Tuesday, April 30, 2013

School Bullying

There are several different reasons for a person to be bullied.  Reasons include jealousy or being different from others—race, sexual orientation, and religion—just to name a few.  Cohn (2003) discusses factors in a child’s life that may lead to them either becoming a bully or a victim.  She says that “children who observe parents and siblings exhibiting bullying behavior” and those that receive physical punishment at home, negative feedback from teachers and other school personnel, and are trying hard to fit in with a crowd of peers are more likely to become bullies. Victims tend to be children that lack confidence and appear weak, have overprotective parents, and constantly seek approval. (para. 5)  Exploring this data really forced me to think differently about bullies.  Bullies are not just mean or bad kids—they are children that are struggling to find their place because of rejection or pain that has been infused into their life.  Parents shape their children, and they are the ultimate determinants of whom and what they become.  It is essential that parents be educated about this issue and how their own actions can impact their child’s behavior so they can make better parenting decisions.
            The National Center Against Bullying identifies four primary types of bullying: physical, verbal, covert, and cyber-bullying.  Physical bullying involves hitting, kicking, and actually causing bodily harm.  This is probably the easiest type of bullying to identify because there will be visual signs of an altercation: ripped clothes, bruises, bloody noses, etc.  Some of the most severe bullying is not physical, but it harms victims in an emotional way that leaves lasting scars.  Verbal bullying involves the typical name-calling; covert bullying occurs when a bully attempts to ruin a victim’s reputation, embarrass them, and cause humiliation.  Cyber-bullying involves bullying by use of technology: telephone, the Internet, etc.  In years past, children were targeted by bullies at school.  However, they were able to escape torment when they went home.  When a youth is a victim of cyber-bullying, there is no escape.  Bullies are able to target victims in their own homes.  This type of prison is extremely detrimental to self-esteem and demeanor.
            All types of bullying are extremely harmful throughout the duration of bullying and even leave psychological issues that last for several years.    While a child is bullied, it is reported that victims feel depressed, complain about their health, and achieve less academically.  None of these short-term effects surprised me.  Of course someone being bullied would be unhappy when someone is constantly harassing and criticizing them.  Of course a victim would complain about their health – because they do not want to go to school to be targeted.  Of course a victim’s grades would begin to fall; they are too consumed with worry and unhappiness to bother with homework.  There really is not much analysis involved—it is common sense.
            According to the Harvard Mental Health Newsletter (2009), “Victims of chronic childhood bullying are more likely to develop depression or think about suicide as adults compared with those who weren't bullied, while former bullies are more likely to be convicted of criminal charges.” (para.2) Once a person develops psychological issues, it is extremely difficult to be rid of them.  I think once a child is incessantly harassed and called names, they eventually start to believe what the bully is saying is true.  Therefore, as a bullied, depressed child becomes an adult, they will probably grow into a depressed adult.  But, why would a childhood bully be more likely to be depressed?  Could it be guilt? Maybe, but I think there is a different reason.  As discussed earlier, bullies tend to learn the behavior at home or elsewhere.  In adolescence, they are struggling to feel accepted and have experienced rejection.  It seems only logical that a bully would continue to feel this way as an adult.        
            An extremely prominent case is the story of Phoebe Prince.  Phoebe was a 15-year-old student that was beautiful, intelligent, and the victim of cyber-bullying.  After jealous girls plastered insults about her all over the Internet, she committed suicide.  Phoebe’s school is now attempting to hold students accountable for their harassment and reorganizing the way they deal with school bullying. (McNeil, 2010) This is just one of the many instances when bullying led to suicide.  The case of Prince left many with so many questions, so few answers, and a call to action to change the way schools and legislation handles bullying.
            According to the American Association of Suicidology, 4,630 people (between the ages of 10 and 24) committed suicide in the United States in 2009.  This resource also stated that about six percent of high school aged students have attempted suicide.  No one, let alone youths, should even be thinking about suicide.  These children are so unhappy that they would rather be dead than live another day of harassment.  Children do not have to experience this type of unhappiness; they need to have an ally – someone who supports and is willing to protect them.  Schools – teachers, administrators, and especially students must come together and develop a multi-faced program that will stop bullying once and for all in their school.
            Found in the book, Critical Issues in Education: Dialogues and Dialectics, to successfully curb school bullying, a complete schoolwide program needs to be implemented that includes participation from students, parents, teachers, and administrators. (Nelson, p.339) Students need to be involved in a structured program that involves learning to interact in new ways and communicate appropriately, contains active learning, and the program needs to include education for teachers, administrators and involves the parents.  When reading Implementing Bullying Prevention Programs in Schools: A How-To Guide, I found that programs that combat bullying include education specifically about bullying or social-emotional learning programs (SEL) that helps children deal with their own feelings and actions. (Jones, Doces, Swearer, & Collier, 2012, p. 2-3)  In my opinion, programs should offer information about both bullying and social-emotional training.  It is important that students and parents know rules and procedures for behavior, but if they also know how to effectively communicate and problem solve, it seems programs would be more successful.
            Perhaps the most successful bullying prevention program currently is Steps to Respect.  This elementary based program is built on three components: schoolwide implementation, staff training, and classroom curriculum.  According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, “Steps to Respect adopts a socio-ecological approach to bullying in a school setting, concentrating on the broad-scale impact of social interactions among students on the school environment.” (para. 4) The program teaches that everyone involved in a school is responsible to reduce bullying; its purpose is to improve social interaction amongst students and to educate teachers how to respond to problems. 
            Right now, there is such a disconnect between schools and states; some schools implement bullying prevention programs whiles others do not even have one.  Sometimes, it does take more than a school-wide program to solve problems, and help is needed from the government.  Currently, anti-bullying legislation is different from state-to-state and there are no specific federal anti-bullying laws.  I think this is deeply problematic because to be successful, everyone needs to have the same framework and the same expectations.  Only in 2011 did Michigan adopt “Matt’s Safe School Law.”  Basically, the law requires that every Michigan school adopts an anti-bullying policy and implements a specific protocol for dealing with all school bullying related issues. (“Revised School Code,” 2011)
            Presently, there are not any federal laws that protect children from bullying.  While state laws are sufficient for most circumstances, I do believe that federal laws should be enforced to protect these children in extenuating circumstances.  There are only federal civil rights laws that protect individual civil rights.  But, if a person contributes to a victim’s suicide because of harassment and tormenting, there should be some federal act that will hold that person responsible.    

