Cyberbullying Prevention for the Classroom

cyberbullying, online student safety, child safety

Online harassment continues to increase each year.

As cyberbullying rates reach an all time high among young adults, what are parents and teachers to do?

Yes, Anti-Bullying Laws do exist and cyberbullying is ILLEGAL!  Laws vary by state, but cover the necessities.  According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, while only 23 states directly mention “cyberbullying”, 48 states include protection against electronic harassment.  These laws essentially grant school systems authority to enact mandatory cyberbullying prevention policies and decide upon appropriate consequences.  Stopbullying.gov believes there are 11 key components (shared by each state’s anti-bullying laws) to consider when creating an anti-cyberbullying strategy.  

Though seemingly verbose, these components are quite simple and perfectly adaptable to everyday classroom culture.  See below for the *top items to share with your students:

Purpose Statement = Why do we need cyberbullying laws?

1 in 10 students grades 6-12 experienced cyberbullying and 15% of high school students were bullied last year.

Explain to your students why these laws are necessary, and the effects of cyberbullying.  Students who are cyberbullied are more likely to struggle personally and in school.  Bullying can worsen feelings of rejection, isolation, depression, etc. which can lead to suicidal behavior.

Statement of Scope = How far do cyberbullying laws reach, and should they?

Most cyberbullying occurs away from school grounds.

Explain to students that no matter the location, cyberbullying is still criminal and under the jurisdiction of school policy.

Over 25% of states have specified that schools are able to discipline students for incidents that endanger the learning environment off campus.  Federal law allows them to do so; a variety of Supreme Court cases rule in favor of school authority.

Specification of Prohibited Conduct = What actions count as cyberbullying?  

Clearly define and provide examples of what qualifies as cyberbullying.  

It seems that many students are unsure about the concept, even casually writing off teasing and taunting online as the norm.  Sending a mean or threatening text, posting hurtful words/images, and impersonating someone online are all considered cyberbullying to a certain extent.  For a more extensive list, see here.

Enumeration of Specific Characteristics = What topics should one avoid?

Harassment need not be based on a specific characteristic to be considered bullying.  Mockery of differentiating factors –race, ethnicity, color, gender, sexual orientation– should not be tolerated.

North Carolina: N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-407.15(a) (2010): “Bullying or harassing behavior includes, but is not limited to, acts reasonably perceived as being motivated by any actual or perceived differentiating characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, socioeconomic status, academic status, gender identity, physical appearance, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, developmental, or sensory disability, or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics.”

Communication Plan = How can students report cyberbullying?  What are the consequences? How will parents, faculty, and students be involved?

Alert students and parents of the cyberbullying policy and how to get help.

Students should feel safe reporting instances of cyberbullying, and schools should provide avenues of seeking help – hotlines, guidance counselors, etc.  The student body, as well as their parents, should be notified of the cyberbullying policy and consequences of violation.

Take for example a San Ramon Middle School’s policy.  Their “communication plan” lists examples of cyberbullying, consequences (from a minimum of suspension to a maximum of expulsion), and the appropriate supporting education codes.

Training and Preventative Education = What can I do prevent cyberbullying?

The more you know about cyberbullying and how to handle it, the easier it will be to implement prevention methods!  Schools must equip their staff with the tools to stop the bullying at the source!

Stopbullying.gov provides training modules for community leaders, teachers, bus drivers, etc.  Technology-based solutions are also available for schools to utilize

In addition, teach students to be good digital citizens and respectfully utilize online resources.
*Missing components from Stopbullying’s analysis include Development and Implementation of LEA Policies, Components of LEA Policy, Review of Local Policies, Transparency and Monitoring, Statement of Rights to Other Legal Resources

Much is to be considered when creating overarching anti-cyberbulling measures, and schools try their best.  However, keeping your kids safe from cyberbullying starts at home.  Implementing social media safety measures and monitoring your child’s online activity are just some of the many ways to do so.  For other good resources on cyberbullying prevention check out the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.  

 

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Web Filtering Anywhere

TomSecurly1

By Tom Walker

cloud-based web filtering, web filtering for schools, 1:1 schools

Web filtering is an effective tool to ensure online student safety.  Recent innovations have allowed web filtering to improve from a rather stationary service, to a mobile and easy-to-use necessity. Schools are starting to abandon inconvenient web filtering hardware in favor of flexible cloud-based solutions which better provide for 1:1 program safety measures.  And now, we can protect our students anytime, anywhere.

