Saturday, March 13, 2010

Combat Cyberbullying with Cybercitizenship

In previous posts, Joann and I have advocated the use of Web 2.0 tools and other emerging technologies in the classroom. We have tossed around ideas about using cell phones, wikis, and social networking in class. Teachers are using these tools to help students understand, summarize, collaborate, and present ideas in subjects from art to math and everything in between. Many of these tools allow for a greater level of interactive communication among students and between students and teachers. With this increased interactive communication, there is a new platform for the age-old problem of bullying. According to CyberSmart!, who provided resources focusing on this issue, “When kids are intentionally and repeatedly mean to one another using cell phones or the Internet, it’s called cyberbullying.” Preparing our students for success in the 21st century includes preparing them to deal with this type of cyberbullying, both in and out of school.

Just as schools must take traditional bullying seriously, we need to look at the problem of cyberbullying carefully. Cyberbullying can be very harmful to our students. Many schools and districts are taking a stand by blocking certain sites and applications to avoid the bullying, but that can limit what teachers and students can do in class. A recent discussion on Twitter, #edchat, revealed a fear among many educators about the inappropriate use of the internet in school and a fear of cyberbullying. Our focus in this week’s discussion is how students can prevent this negativity so they can use cell phones and the internet positively in class. EnGauge created a list of important 21st century skills and a featured skill is interactive communication. Today’s students need to understand the proper etiquette and rules of this type of communication to use it effectively. The CyberSmart! resources Joann highlighted this week on The Gateway help students and teachers better understand the problem of cyberbullying and what they can do to stop it or avoid it all together.

If you follow Joann’s links to each of these resources, you will see that each of them connects you with a letter to educators about cyberbullying. This letter was very helpful to me, since I had a very limited knowledge of the problem. Each of the activities is self-explanatory, and shouldn’t require adaptations to fit into most classrooms. The activities and worksheets can be a discussion starter for students and teachers on the subject. There is a printable flyer to send home with students, too. This is important for getting parents into the conversation, since much of the cyberbullying our students are facing probably occurs outside of school.

Allowing your students to do a short, multimedia project on the topic might be a fun way to help the ideas from the lesson sink in a little better. I like letting my students pick what type of project they want to do from a list, so I have all different types of projects to grade at the end. This creates more variety for me, and a little choice seems to make students more excited about their work! Some ideas I have used are creating a short commercial on the subject, designing a comic strip, or writing a picture book to help younger students learn about cyberbullying. Better yet, actually have your students present their projects to another class at the end.

For some lists of web 2.0 tools you can use for student projects and presentations, please refer back to the links and examples in our posts on tech tools for teachers. We have a discussion about the subject on our Facebook fan page as well. You can use the links to create a list for students to choose project and presentation ideas from. Encouraging creativity can add variety to the discussion of this challenging topic and allow your students to open up more on the topic. If you have any ideas or comments about cyberbullying and its’ role in 21st century education, please share them with us. We love to see how these resources are working for you.

~Peggy's Corner~

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