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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Teachable Moments

Sam Harris and I have embarked upon a new project, a joint blog. For the last few years, we have done presentations to parents in the Middle School about "Parenting in the Digital World." Last year, we expanded our talk beyond cybersafety and bullying to look at media, and its influence, in general. How much time are our kids spending with media? We combined national statistics from a variety of sources with our own CWA data. Using Google Docs, we created a survey for all MS students, and we created a similar one for parents, asking as many of them to take it as possible. We then presented that data to have a real conversation about what OUR kids are doing, and what their parents think they're doing. You can view the student and parent survey results, and see a brief outline of our presentation here.  Sam and I are now planning to take the discussion online, and we invite you to engage with us. We collect a lot of information, and we want to share it with our teachers and parents.  We have facts and opinions, and we want to get them out there. We want folks to interact with us, ask questions, challenge opinions and contribute their own. Please join us:

Cybersafety and cyberbullying are huge, daunting topics to discuss with the adolescents in our care, but they are extremely important conversations to have. If you've followed recent news at all, you may have noticed an increase in stories about bullying and its disastrous effects. I encourage you to engage your students in conversation when the topic comes up. It's these teachable moments we must embrace if we are going to create a safe place for kids to talk about it. Have you ever had an email exchange go south because of a simple misinterpretation of tone or intentions? Have you visited or publicly commented on a website where others didn't have much restraint and hid behind an anonymous user id? How did you feel? How did you handle it? How would you suggest your kids handle it? Technology, in my opinion, isn't creating more bad behavior out there, but it does, in some cases make it easier for people to get themselves into trouble, or simply stir it up. Conversely, it also makes it easier for them to get caught doing it. (Here's one educator's take on this very issue.)  We must turn our focus to the behaviors, not the technology. Bullying is hurtful whether it happens in the lunchroom or a chat room. Do we turn a blind eye? Or do we address it head on? We need to prepare our students for the world they live in, not the one we came from, or the one we wish for. To simply say, "technology is causing all sorts of problems" doesn't do our students any good, because they're already using it. Help them. Jump in with them and find a way to model good behavior. Talk about it when you see examples of poor choices. Verbalize for them your thought process when you encounter things that make you uncomfortable. Ask them, "Would you say that to someone's face? In person?" If they wouldn't, they shouldn't do it online.  At the risk of being completely repetitive (too late!), I'll say it one more about it!

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