01 September 2007

Run Away! Run Away!

I think I frightened a bouncing baby admin this week. Since then, I have had visions of him reacting in a Monty Pythonesque "Run away!" mode.

Out of the umpty dozen PowerPoint presentations tossed our way this week was one that was supposed to be about cyberbullying. The admin started off by talking about how "freaky" MySpace is and how if you've never visited it, you would be shocked at how weird everything is and all of the terrible things found there.

This set my teeth on edge. To be sure, I do not have a MySpace page, but I immediately recalled one of the beginning teachers I mentored last year who did. How would she have felt, sitting there in one of the first faculty meetings of her brand new career, only to be told that what she did in her personal life was "freaky" and see so many nodding heads? I know that there are lots of MySpace pages out there that have posted features that are in no way appropriate for the school setting. But I can also say that I know grandparents who have pages just as a means for keeping up with their children and grandchildren who live far away. How many people sitting in that meeting might be harboring a MySpace or Facebook page, a blog, or maintain some other form of on-line presence?

Then the PowerPoint started---full of the most frightening (and likely overblown, considering this more recent study) statistics about on-line predators and so forth. He clicked through the some of the slides and stopped the presentation about halfway through. There was quite the buzz in the room, but no discussion was allowed. The end result was a group of stunned faculty, the majority of whom are now convinced that the internet is no good whatsoever. And none of it actually had any connection to cyberbullying...which was supposed to be the topic at hand. It really made me sad.

I sent the admin a note later. I rambled about my frustration. I told him that I hoped that as someone just entering that role, he would consider being more forward thinking about the future...and reaching kids where they live (which for most of them includes MySpace). Happy Chyck had a marvelous post not all that long ago about a similar discussion in her school. I think that we can all agree that cyberbullying is a serious issue---and one schools need to effectively deal with. We can also agree that not everything that is available on the internet needs to be seen at school...and that kids should be engaged during class time (and not hanging out on MySpace). But to be blanket in our agreement that social networking is for "freaks" is not okay. We need to be supportive of our students as they learn to navigate the real and virtual worlds---not stick our heads in the sand. We also need to be conscious of one another and what might be included with the cultures we bring to our workplaces---and make everyone welcome. I hate to think about how many teachers are going to want to "Run away!" from the profession when they hear others consider their on-line behaviour to be deviant.


Dr Pezz said...

I have a MySpace account and really only hear from former students with this account. It seems as though administrators only see the negative rather than the potential when it comes to the internet.

Ooooooh, everyone will be surfing the porn-o-net and looking for naughty pictures. Come on. We need to teach responsibility and how to use the internet effectively. If we don't teach the kids, who will?

Hugh O'Donnell said...

Well said, SG. Good comment DrP.

Stupid behavior in cyberspace is no different from stupid behavior in real time/space. We teach students how to interact appropriately. The skills should transfer both ways.

The Science Goddess said...

I think what worried me the most was the intolerance---and ignorance---of social networking. Whatever happened to "Seek to understand." as a motivation rather than "Judge at will!"?

ms-teacher said...

I'm using a classroom blog this year to reinforce lessons I'm teaching in the classroom. I have students who are very excited about having their own "blog" space, albeit totally controlled by me as far as what content they'll be able to post.

I think blogs and myspace do have a place in education. To think otherwise is akin to sticking our heads in the sands.

Hugh O'Donnell said...

Good question, SG. I can only think that media picks up on the negative aspects, administrators (and teachers) read the paper, listen to the radio, watch TV, and form uninformed opinions.

Those same professionals probably don't participate in any online form of social networking.

We need to keep the pressure on and continue to set good examples. Sort of leadership by default. :-)

The Science Goddess said...

I'd like to try a classroom blog again. As it stands now, only teachers are allowed through the filter to blog-land.

My original desire was to have a rotating assignment where individual students would summarize the major points in class that day and form a running record that could be accessed and commented upon.

I'm wondering now if a wiki might be more filter-friendly.

graycie said...

When I entered high school, lo these several decades ago, the first thing the new principal did was to hold an assembly in which he made us watch the film Reefer Madness as a deterrent. Even as innocent and ignorant as I was then, I knew that it was a crock and so unreal. I also wondered what he thought of us students -- who he did not know at all.