Monthly Archives: November 2011

Cyber Bullying: New methods but still bullying

It seems like hardly a week goes by without some mention of the ills caused by cyber bullying. Cyber bullying is similar in concept to off-line bullying with a several key differences:

  1. It is online
  2. Due to the nature of the Internet, the offending item could be permanent.
  3. The Internet can be accessed from anywhere at anytime, thus the bullying can go beyond the traditional school day.

Before I begin any discussion on cyber bullying, I must make it clear that while this is a relatively new form of bullying, it is still at it’s core bullying. Bullying itself has been around for a long time.  Below is a section from a letter from the 1960’s belonging to a family member:

“There has been a lot of bullying of the new form II’s – physically (apparently) vocally (as most of the staff can witness) and in giving them the hard or unpleasant work to do.  On Tues. one had made an ill-chosen remark which was considered to be abusive by a form III and a fairly large group of them planned retaliation.  It may have been something which we should expect and accept, but when you consider it along with other factors in the school, we decided on a general and serious tightening up of the school rules which are taken lightly.  Fine! and I was really thrilled during the short time we had the students with us to see that we might succeed”*

      This example highlights the fact bullying has been around for a long time.  While we may think to ourselves that we can end it, nothing will truly change until we as a society truly demand it.

Over the past few years the It Gets Better campaign launched by Dan Savage has gotten publicity and praise from all walks of life. When I first heard about it I felt empowered and happy that people were doing something about bullying of GLBT youth. However, the campaigns core message of trying to encourage kids to remember that after high school things can only get better, is nothing more than a sad commentary on the state of affairs of being a kid nowadays because it puts all the onus on the vicitim and does nothing to address the core issues of violence against LGBTTIQQ2SA.**

Don't blame the tool.

So if we are truly committed to improving school life for everyone, what are we as educators supposed to do?

Most people remember what is was like to be a kid. Nowadays it seems like any instance of temporary childhood idiocy is deemed bullying and people are more than willing to take the issue public.  What we need to remember is some students are either testing societal boundaries, dealing with their own issues, or simply unaware of the harm they are causing. I truly believe that conversations about bullying behavior and addressing the core issues, instead of constant punishment would do the world a lot of good.

However, I also believe that as a society we truly need to be the change we wish to see in our students and our children. In the home and the classroom we encourage young people to be kind and respectful to each other. But, do we as a society actually follow it? Look at how we behave with our friends behind closed doors. Look at what young people are watching. Look at what people have to say in the commentary sections on popular web-sites. Look at how governments act. Look at the web-sites we visit.

The technology may be new but the act of bullying itself is not.  If we truly want to end cyber-bullying and bullying in general, then it is time for to stop berating the behavior of the students and blaming the technology and begin an inward reflection of what change we want to see from society.

Notes:

* This journal is used with the permission of immediate family members, on the condition that the family member was not named.

** According to  Toronto Pride this stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Transexual, Intersex, Queer, Questions, 2-Spirited, Allies

Photo Credit:

cyb-bully_323 by J_O_I_D Creative Commons Licensed, found on Flickr

Apple Aluminum MacBook (Late 2008)  by William Hook

Video:

It Gets Better: Dan and Terry uploaded to YouTube by itgetsbetterproject

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Copyright Headache

Copyright is a subject I both want to talk about and fear both at the same time. I’m interested in learning about it because I believe it is important to set a positive example to my students. Since I was a kid the idea of copyright in the classroom has been drilled into my head. I remember hearing stories of music teachers who had made multiple copies of sheet music because the school didn’t have the funding to provide enough legitimate copies. However, there was a rumor that companies were starting to crack down copyright, which led to further rumors of teachers burning the extra copies.

While I cannot verify of the above example is true or not, it does help to illustrate my fear of copyright in general. Don’t get me wrong I understand the ideas behind copyright but what thoroughly confuses me are the practical applications within the classroom. As I went through my education program the 10% mantra was hammered into my head. But as I was reading this might not be the case.

Technology is now changing the game but the law of the land is slow to respond. For example video streaming sites like megavideo and videobb, have become increasingly popular over the last several years. These sites are similar to YouTube in that users will upload material into the site and people who wish to view it stream it in their browser (if you’re on a free account there is a daily time limit). What is the legality of someone who is simply viewing this content? Are they technically breaking the law? How do the rules apply in other countries? What about using streamed content within the classroom? Am I supposed to report material that is illegally uploaded to streaming site?  How do I know if a particular video violates copyright?

