Posts Tagged ‘cyberbullying’

It’s hard to believe, but text messaging reached a milestone last week!

25 years ago – December 3rd 1992 to be exact – the first text message was sent by Engineer Neil Papworth when he wrote “Merry Christmas” on a computer and sent it to Richard Jarvis, the then director of Vodaphone.  It was an event which changed technology forever and along with it, set in motion a colossal shift in social norms.

While it’s debatable whether SMS today is being overtaken by social media platforms, the impact of texting on our lives has been profound.   Twenty five years is a very long time!  A generation of young people know no other way to communicate, a fact which raises a whole range of issues including whether or not the art of interacting face to face is being lost.  Have a listen to this discussion to gain a greater understanding:

I’ve been in teaching long enough to remember the days when fears for students’ ability to spell beyond texting shorthand was a serious concern.

Educational concerns however are constantly evolving.  As reflected in a presentation by New York Times journalist Thomas Friedman at a conference earlier this year and repeated regularly since, he advocates the need to teach all children how to talk to each other on the internet and how to understand fact from fiction:

Believing in the importance of starting to educate children from a young age, the DQ Institute has developed a 15 hour free online curriculum aiming to teach digital citizenship covering a range of key skills:

Underlining the importance of school students learning digital civics, Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) will, from next year, assess ‘global competencies’:

From next year PISA will test not only maths, science and reading skills, but “global competencies”, which its education head, Andreas Schleicher, described as young people’s attitudes to global issues and different cultures, analytical and critical skills and abilities to interact with others. The first results will report in 2019.  (“Don’t teach your kids coding, teach them how to live online” The Sydney Morning Herald, March 25 2017)

How appropriate it would be to see teacher librarians take the lead to ensure the introduction of digital civics lessons during library sessions!

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Last week my husband and I went for a coffee at one of our favourite spots in outer suburban Melbourne.

Getting out of the car, we could hear someone shouting.  It didn’t take long to realize that the young guy, looking slightly disheveled and ‘out of it’ who was standing on the corner was the one shouting a string of abusive rants at another more ‘cleanly’ dressed guy who was hastily retreating from the scene.  Fortunately, nothing ‘ugly’ transpired, but the incident of just a few short seconds left me rattled, pensive and concerned.  It’s a question I found myself asking earlier this year following a similarly unexpected incident when I blogged Are we failing those we teach?

Reinforced by daily news reports of violent, antisocial behaviour involving theft, assault, abuse and even murder by young perpetrators, one can’t help feeling frightened, anxious and nervous about the ramifications of young people who know no limits on their behaviour and it’s impact on society.

Then, last week, I read the horrific account of the sexual abuse endured by a 16 year old boy at the hands of his classmates.  Hoping that the revelation of his story, 30 years after it occurred, may prevent other children from being hurt, this brave 46 year old stated that

Silence is the perpetrator’s greatest weapon”

A shiver coursed through me as I reflected on the damage that may have been perpetrated on students long before ‘mandatory reporting’ by those of us working in schools became compulsory by law.

Such disturbing thoughts were compounded last week when I read the recently published Young Adult (YA) novel Saving Jazz by Kate McCaffrey.

Over the years, I’ve had lengthy discussions with teaching colleagues – teacher librarians, librarians and general teaching staff in secondary schools – as well as school psychologists and social workers about the inclusion or exclusion of novels in school libraries written for the YA market on a range of tough themes: rape, incest, anorexia, pyromania, drugs, abortion, suicide and more.    The argument of whether to include books of this nature in school library collections vacillates between exposing or hiding from teens influential ideas that may encourage them to ‘experiment’.

Following my read of McCaffrey’s latest book though, my belief is reinforced that well written novels which clearly present a social issue and then guide teens on appropriate ways of responding to deviant behaviour most definitely belong in our school libraries.  While confronting, well written literature offers students a safe place to learn and explore real life issues.

It is also my strong belief that it is incumbent on teaching and ancillary staff working with teenagers to read these kind of novels so as to develop a real awareness and an understanding of the impact of changed social dynamics that dominate the lives of today’s teens.

I hope that this short review of Saving Jazz will inspire many educators to dip into the real world of teenagers so as to learn, explore and understand the real life issues facing today’s secondary school students both in and out of the classroom.

