Saturday, December 08, 2007

Keeping on the straight and narrow

Many of our students have their own wikispace. For some it is their digital portfolio. They create much of the content in class and convert to digital form and upload it to their wikifolio. Some of the younger students create their digital portfolio in powerpoint and all of those students have their own wikispace ( a private one) and are enjoying adding things little by little. Even though all these spaces are private, which means that only those who are invited can see the space, many of the students have invited their friends and teachers to be part of their space. Many of the children also use their wikispace account to email each other.
Yesterday something happened though that scared the living daylights out of me. During lunchtime I was in The Edge ( one of our learning spaces) on computer room duty and one of the Grade 5 students came to me and showed me a couple of messages that she had received through her wiki account. The messages said things like, "I know who you are" and "I'm coming to your house to get you" . Immediately my heart stopped. I thought OMG this child is being stalked or approached by some creep. My first response though was to say that she did the right thing by letting me know and not to worry, that we would try to sort it out. As it was lunchtime I asked her to stay logged on so that I could send a message to wikispaces and then asked her to come back at half time so that we could talk about it some more. She came back a few minutes later and said it was okay because she knew who it was. After breathing a slight sigh of relief I asked her to tell me who is was and after a little bit of gentle probing we established the perpetrator as another student. The rest of lunchtime was spent having a chat to this student and as it turned out a couple of other students who were in on the prank. We talked about the consequences of this type of internet bullying and I tried to help them realise that although they may have initially thought it was funny there were very serious consequences for the victim and for our school. The kids were very contrite and I really don't think knew the possible consequences of their actions. I don't believe there really was a vicious intent. I think however it was a good lesson for them to learn and I certainly let them know how disheartened and frightened I felt. After all I feel responsible for them.
But for me it reminded me that we must constantly be vigilant. It also reminded me about the code of conduct that I plan to introduce next year. Although we do have a standard form that parents sign to allow internet access for their children, we don't have a form or agreement that our students sign. It's an oversight that I plan to address at the very start of next year. In the mean time I'm going to do a little research over the holidays to ensure that I find just the right voice and style. I want it simple and easy to understand, as it will be for all students, and I want it to be positive and affirmative yet very clear about the consequences and reasons for making such a code.
I hope that there are some teachers out there who will be willing to share their ideas or examples.

8 comments:

suz said...

Scary situation Anne - Im glad it turned out to be so innocuous, and probably turned into a valuable lesson for all concerned. On a positive note, it's great the student came straight to you with the issue.

http://suz01.edublogs.org/

Anne said...

Yes and that was the thing that I kept returning to. That I was so glad that the students came to me. I wanted to handle it gently because I want kids to ALWAYS feel that they can come to a teacher and tell them without fear that they will get in trouble. That includes both the victim and the perpetrators. The kids were actually quite scared of the possible consequences so I didn't really have to do much but talk with them. These are they type of kids who love working with computers so the idea that they might lose that privilege for a period of time is all the consequence they need. Not sure it would work with older students but...

Anonymous said...

With the emergence of technology as another tool for learning, future educators and teachers must recognize the inherent risk of using the web. A threatening comment such as that can derail the notion of a safe internet environment for the children to work in. The Code of Conduct you suggested is a great way to illustrate the consequences of acting un-professionally online, as well as making parents and co-educators aware of what the children are participating in. This way, parents, fellow teachers, and students are aware of this inherent risk; and may proceed with full awareness of the danger, and consequences of acting un-professionally. While it’s true that technology comes with many benefits, such as ease of operation, and increased efficiency, it should still be a safe environment for students to work in. This blog helped me realize that.

KoAlex said...

With the emergence of technology as another tool for learning, future educators and teachers must recognize the inherent risk of using the web. A threatening comment such as that can derail the notion of a safe internet environment for the children to work in. The Code of Conduct you suggested is a great way to illustrate the consequences of acting un-professionally online, as well as making parents and co-educators aware of what the children are participating in. This way, parents, fellow teachers, and students are aware of this inherent risk; and may proceed with full awareness of the danger, and consequences of acting un-professionally. While it’s true that technology comes with many benefits, such as ease of operation, and increased efficiency, it should still be a safe environment for students to work in. This blog helped me realize that.

Anonymous said...

A Code of Conduct is a great idea for the students. As a student, this was my first semester ever having to learn the codes of conduct and learning about ethics of the internet. We have to take this whole online class and exam, passing with a 90%, to be admitted into any professional study. Even before that, we’re required to sign agreements just to gain access to the internet over the university server. I never thought about it until I read your blog, but students like myself should have been informed and held accountable years back in high school, or even earlier. Many classrooms and schools have internet usage and I imagine this kind of situation you experience happens everywhere, and quite often. Hopefully, more educators realize the need for a Code of Conduct so their students use the internet responsibly.

Tabitha (Illinois State University) said...

As a future educator, I have been taking many classes that are using technology as a proponent to learning. We are the generation being taught to incorporate technology (and for that I am very thankful as I imagine it would be hard to change my teaching style mid-career). Because I have always been very cautious on the internet, never giving out my name or signing up for stupid pop-ups or downloading files that I am not completely sure of, I forget that not all are as aware as I am. With internet being accessible to children in elementary on a regular basis now, conduct is certainly an issue that needs to be addressed. Without this blog, I probably would not have realized the actual possibility of dangers of using the internet in class. I think the code of conduct is a great idea, and along with that, I plan on handing out some information in regards to internet safety. Thank you for this post---you really opened up my mind!

Anonymous said...

I am 27 years old and this is my first experience with a WIKI. I think it is a good tool to use, but I agree that you need to address a Code of Conduct. Often students are just joking and they are oblivious to the severity of their actions. Students think it is all fun and games and that they bad stuff will never happen to them. I used to say that too. However, as teachers we need to stress that bad things can happen to anyone and some subjects we should not joke about.
I am going to ISU to become a business teacher. A Code of Conduct is something that the business department could create with other faculty. The business department could implement the program in a required freshman keyboarding or consumer education class. Today, computers and the internet are used in every class. Therefore, it would be a good idea to give all students this training.

Angela said...

I agree!
I was up late one night and couldn’t sleep.
I usually do not watch a lot of talk shows, but
Tyra had on a forum to address this issue of
internet bullying. The main guest was a woman whose
13-year-old daughter killed herself because of a ruthless
Prank kids were playing online. It was horrible!
The sad part is that one of the pranksters was a parent-a
Mother of one of the girls the aforementioned deceased
went to school with. They were just trying to see if the
girl who killed herself was talking behind other girls’ backs
over the internet. SICK!
I definitely think that something should be signed by the students
to ensure proper measures can be carried out should someone be
found guilty of this bullying. The internet can be awesome for the
classroom, but as with anything else, this power can also be abused.
Unfortunately, Anne, this is such a relative blog.