As you can probably guess I like the idea of copyright because it helps to protect both the creator of a piece of work and the work itself.  I would like to conduct myself in a manner that is considered legal. Not only to ensure that my school or I do not get hauled into court but also because I think it is important to teach students how to ethically use and share material in a manner that is similar to other situations.

Do I believe that teachers should teach students about copyright and how to use different materials ethically? Yes I do. However, education programs and schools need to begin placing greater emphasis by offering courses and ongoing training to ensure that teachers are kept up to date with the latest information.

The issue of respecting copyright gets completely thrown up in the air when working in a setting where the laws are not available in English. While I may be able to find English explanations of the laws of western countries, I struggle to find the same information here in Japan. Not only is access to information difficult, but actually understanding the laws can prove difficult understand. How am I supposed to enforce the laws if they are not presented in a manner that is easy to understand?

The issue of respecting copyright gets completely thrown up in the air when working in a setting where the laws are not available in English. While I may be able to find English explanations of the laws of western countries, I struggle to find the same information here in Japan. Not only is access to information difficult, but actually understanding the laws can prove difficult understand.  How am I supposed to enforce the laws if they are not presented in a manner that is easy to understand?

Copyright is a complex issue and it requires further exploration and reevaluation.  While there may be a lot of confusion over what exactly is breaking copyright laws, there is one shining light in it all.  The Creative Commons movement makes it clear how people may use different works.  The movement also makes it easier for creators of work to clearly explain how their work can be used.  Since being introduced to it, it has helped saved me from several sleepless night.  While it may be a bit harder to find an image or video that I am want to use, when compared to just looking in Google, at least I can easily tell how I may use that work.

Image Credits:

Copyright Symbols by MikeBlogs found on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed

Video Credits

The Florence Kelley Project – A Discussion on Library and Technology uploaded to YouTube by NorthwesternU

Alan Siegel: Let’s simplify legal jargon posted on Ted.com March 2010

 

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Privacy

Privacy does it even exist anymore?

Privacy is an issue that has become a major concern for people.  For me there are three main issues when talking about privacy, each of which will be discuss further in later paragraphs:  1.  The information that I put online 2. The information that others choose to put online about me 3. What happens to my information when either policy changes happen or someone circumvents them.  In the following paragraphs I will briefly talk about each of these areas.

 The information that I put online

I admit I like having an online presence.  I am continually learning how to cultivate this presence and brand myself as a professional as well as the opportunity to make social connections.   That being said, there are aspects of my life I don’t wish to share in the online realm.  For me I feel it is important to have some aspects of life offline.  As an example, I enjoy my friends and my time with them.  However, I see no need to take the pictures that I take of them and upload them all in an open realm. For me there is a line, I will put pictures up of interesting events or places I go with people but I will not put pictures up of absolutely everything or everywhere I go.  There must be a line between sharing pictures of events that people will genuinely find interesting and uploading pictures of the mundane.

The information others put up about me

At my grade 9 graduation.

I have some fantastic friends who treat each other with respect.  They understand my position that I don’t want every single photo taken of me up online.  I return the favor by not uploading pictures of them that would cause them difficulty or embarrassment.   However, not all of my friends abide by this rule. I will sometimes scroll through the photos that I’m tagged in on Facebook and will remove the tags.  If the pictures make me uncomfortable then I will ask them to take it down.  I will also occasionally Google myself to see what comes up.  So far nothing of interest does.

What happens to my information when either policy changes happens or someone circumvents them

The Internet is not secure, I know this; the rules are always changing and people have to stay on top of the game.  It seems that every time Facebook changes its privacy policy, many people become upset..  What people seem to forget is that one of the reasons Facebook changes its policy is to make it easier for them to sell your information to companies who can then use it for marketing.  Remember that Facebook makes it’s money by serving companies and not the individual and thus it wants to do everything in its power to make information easier to get.  Thus defaults are usually set up so that people will automatically share their information whether they want to or not.

 People also use the Internet to do other things and the issues of hacks are of concern.  Recently there have been hacks involving popular game sites like Valve, and the Playstation Network.  As people move more towards putting more and more information like credit cards and passwords people need to ensure that they take the some steps to reduce the risk of their information being misused.

