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Friday, March 19, 2010

What 21st-century learning does/doesn't look like

This post points to how technology in the classroom is and isn't done properly in the classroom, thanks to teacher Vicki Davis writing in Edutopia and university student Hillary Reinsberg writing in the Huffington Post. Davis talks about helping students (in the first 5 min. of the first day) turn personal Web portals like My Yahoo or iGoogle into their own "personal learning networks" (PLNs) – the new school locker. Her 9th-grade student says the approach "helps me keep things organized. It lets me know when my agenda changes," and Davis adds: "The fact that a ninth grader would talk about her own research agenda gives a glimpse into the power of the PLN; she is using a term here that is often reserved for grad students." How not to do this?: Reinsberg describes in a way that puts me to sleep just reading it: "The lights go dim, eyes begin to shut and the room gets quiet.... Welcome to a college lecture hall in 2010. Too many classes begin the same way: with an often cheesy PowerPoint presentation. The professor hooks up a projector to a computer and spends ninety minutes clicking through a series of slides." Hopefully, that isn't happening in too many middle and high schools! Because integrating 21st-century learning tools doesn't work with the sage-on-the-stage approach, which makes not allowance for the self-directed learning required for a user-driven media environment and participatory culture.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Potential iPad glitch for families

Blogger Anton Wahlman at thinks Apple's going to hurt the iPad's family market by not building in multiple user accounts with passwords for each family member (it's not out yet, so we're not completely sure this is the case). He feels the iPad's a lot more like a laptop than a phone, and "you wouldn't let your kids use your laptop under your personal login, with access to your emails, address book, documents, and instant messages," he writes. At CNET, my ConnectSafely co-director writes, "because of its size, price and versatility, the iPad is really a tablet computer and if is going to be used like a computer, it needs to have the same level of security and account control." But I'm not so sure Apple isn't just making it so that parents will want to have their own iPads and buy a family all-purpose one for the coffee table and road trips – IF they can afford them! [Here's my last blog post about the iPad and kids.]

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Key US court decision on bullying & school

This may be a big step forward in US anti-bullying efforts: A recent federal court decision in Michigan sent "a clear message to schools that inaction, or even a simple unwise reaction, is not enough when it comes to dealing with bullies," author and cyberbullying researcher Justin Patchin blogs. The court ordered a Michigan school district to pay $800,000 "to a student who claimed the school did not do enough to protect him from years of bullying," according to the Detroit Free Press. The verdict "puts districts on notice that it's not enough to stop a student from bullying another." Dane Patterson, the victim in the Michigan case, "was in middle school when the bullying began as simple name calling and verbal harassment. It escalated in high school and included being pushed into lockers and at least one incident in 10th grade where he was sexually harassed," Patchin relates. It's not that his school didn't do anything at all about this, it just didn't change a thing. The occasional disciplinary action accomplished nothing, apparently. Patchin cites court records saying that, at one point, a teacher even joined the bullying by asking Dane in front of an entire class how it felt to be hit by a girl. "This is almost unbelievable," Patchin writes. I agree. He goes on to write about what does help, and I've written about it too (see this, but I have to be repetitive because this is so relevant, here: "Because a bully's success depends heavily on context, attempts to prevent bullying should concentrate primarily on changing the context rather than directly addressing the victim's or the bully's behavior," wrote Yale University psychologist Alan Yazdin in Slate.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fun video contest for Net users (& producers) 13+

Hey, aspiring filmmakers and video producers (in Canada and the US), here's a project for you: Produce a two-minute video about Internet safety with your videocam, cellphone, or Webcam, and enter it in TrendMicro's "What's Your Story?" contest (you have to be 13 or older). Choose from one of four topics: "Keeping a good rep online" (and avoiding TMI), "Staying clear of unwanted contact" (e.g., dealing with bullies), "Accessing (legal) content that's age-appropriate," and "Keeping the cybercriminals out" (ID theft, scams, phishers, etc.), my ConnectSafely co-director Larry Magid reports at CNET. The grand prize is $10,000 and the deadline is April 30. Humor's just fine. Here's the official site where you can upload your video. Because TrendMicro is one of our supporters, I get to be one of the judges, so have fun!

