Cyberbullying is a subject that I cover every year in Middle School. When asked what Cyberbullying is my students tend to talk about the sensational things they’ve read or heard – the cases where it leads to suicide or someone being charged with a crime. There always seems to be an attitude that if there aren’t threats of any kind that it’s not bullying or it’s just treated as a joke.
I felt that I needed to bring in examples that were real but not sensationalistic. I wanted my students to be engaged and to talk about the issues. Taking a cue from Stephen Davis‘ presentation on Technology and the Developing Needs of Adolescents, I decided that I need to let the students move around the room rather than having them just sit and watch a video or presentation of some kind. But, how could I accomplish this? Aha, I decided to adapt, Dan Callahan’s Things That Suck presentation!
Now as much as my Middle School students would love a lesson titled Things That Suck, I didn’t think it would be appropriate to call it that, so Cyberbullying – Yes or No? was born. I hung up big signs in the room: NO (on one side), YES (on the other side) and UNSURE (in the middle). The lesson started with a definition and video to help define Cyberbullying. Then, I had some examples which I presented one at a time to the students. After they heard the example, they moved to the appropriate area based on whether they felt the example was Cyberbullying or not. After they had moved, I had students defend their choice. This seemed to work well and made them think about why they chose what they did. Sometimes students moved as they heard explanations and, of course, there was the one student who always had to take and argue the minority position. After every second or third example, I showed a short Cyberbullying related video and then launched into another round of examples.
The entire set of examples that I had took a class and a half which I think is too long. Interest waned on the second day. I think this is best as one class and have reworked my presentation to take out some examples and one video. Some examples were better than others in sparking discussion and I feel I had too many obvious choices. So, I’ve reworked this a little too but may need to work on this more. Depending on the class and the discussions what I have now is probably still too long. Next year I intend to skip some examples or videos if needed to have this fit into one class. The students really liked the real world examples and wanted to know more about what had happened in these situations.
You can see and download my current version of the examples and links to the videos I used from Slideboom and Slideshare. If you use the online version, I’d recommend the Slideboom one because you can see the notes from the slides which include the source of the real world examples I used.
It remains to be seen if this lesson will be any more effective on influencing actual behavior than previous lessons. Only time will can tell on that one but there were less comments like “Big deal. They were probably only joking.” with this lesson so I am hopeful.
I just read Jen Wagner’s Today My Kids Have Pencilogy blog post and chuckled but then quickly realized that I am the Pencilogy teacher at my school. Yes, my students still come to the lab twice a week for 30-45 minutes at a time depending on the grade level. I sat down and figured out that if my students never have a holiday and aren’t ever sick and never leave early for a game or some event at school, my Elementary students will have 35 hours of technology instruction for the year and my Middle School students will have a total of 52 1/2 hours of technology instruction for the year. So, not only am I the Pencilogy teacher, I have very limited hours to teach whatever it is I should be teaching.
I really wish that technology in my school could be described as Chris Lehmann says “.. like oxygen: ubiquitous, necessary, and invisible.” Unfortunately, it is not. At our school, in the computer lab, we have 18 10-12 year old computers with 9GB hard drives and 256MB of memory that mostly work – slowly but they work. They don’t have the newest graphics cards and can’t run things like Google Earth and a few of them have CD drives that don’t work. There is no projector (or IWB) but we get by with a large monitor and a connection to allow projection of the screen onto a large TV – not the best resolution but it works. We do have Internet access in the lab and I’m fortunate that not much of anything is blocked. Our classrooms have, at best, 1-3 even older computers and no access to the Internet from the classrooms.
I have been struggling with what to teach during the students’ time in the computer lab and have felt guilty that we’re not integrating technology into the classroom. I have, however, come to the conclusion that I need to do the best with what I have and continue to try to find resources to make things better. To me, doing the best with what I have means that I need to teach my students the skills they will need when (not if but when) our school gets the funding to upgrade the equipment and move the technology into the classroom. So, for me this means that I will concentrate on:
Digital Citizenship – More and more of our lives are being spent online. Employers and colleges are looking at the digital footprints of applicants. Something posted today can come back to haunt someone years from now. Many of our students apply to local private high schools and I can see the high schools looking up a student’s online presence at some point. It is imperative that students learn what it means to be a good digital citizen and I feel that this needs to be my primary focus in the computer lab.
Productivity tools such as Microsoft Office – our students need these both now for required projects and reports and as they go to High School. I also intend to expose them to Google Docs and maybe Open Office (if I have disk space to install it) and presentation tools such as Prezi. I want them to understand what they are doing with these applications and not just where the button is they have to push to format a paragraph or change a font, for example. If they understand what they’re doing, it won’t matter what the tool is, they’ll be able to figure out how to create the document or spreadsheet or presentation they need.
Keyboarding – I still believe that keyboarding is an important skill that students need to know and that if they learn how to touch type, they will be able to type faster and more accurately. This will only help them as they move on in school and have to type more and longer reports. I can see keyboarding going the way of handwriting as we move toward touch screens and touch pads but right now my students still need this skill so I still include it.