Web Filtering At School

When I think of web filtering, my mind always gravitates toward school web filtering. Why not? Web filtering has been prevalent in schools the last 15 years or so. Whether the goal is to keep students away from harmful sites or the need to monitor web activity, filtering has a solid place in K-12 schools. While at school, the walled garden not only benefits students, but also helps to keep malicious websites at bay. The ever increasing number of malicious websites and network intrusions can be problematic for school IT staff, thus filtering plays a key role in helping to block them.

What happens outside of school though? Many home routers have long employed filtering capabilities, but the features were generally quite limited. The home router was akin to the school filtering appliance. The home router could only filter at home, whereas the school appliance could only filter at school. Luckily, web filtering continues to adapt to the ever changing technological landscape thanks to the advances of cloud computing.

Web Filtering Outside of School

Over the last few years, one of the truly amazing advances in technology has been the ability to take your services with you. Whether it is having constant access to once static files or easily moving entire photo albums around, cloud based technology has changed the way we look at things.

With the advent of cloud based filtering, filtering outside of school with school centric policies has come to fruition. Not only do 1:1 programs have devices filtered at school, but the filtering can go wherever the device is. Additionally, features like safe search and utilizing safe alternatives provide an extra layer of protection for the users and devices in and out of school. With this approach, school staff can be a little less worrisome about the devices leaving school grounds. The students are kept safe online, as are the devices from intrusive viruses, malware, and ransomware.

Web Filtering Anywhere

Web filtering has entered a time where it can be done at from a multitude of locations. Like many other educational ideas and services, it is no longer confined to the walls of the school. School based policies can now travel along with the students, helping a 1:1 program stay consistent and benefitting all parties involved in the process. So when I think of web filtering, I no longer need to think of it as something that just happens at school. It can happen anywhere.


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Safe Image Search Resources for Students

safe image search, online student safety, 1:1 schools, security best practics

The rise of edtech and 1:1 devices affords teachers to encourage online research.  Recent Pew Research Center data suggests that the very nature of research has drastically changed: students quickly find just enough information to satisfy research assignments via big name search engines and stop there.  Transfer a few sentences and an image onto a Prezi slide and voila!  According to a Pew Internet & American Life Project study, many teachers “see the combination of text and images on the internet ‘bringing to life’ the subjects their students are interested in, in ways that prior generations did not experience”.  They consider image access a wonderful asset of the internet.  Explicative images accommodate visual learners and captivate students.  

Google Safe Image Search is a great place to start research.  However, the internet is a forum for public exchange of information and Google Image results can be inappropriate or irrelevant for student use, not to mention biased.  Students may stumble upon unsavory content more often than not.   Similar can be said for Yahoo and Bing image searches.  Instead, have students use sites and databases designed for educational purposes, like the Creative Commons Safe Image Filter, to find the most credible and appropriate results.

 

Check out these sites to get the best images for research assignments:

Pics4Learning

Pics4Learning.com is a safe, free image library and the largest education image database on the web.  They supply school-friendly friendly photos which cover everything from geography to art, olympics to astronomy, and much more.  Searches for historical content are often times redirected to accredited archives; for example, a search for “Civil War” photos redirects to the Library of Congress Civil War Collection.  They also have lesson plans for teachers, equipped with matching images.

 

US Geological Survey (USGS)

This Federal agency includes a branch devoted to education which provides images, videos, labs, and online lectures on their website to educate youth about natural phenomena.  Resources are separated into three categories: “Grades K-6”, “Grades 7-12”, and “Undergraduate”.  Biology?  Geography?  Geology?  This is an extensive source for all things science. 

 

Big Picture Education

Big Picture is a biannual publication known for its coverage of biology.  However, you can use this site to find photographs, flowcharts, and diagrams in a wide range of topics for all ages.  When searching for “drugs”, Big Picture Education provides images for the willow bark, the origin of aspirin.  Like the previous two websites, BigPictureEducation.com also offers more than helpful image search results.  Their interface is user-friendly and useful for narrowing down results.

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 12.05.01 AM

 

Photos for Class

Photos for Class guarantees age appropriate images, automatic citation, and Creative Commons (photos licensed for legal, public use).  Creative Commons kills two birds with one stone by ensuring legality, which in turn eliminates impropriety.  And they have a sense of humor: a search for “sex” results in a redirect to photos for “adorable dogs”.  Photos for Class sources from Flickr for stunning, high quality and well composed photos that are often editorial worthy!