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Major obstacle to universal broadband & what can help

Last week Chairman Julius Genachowski unveiled the children-and-family part of the FCC's universal broadband plan, designed to enable, among other things, 21st-century education. There's just one problem: Schools have long turned to law enforcement for guidance in informing their communities about youth safety on the Net, broadband or otherwise, and the guidance they're getting scares parents, school officials, and children about using the Internet.

Fear tactics don't work

"Over the last decade, much of the Internet safety material – information still present on many state attorneys general web sites and in instruction material they provide – contains disinformation that creates the fear that young people are at high risk of online sexual predation," writes author Nancy Willard of the Center for Safe & Responsible Internet Use (see the paper for examples), "when the actual research and arrest data indicates the opposite. There is a tendency among law enforcement officials to think that scare tactics are effective in reducing risk behavior. Research has never found this to be so."

That last sentence is important, because Willard footnotes it and links to what the research is showing us about the fear-based approach, as well as how we can get it right and optimize kids' broadband use going forward. The University of Virginia's Social Norms Institute says, "Until recently, the predominant approach in the field of health promotion sought to motivate behavior change by highlighting risk. Sometimes called 'the scare tactic approach' or 'health terrorism,' this method essentially hopes to frighten individuals into positive change by insisting on the negative consequences of certain behaviors. As sociologist H. Wesley Perkins has pointed out, however, this kind of traditional strategy 'has not changed behavior one percent'."

In fact, the scare-tactic approach is doubly problematic: Besides the fact that it fails to change behavior, it also hinders the efforts of visionary educators (who I've talked with, met at conferences, and followed on Twitter) to capitalize on and guide students' use of new media by integrating them into all appropriate subjects, pre-K-12 (for example, a middle school teacher in New Jersey told me, "My students are as afraid of the Internet as their parents are now," and another in New York that a parent of one of her students told members of the school board that she didn't want her child using the Internet with her peers because their parents could get hold of her email address, and "one of those parents could be a predator"). [Willard points to a report released by the FCC in February, "Broadband Adoption and Use in America," showing that 24% of US broadband users and nearly half (46%) of non-broadband users "strongly agree that the Internet is too dangerous for children."]

What does work

What will help youth, 21st-century education, and universal broadband move forward? What has "revolutionized the field of health promotion," according to the UVA Institute: the social-norms approach. "Essentially, the social-norms approach uses a variety of methods to correct negative misperceptions (usually overestimations of use [of alcohol or drugs, it says, so think: overestimations of risky or cruel online behavior like "everybody hates her," "bullying is normal," "everyone shares passwords with friends," etc.]), and to identify, model, and promote the healthy, protective behaviors that are the actual norm in a given population. When properly conducted, it is an evidence-based, data-driven process, and a very cost-effective method of achieving large-scale positive results" (see this on social-norming and Net safety and this on the whole-school approach to bullying). The Institute adds that the social-norms approach has had proven results in "tobacco prevention, seat-belt use, sexual assault prevention, and academic performance."

With the help of the FCC, the FTC, the DOE, and other government departments leading this positive, research-based approach to youth online safety (Chairman Genochowski said last week this will be an interagency effort), as a society, we can lower public resistance to broadband adoption and begin to free up American education to do for children's use of new media what it has long done for their use of books: guide and enrich them (examples here and here). But not only that: School will become more relevant to our highly new-media-engaged kids, and students will become more engaged.

Related links

  • Willard's books include Cyber-safe Kids, Cyber-savvy Teens: Helping Young People Learn to Use the Internet Safely and Responsibly and Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats: Responding to the Challenge of Online Social Aggression, Threats, and Distress
  • Here's why a positive approach to youth online safety is the way to go ("Online Safety 3.0: Empowering & Protecting Youth" at
  • A mother lode of research findings on how youth use new media can be found in Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media (MIT Press, 2009). See also "Major study on youth & media: Let's take a closer look" in NFN, 1/21/10.
  • More on the over-used fear-based approach of the past decade here in NetFamilyNews: "Key crossroads for Net safety: ISTTF report released", "Why technopanics are bad", "'Predator panic'" in May 2006, when I first saw the phrase used, and a collection of my posts about research and news reports on predators
  • "School filtering & students' workarounds" in NFN

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