Monday, February 1, 2010

Cyberbullies

I'd like to thank Karl Kapp and Tony O'Driscoll for including my blog in the Blog Book Tour for Learning in 3D: Adding a New Dimension to Enterprise Learning and Collaboration.

Karl and Tony's book uses a combination of case studies, conceptual models, and input from dozens of industry experts to provide practical, research-based recommendations and techniques for integrating existing training, business, and computer systems into productive 3D virtual work environments. Up until yesterday my intention had been to give an update of an earlier book blog tour post I wrote on September 26, 2007 and titled Broadband Gaming in the Sticks. In that post I looked at broadband access and availability in the United States - critical for 3D learners and the applications and methods Karl and Tony discuss in their new book.

As far as broadband goes - things have not got much better since 2007 in most of the rural communities in our country - in many places I would argue access today is worse than it was in September 2007. Important stuff but I'm going to save that post for another day.

Why did I change my mind? I live in South Hadley, Massachusetts, a small New England town where things are typically pretty quiet. On January 14, Phoebe Prince, a fifteen year old ninth grader was found dead in my town - an apparent suicide. She had moved here from Ireland last year with her family and has been described by the parent of a friend as the new girl in school. ... a very pretty girl, very sweet, a smart girl. She had been bullied in school, after school and online.

Unbelievably, the online cyberbullying has continued after her death. On Saturday January 30 (16 days after her death) NBC affiliate WWLP published a story titled Online groups bully Phoebe in death. Here's a couple of quotes from that story:

A recent Facebook group formed in the wake of the student's suicide is raising eyebrows. It's called, "We murdered Phoebe Prince". The latest attack group has classmates seemingly boasting about driving the Irish girl to death earlier this month.

Horrible, hate filled messages continue to plague pages dedicated to the freshman's death. Parents are calling for greater accountability by officials.

You may have caught the story nationally broadcast on Good Morning America January 28. Here's the GMA video - I encourage you to watch all 5 minutes and 41 seconds of it if you have not seen it. Show it to your kids.

Now, back to Karl and Tony's book - I'm a huge online, social media, ubiquitous connectivity, 24/7, crank the bandwidth to 11 advocate. Keeping up with the web and all of its applications and connections is critical for individual success and the long term success of our country. Mark Zuckerburg, CEO of Facebook, is referenced in the book suggesting that communication should not be viewed as a way for people to get information. Instead, he proposes that information is a mechanism to foster better communication between people. As students, parents, teachers, coaches, administrators, professors, adults...... it is crucial to remember better communication can be used in both positive and negative ways.

Using technology in our classrooms in appropriate and productive ways has the potential to help us all learn and also has the potential to lay down some usage guidelines and experience that can be applied outside the classroom. Karl and Tony's book helps us understand how we can better do this. It also helps us better understand what our students and kids are doing. I believe every teacher, trainer, professor and academic should read it. Let's learn to use this stuff in positive ways with our students.

I'll write about rural broadband some other time. Today - Peace to Phoebe, her family, her friends, her enemies and this small New England town.

*****

You can check out the web site for the book Learning in 3D and read Chapter One of Karl and Tony's book to get a sense of what the book is about. You can also become a fan on Learning in 3D's Facebook Page.

To learn more about cyberbullying, see Attorney Parry Aftab and the Wired Safety Group's website stopcyberbullying.com

4 comments:

Karl Kapp said...

Gordon,

What a moving post. It reminds us all that technology is a double edge sword and that we need to be careful with the technology because it can be as harmful as it can be good.

Your statement, "As students, parents, teachers, coaches, administrators, professors, adults...... it is crucial to remember better communication can be used in both positive and negative ways." Is so true, sometimes when we are caught up in the technology, we tend to see only good.

We can teach people life saving techniques in a 3D environment or they can learn how to be violent.

We as educators owe it to our students to help them understand both the positive and negative aspects of technology and help them use technology "humanely"

Thanks for such a strong post and for adding a new dimension to the discussion.

tomjacobs59 said...

Teens can learn about the consequences of online and cell phone activities by looking at "Teen Cyberbullying Investigated" published in January, 2010 by Free Spirit Publishing: www.freespirit.com
TCI presents real cases of teens in trouble at home, school and with the law over their posts, emails, blogs and social network comments and photos. The message is "Think B4 U Click."
Thanks for looking. Regards,
Judge Tom
tom@askthejudge.info

sauerkraut said...

I wonder if I can get you to do an article on the lack of controls on internet access in the South Hadley School computer labs. I've put up a few examples and have received some really interesting comments by both students and a teacher from South Hadley.

I'll note that the South Hadley Public Schools administration has denied that they have any responsibility or jurisdiction over what happens on computers, but when some of this originates from students using school computers during the school day, how can Sayer or Smith deny any measure of culpability?

Gordon F Snyder Jr said...

Thank you for your comment.
I am not aware of how South Hadley controls Internet traffic in and out of the schools.
I would be interested in seeing the student and teacher comments - could you send along a link or copy and paste them into an email?
My address is gordonfsnyder@gmail.com