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6 Pillars to Successfully Integrate Technology In Your 1:1 Classroom

1:1 schools, 1:1 devices, education, technology in schools, digital citizenship, online student safety

Inspired By Gary Spracklen of Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy (IPACA), United Kingdom

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) conducted a study on the correlation between test performance and technology usage in the classroom.  In the last quarter of 2015, they released their findings in “Students Computers and Learning: Making the Connection”.  In summary, their results suggested “no noticeable improvement” in standardized test scores (PISA) for reading, mathematics, or science in countries that heavily invested in classroom technology; thus, they do not believe expanding access to high-tech devices (1:1 Chromebook programs) will abate falling test scores.  

Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills at OECD, warns that this analysis “should not be used as an ‘excuse’ not to use technology, but as a spur to finding a more effective approach”.  Gary Spracklen and his colleagues at IPACA stand by the effectivity of technology in learning and in response have created the Educational Digital Maturity Index (EDMI) –a 6-prong guide to achieve a great technologically-integrated learning environment.

 

Here are the six domains for success, each accompanied by a tip to aid you in applying each to your own classroom:

 

1. Digitally Mature Leaders  

Ask questions that assess how a leader integrates and dictates technology into his/her projects and to those he/she leads.

According to Forbes, many business leaders are “getting more involved in technology decisions than ever before”.  Business and technology have become truly complementary: Forbes gives the example of engine manufacturers relying on software to push forward production.  The same relationship can be envisioned for tech in the classroom, as an enhancement to traditional teaching methods – an interactive resource that broadens the mind, an unlimited wealth of information.

 

2. Digitally Mature Teachers

Address the ability of the teacher to instruct his/her students using technology.

The rise of technology was rapid, but teachers can gradually incorporate technology into lesson plans by using online news articles as a topic of discussion or showing videos to better illustrate a concept just learned in class.  For a more exhaustive list of ideas, check out “Integrating Technology in the Classroom: It Takes More Than Just Having Computers” by Education World or Scholastic’s “Teach With Technology” page.  There are a wide variety of resources available including Youtube for Schools and Google for Education.

 

3. Digitally Mature Students

Observe how your students interact with technology and make sure they know how to properly use their devices.

Resist the generalization that children are masters of technology.  Instead, provide a foundation for your students by teaching them the best technology practices and online safety measures.  This includes providing guidelines for how to advantageously conduct research on the web; students have to evaluate search results and sort for reliability, validity, and relevance.  Condition students to be their own best filter!  This in time can be more effective than school internet filters or even safe search.

Also remind students of what it means to be a good digital citizen and clarify proper online behavioral conduct.  Being a good digital citizen not only improves the user’s experience but also foils the growing trend of cyberbullying.

 

4. Digitally Relevant Curriculum

Examine lesson plans to ensure appropriate and effective technology use.

Technology is helpful, but not necessary in every facet of education – make it sure it enhances your lesson plan, and does not merely serve as a distraction or time filler.  Many established organizations such as Scholastic, BrainPop, PBS Kids, National Geographic Kids publish educational material online for classroom use.  OER Commons provides a database of free learning materials commonly used by teachers nationwide.  In addition, taking polls or mini quizzes using mobile devices before or after a lesson is a good way to assess student knowledge and retention rates.  

 

5. Robust and well designed infrastructure

Appraise your school’s capabilities, questioning whether the framework will be enough to support the tech innovations.

Not all schools are built equally, but the coming years will see the rise of “digital classrooms” according to EdTech.  Classroom make up hasn’t changed drastically in the last 50 years, but rapid growth is afoot.  In order to be equipped for the revolution, digitally mature leaders are already planning and making technical adjustments to ease the transition.  Schools can upgrade their Wi-Fi, double device connections per student; automate network access; and reinforce their online security systems.  

 

6. An understanding of how classroom spaces, buildings, and campuses support the use of technology

Notice the existing classroom culture, consider how the introduction of technology will interact with already established device policies.

This parallels robust and well designed infrastructure – make sure learning spaces are able to handle the introduction of mobile devices.  On a non-technical note, be sure to establish rules for device usage just like you have classroom policies that are age-appropriate.  Many school systems – especially those who allow students to bring their own device (BYOD) – create a contract and have consequences based on a 3-offense system that covers device loss, Appropriate Use Policy (AUP), cyberbullying, etc.  Check out this BYOD guide that a Washington Public School system provides its teachers for device management in the classroom.  

 

See Mr. Spracklen’s original post for a list of questions that will help you to evaluate your classroom in relation to the six domains.  

 

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