Final Thoughts

Facebook Rant

Privacy is a major concern.  However, each person must take the time to ensure that their digital footprint is one that they one are proud of.  I remember a few months ago several people started e-mailing me asking me to hover over their name, click on it and do some other things.  I received this message so many times that I finally snapped and responded (see image above.  Most people seemed to agree.  Remember, if you’re not controlling what is out there then who is?

Pictures:

Photography and the Law by Byflickr found on Flickr, used under Creative Commons License

Grade 9 Graduation uploaded by Amber Krauskopf, used with permission

Facebook Rant screen capture from Brendan Lea’s Facebook profile (personal image)

Video:

Why is the PSN down? Hacked? – Playstation Networked Maintenance Error 80710a06 (Sony) uploaded to Youtube by Al-Ai

 

 

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The Exhibition Through Okonomiyaki

The months of November and December are shaping up to be incredibly buys months for me.  Currently I am working on Course 2 of COETAIL, taking The Exhibition online course, organizing a Winter concert, and of course teaching my wonderful class.  I love this feeling but when the winter break happens I will be heading straight to the local Onsen for a massage.

Anyway, as part of my course work for The Exhibition, we were asked to creatively represent all the elements.  I decided to use okonomiyaki.  Below are the fruits of my labor:

Note:

There are presenter notes but to view them you need to go to the actual web-site.  To do so click on the SlideShare icon on the lower right.

All images are Creative Commons Licensed found on Flickr

<div style=”width:425px” id=”__ss_10125885″> <strong style=”display:block;margin:12px 0 4px”><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/MrBrenLea/okonomiyaki&#8221; title=”Okonomiyaki” target=”_blank”>Okonomiyaki</a></strong>

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Has the world become like Avonlea?

 

As I was reading up on digital citizenship and how to create a positive online presence a song from Anne of Green Gables The Musical kept coming to my head.  The song in question was Where is Matthew going? During the song the Ladies of Avenonlea are intrigued by Matthew’s actions and pondered what it is he is doing.  Finally at the end of the song Marilla, Matthew’s brother, walks by the ladies and explains what Matthew is doing.  This particular number highlights the common perception  (some may argue truth) that there is no privacy to be had on Prince Edward Island because everyone is watching what everyone else is doing. While pondering the readings, I could not help but ask myself has the Internet helped the world become like Avonlea, a place where anyone who is interested can find out information about you and use that information to draw their own conclusions?

The short answer is more than likely yes.  Google, Facebook, Myspace, Foursquare, WordPress and other social media sites have transformed the way people view their privacy and the information people put out publicly.  Teachers are particularly vulnerable to being at risk of experiencing the negative side of social media.  I say this because teachers, as well as some other professions, are viewed in this odd space.  We are expected to be role models for the students and society, which means, to some people, that we must be perfect citizens who never do anything anyone might find objectionable.  However, this is not the case.  Teachers are human and no human is perfect and therefore mistakes will happen.  Or we will express an opinion or a thought that may counter with what others hoped we would express.  The downside is that there are people who will raise complaints and ask for people to be fired based on a picture or a comment shared in either or public or a private space online.

As I searched for more articles, I kept thinking about my own digital life and behaviours.  As teachers, wait as people, I believe that ultimately the responsibility of creating a positive digital footprint is up to the individual.  Not only is this important because what you post can cost you your job but more and more employers are weeding out possible employees based upon their online presence.  Finally, if we are expecting our students to represent themselves online in a positive light then it is only reasonable that we should as well.

Throughout the week I also started contemplating the importance of teaching students the skills necessary to create a positive online presence.  Truly this is an important skill, every year there have been more and more stories about students who have posted something online that has caused them to get into trouble.  If they are not shown how to best represent themselves or shown the possible results of poor online representation, I feel that we are doing them a great disservice.

In short, I believe that teachers should have a positive online presence and that students should be shown the tools, taught the skills, and have guidelines explained to them to do so.  However, when the tools, skills, and guidelines are always changing, how does one stay on top of it all?  Also, how much sharing is too much, what is the line that people, more specifically teachers, should not cross when posting to a public forum?

Image Credits:

Social Media Garden by j&tplaman on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed

020/2011 footprints by rosipaw on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed

Video Credits:

Overture-Great Workers for the Cause-Where is Matthew Going, Anne of Green Gables The Musical uploaded to YouTube by CorrAgain

!!Teacher Forces to Quit Over Facebook Photos!! uploaded to YouTube by NATUREANDNEWS

 

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