right and fair.

We ARE all in this together, and you are an awesome group to be in it together with. Learn, have fun and it’ll be a great semester for everyone.

See you tomorrow!

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 2 comments

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.

Let's not forget First Life

December 9th, 2008 Dennis Harter No comments

A story in the news lately has a 13-yr old Italian boy diagnosed with addiction to PlayStation.  Is this a case of lost in translation from Italian to English or does it mark the beginning of a new medical diagnosis?  The American Medical Association thought otherwise last year when it essentially stated that “while overuse of video games and online games can be a problem for children and adults, calling it a formal addiction would be premature.” (Wash Post article)

Here’s the story in a nutshell:

I watched this story and had some thoughts…

I believe that people become obsessed with games because they represent an outlet from a “regular” life that doesn’t live up to expectations or desires.  Gaming provides feedback, praise, challenge, success, and potential that many are not finding in their non-virtual experiences.

If teens in our schools are becoming addicted (for lack of a better word) to escaping reality, then we need to find ways to include positive experiences in their real lives.

I get that we are about embracing who they are and how they interact with the world.  I get that games are here to stay – in fact, I quite like most of them.

But we have to care about the whole child.  If we are really producing 21st Century success stories, then let’s make sure that includes being a part of a world.  I think we will increasingly value this as it becomes less and less a part of our lives.

What are we talking/sharing/doing about ensuring that kids are out helping people, feeling like they count for something, and are important?

Are we challenging kids?

Are we praising kids for accomplishments they care about?

Are we engaging kids to be better than they were?

If we can do that, we will find that kids are having fun with games, and are addicted to life.

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.

Teens Can Multitask, But What Are Costs?

March 20th, 2007 Dennis Harter No comments

(originally posted on harterlearning on Feb 27, 2007)

Teens Can Multitask, But What Are Costs? – washingtonpost.com:

Call it multitasking homework, Generation ‘Net style.

The students who do it say multitasking makes them feel more productive and less stressed. Researchers aren’t sure what the long-term impact will be because no studies have probed its effect on teenage development. But some fear that the penchant for flitting from task to task could have serious consequences on young people’s ability to focus and develop analytical skills.

We all know the scene: teen managing their MySpace, instant messaging, listening to music, sharing homework, and word processing all at the same time. This article from The Washington Post takes an interesting look at teenager multi-tasking.

The article misleads though when they quote Jordan Grafman, chief of neuroscience at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke as saying,

Introducing multitasking in younger kids in my opinion can be detrimental,” he said. “One of the biggest problems about multitasking is that it’s almost impossible to gain a depth of knowledge of any of the tasks you do while you’re multitasking. And if it becomes normal to do, you’ll likely be satisfied with very surface-level investigation and knowledge.

This quote has NOTHING to do with neurological disorder or stroke, yet by quoting him, the writer offers the impression that this could be a possibility. Is this even ethical? Lots of adults are saying the same thing…how can they be focusing? How can they be understanding? What purpose is their in getting this quote from the head of the Stroke Institute unless it is to imply that they think it’s bad for teens’ health (which they do not as far as I can tell)?

The article goes on to describe a study which indicated that scoring is similar on a card recall activity by those multi-tasking and those not. Interestingly again, it then goes on to offer that the multi-taskers seem to recall less detail.

imaging showed that different parts of the brain were active depending on whether the subjects did single or multiple tasks. When subjects were focused on sorting, the hippocampus — the part of the brain responsible for storing and recalling information — was engaged. But when they were multitasking, that part of the brain was quiet and the part of the brain used to master repetitive skills — the striatum — was active.

Was recall part of the activity? Multitasking may shut off certain parts of the brain that are unnecesary, but could it be that good multi-tasking would have allowed for recall, if that were asked of the multi-tasker? Maybe the multi-tasking brain is effective because it can shut off what it doesn’t need. I don’t know the answer to this, but as I read this article I thought of how often we, digital immigrant, try to force our own hang-ups on digital native multi-taskers.

If students aren’t getting to the depth of knowledge like they are “supposed” to, then perhaps that is because we aren’t “asking” them to. If they can multi-task and get good grades, as the article suggests, then these students are doing what is being asked of them and doing it well.

Yet we then question the depth of their knowledge?

Is not the depth of their knowledge, dependent on what we ask them to know? And if our questions ask for depth, wouldn’t that be an effective gauge for how well they can achieve that depth, while still multi-tasking? Maybe with thought-requiring questions, a student might drop some of those “tasks” and focus on the one…or maybe we’d find that their brains are in fact wired differently than ours and that they can think with depth while chatting with their friends.

Either way, I find it hard to blame the lack of depth in teens’ knowledge on their own multi-tasking. No, that blame falls directly on us…their teachers. Let’s give them something worth focusing on and then we can worry about how they get there.