Saving Jazz – Kate McCaffrey

saving-jazzA hard hitting ‘in-your-face’ novel about cyberbullying.  When Allison is found floating in the bath by her mother, the story of what and why is revealed by a series of blog posts written by her friend Jazz.  As the ugly truth about events that occurred is revealed, the reader develops an increased appreciation of the grave ramifications that can result from posting on social media.  A well written novel, which presents a clear, well defined message through the voice of Jazz and at its end is quite uplifting.  Despite the mature age theme, this novel is highly recommended.

Rating:  *****
Theme Fiction:  Social Issues
Suitability:  Year 10-12+


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Reading an article recently about a program which aims to combat racism, discrimination and cyberbullying,  I jumped online to check it out.

Developed by the Anti-Defamation Commission, Click Against Hate (CAH) is a relatively recent addition to the many programs already operating in our schools which aim to tackle, head on, frightening statistics such as those highlighted in one ABC News report:

From YouTube vid - Click against hate

Through interactive, hands on sessions, facilitators of the program encourage students to assertively stand up to all forms of bullying, hate and discrimination.  Fostering confidence to report all forms of abuse, racism and bullying, students are empowered to be proactive, responsible users of the Internet while learning the mindset of those who perpetrate such hate.

This educational program focuses on the development of an inclusive culture and respectful school climate by addressing issues of bias, bullying and prejudice reduction at its roots and provides the tools to deal with this ugly phenomenon.  The program also focuses on diversity in schools and social cohesion among students.  CAH has been designed as an interactive and innovative program giving students current information that empowers them to deal with these situations showing them what the power of words can do.  (Anti-Defamation Commission)

In addition to the more lengthy video produced and posted on the website of the Anti-Defamation Commission, my online research located two short news broadcasts about the program which are well worth a look.  The first was published August 13, 2015 on ABC News while the second was aired on SBS World News more recently on May 18, 2016.


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I just watched Monica Lewinsky’s TED video: The Price of Shame.  It’s moving and profound.

This young woman, who has been shamed, blamed and ridiculed worldwide for virtually her whole adult life, has finally had the strength and courage to share with a worldwide audience painful lessons she has learned.  It is heartening to know that her life shattering experience has now filled her with a determination to make the world a better place.

If you haven’t seen the video, put aside some time and watch it:

Just a few days after her TED video was aired, it was shocking to read Nadia Goodman’s post:

Reaction to Monica Lewinsky's TED Talk
Such vitriol is sickening.

Knowing that voices are being raised to fight cyberbullying though is very heartening.  Even more so, it is great to learn that youths are taking up the fight against this insidious behaviour.

I’d not heard of Project Rockit until Monica Lewinsky mentioned it in her talk.

Started by two sisters, Project Rockit aims to give a space and voice to the youth of Australia:

To put it simply, PROJECT ROCKIT builds spaces where imagination, leadership, creative expression and acceptance are available to all young people, regardless of their social label, grades, gender, sexuality or cultural background.

And just a few days ago, I came across another website created for our youth: ThinkUKnow which features young people themselves talking about the dangers that technology brings to our lives.


Are we sharing these sites with our students?  Do they know what’s out there to support them?


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I came across this image a while ago.  It says it all:  It’s a ME world alright!

Social MEdia

With so many ways to communicate and share, I sometimes feel that the means overtakes the ‘me’.  Hours and hours of our time are whittled away as we share the minuet of our daily lives in an online world which is burgeoning with an ever increasing range of social networking websites.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember how life was BSM – Before Social Media!

It has crept up on us.
It eats up our time.
It dominates our lives.
It has impacted society.

An insatiable need to share and know what others are doing, thinking and feeling has evolved to incredible proportions.  Social Media today seeps into every aspect of our lives and is not something that can be ignored.   This new and powerful way of connecting, sharing and communicating is greater than many of us could have ever imagined.

It is inevitable that both positive and negative outcomes should derive from Social Media.

Bullying has transformed into cyberbullying.  Programs to combat cyberbullying have spawned social intelligence curricula which are taking on increasing importance in the daily teaching agenda.

But a new and ugly impact of Social Media is dawning on educators.  As we confront the reality of how easily our students can be encouraged, influenced, coerced, brainwashed or radicalized by another is a frightening reality which educators need to assess, consider and unitedly tackle.

Knowing how best to combat the powerful influence of dogma was never part of a teacher’s lot.  It is now though.