Does this mean that I’ve given up on trying to integrate into the classroom curriculum? Not at all. Integration is a great way to teach the productivity tools and to practice keyboarding. What better way to teach search skills, how to cite sources and how to format a report or create a presentation than by using the real work that the students need to do. Joining online projects that can integrate into the classroom and the computer lab helps me with my goal of teaching digital citizenship and how to communicate responsibly online and it helps to get the teachers excited about using technology to go along with their lessons.
Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one still stuck in this older model – still running the pencil lab. Is there anyone else out there doing the same thing? What do you feel are the most important things you should be teaching?
Note: The title of this blog post comes from the song You’ve Got No Time by The Cowsills
All of my students from Kindergarten through 8th Grade have a series of lessons and projects about Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship. I try to build on knowledge from each previous year and use a variety of different web sites to create lessons and engage my students. Some that I’ve used in the past and that I plan to continue to use include:
I have also found some additional resources that I am reviewing this summer and may incorporate in to some of the grades. My goal is not only to stress safety but to teach my students how to establish a positive digital footprint and how to be good digital citizens. I wonder if I am doing all that I should in this effort – this is where my dilemma comes in.
At school, my students are not allowed to use their full names on anything they post online and they can never post pictures of themselves or other students at the school. We also do not post student pictures on our school Facebook page to insure that students are not tagged in photos. This all seems logical to keep our students safe. However, these same students are going home and joining social networking sites using their real names and uploading photos of themselves and their friends. This means that their digital footprint is being established from their Facebook account or their YouTube account or other social networking accounts and not from the work they are doing and posting online for school. We all know that some employers and colleges look up students online. My students typically apply to private high schools. I wonder when the high schools will start looking up their applicants online or if they already are.
In this video, a teacher explains the guidelines that her school has established for online sharing by students which look very similar to our guidelines for our Elementary and Middle School students.
As you can tell from the video, at this school, students can start identifying themselves online by their real name in the 11th grade. I wonder if this is too late. My students already have an online presence in Middle School (and some even earlier) but it does not include schoolwork. What do you think? Are the guidelines in the video appropriate? When should we allow our students to showcase their online work for school as part of their digital footprint?
Middle School – ah, Middle School. This is such a fun and challenging age group. My goal when I took the job as the Computer Teacher at my school was to have students graduate from our school who could test out of the required Computer Applications class in High School. I don’t know if my students can because none of them have bothered trying but I do know that they very easily get an “A” in the class. The main areas covered during the year for my Middle School students included: Microsoft Office & Google Docs, Keyboarding, Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship.
6th Grade did not participate in any online collaborative projects this year. So much of their time in 5th Grade had been spent unsuccessfully (as I blogged about last year) on the Time Zone Experiences project and I just didn’t find a project that was a good fit for them. They did help 7th Grade with a survey project they ran and voted for their favorite Internet Safety videos made by 8th Grade but there were no outside of our school collaborations for 6th Grade. Both 7th & 8th Grade contributed to a Voice Thread about their goals for the school year after listening to President Obama’s Message for American Students.
7th Grade also conducted and analyzed surveys which had participation from our school’s 4th-8th grade students and from some other educators and students outside of our school.
Lessons I Learned
Just because students say they REALLY want to do something doesn’t mean they really understand the work involved in doing it. Some of the 7th graders this year really, really, really wanted to create a newspaper so instead of teaching what I had planned, I created a series of lessons on journalism and journalistic ethics which 7th grade completed and they learned how to use Microsoft Publisher (which we don’t usually use because it’s not installed on all of the computers in the lab) and they produced an issue the paper. Yes, one issue – after that they didn’t want to do all the work involved in creating a newspaper anymore.
Students will tell you want you want to hear. I am very concerned about our Middle School students and the digital footprints they are creating. As they go through lessons and activities and projects about Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship, they’ll tell you all the things that adults say they should do to be safe online: No full names, No pictures, Keep online spaces private, Don’t share your password with anyone, etc. They’ll even “pledge” to follow these online rules but most of them are on social networking sites using their full names and pictures and videos, quite a few of them have public pages, they joke about being “bullied” online, they tell stories of how they told their best friend their password and what that friend did, etc. How can I help them to match their behavior to their knowledge?
Middle School students work best collaboratively. The most successful activities and projects in the lab have been the ones where students can work together. Middle School students are social – they just are and I need to remember to take advantage of that.
Things I’ll Definitely Repeat Next Year
Digital Citizenship Lessons & Activities – This needs to be a primary focus in Middle School, in my opinion!
Keyboarding – They really do need to have this skill in High School to get that “A” in the Computer Applications class but also because they are required to type a lot of what they turn in.
What technology rich projects or activities do your Middle School students do? Is there an engaging online collaborative project that you have found for this age group?