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Attending the Pearson National Learning and Teaching Conference last week in Brisbane was an awesome experience.

Apart from having the opportunity to present on issues I’m passionate about – the importance of teachers being lifelong learners plus how we can instill in our students a love of reading – I had the opportunity to attend a number of fabulous presentations by other educators.

One of the many outstanding presentations was by Hamish Curry of notosh, who gave a keynote about social media and school culture.  Using the theme engage and trust, he had the audience mesmerized for a full hour as he skipped through a range of powerful thoughts including the importance of schools creating a social media user policy that is short, meaningful and would stand the test of time by including current platforms as well as those that don’t yet exist.

Many of his statements were ‘to the point’ forcing us sit up and listen.  By stating that cyberbullying is the best thing that’s happened in education, he not only underlined the importance of this phenomena in today’s society but stated the obvious:

‘Until cyber bullying came along we didn’t know how bad bullying is’

Today, he continued, a digital trail left by cyberbullies allows us to follow up on this horrid phenomena in ways we couldn’t in the past.

Highlighting Pew Research, it comes as little surprise to educations using social media, that the average age of Facebook users is nearly 40.   To ensure their privacy away from the prying eyes of authority figures, students today are leaving Facebook to pursue other platforms.

But social media has become a phenomena that dominates our lives.   The temptation to record the minute rather than ‘live’ the minute is an issue I have blogged about previously.  Early into my learning foray I blogged Life is about change – accept it and enjoy! and then further along my journey, just on a year ago, I blogged What does being ‘present in the moment’ really mean?

Over recent months some very powerful videos have gone viral.   Noting that we need to inoculate students to protect them from the virus of social media, Hamish screened Look Up – a powerful statement.  Look Down, a parody of Look Up, is worth a view too. 

A very recent release by rap artist Prince Ea sends the same powerful message – not just to our students – but to all of us.  Titled Can We Auto-Correct Humanity? this video is both serious and profound:

How did it get to be this way, Hamish asked.

His statement that

Digital natives is a myth!”

hit me with a puff of disbelief!   Just last week I published a post which highlighted the divide between digital immigrants and digital natives.   Are all my thoughts, based on quotes from others, now totally off the mark?   Have I gotten it wrong in summing myself up as a digital immigrant – a tag I’ve stated many times when describing my own learning journey of recent years?  With a little dismay and much consternation, I tweeted to Hamish the day after his presentation:

His reply was quite instant:

Hamish concluded in his keynote that the Z generation of today are not digital natives but rather use the tools of the day, the world of technology into which they are born, and take on a role of assisting us, much the same as we did for our parents and grandparents as we showed them how to use the new technology of our youth: remote controls, cassettes, CDs, video cameras and the like.  Many of the high tech tools and platforms of the networked 21st century Hamish contends had their roots in the tools we grew up on:


As highlighted by Hamish in his tweet to me – it is the speed of change that is different.  It is that speed of change, Hamish contends, that impacts not just on how we teach, but what we teach:

Without changing pedagogy, technology will make no difference”

Returning to the theme of the imperative need to teach our students to use social media with care, Hamish suggested that we should trust and empower our students to teach themselves.  A compelling video made by students in the Catholic Education Office Diocese of Woolongong,  concluded an extremely powerful presentation.

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Just catching up on seeing some of the videos that were listed this week.  Some of them are outstanding such as a presentation by Jenny Luca of Toorak College and the video created by students and uploaded to You Tube.  Kerry O’Brien’s focus on bullying on the 7.30 Report which highlights programs set in place by Jenny Luca at her school as well as the implementation of the Allanah & Madeline Foundation Cybersafety Pilot Program also makes for interesting viewing.

While I have, from time to time, considered the dangers of cyberbullying, I’ve not really considered the need to run dedicated sessions such as those mentioned in this week’s readings.   Certainly the many excellent articles, programs and videos listed this week have made me re-evaluate.

In between reading about cybersafety, it has been fun to explore Google Docs a little more.  There is certainly much to be learned in this area.   One of my VicPLN buddies out there pointed out the many Google tools available…. the mind boggles!    If you haven’t seen it yet – just select more from the menu just above Google to see the amazing array of tools!


Over the last few days, I’ve spent some time exploring Google Wave.   The opportunity to meet up with other PLNers in a group session should be a fun and interesting session in which we can share and learn.

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