Friday, April 19, 2013

Utilizing Technology in Education

Found in the online article, Research on Multimedia in Education, “when information technology-assisted project based learning is used in a constructivist, cooperative learning environment, students learn more and retain their knowledge better.” (para. 1) Utilizing technology in the classroom is progressively becoming more popular because it is attractive to a wider audience, includes many types of learners, and urges students to apply learning in a hands-on manner.  It is beneficial to incorporate technology into the classroom not only to improve student learning, but students will also be more engaged in the learning process.  This post will focus on how technological advances have changed and improved the way we teach; specifically, screencasting, collaborative editing, and blogging have reformed the traditional classroom into a more practical learning environment that challenges students to actively learn. 
Screencasting:  According to an article by the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, screencasting records a person’s movement and audio on their computer screen, capturing everything occurring during a specific period of time. (para. 4)  There are many free programs that you can download to have screencasting capabilities, among them are: CamStudio, Screencast-o-matic, AviScreen, and Copernicus for Macs.  Screencasting can be an extremely powerful tool to utilize in the classroom.  A teacher can model what is being taught through screencasting.  In my business class, I teach how to use the different buttons on the Ribbon in Microsoft Office.  With a projector or on their own computer, students can view a pre-recorded screencast explaining how to implement different features of the Ribbon into a document.  Being able to help and monitor students while the screencast plays is a huge advantage; students are also able to re-watch screencasts to better understand concepts.  Screencasting is a student-centered activity; it accommodates different learning styles and speed. (“7 Things,” 2006)
            While screencasting is an extremely attractive alternative to modeling what is being taught, it is not an efficient method for modeling all lessons.  I am a business teacher and my lessons are meant to help improve students’ computer skills.  Using screencasting in a lesson in an English language arts class would probably be an inefficient method for teaching about the theme in a novel.  Some concepts need to be taught in a traditional way: pencil, paper, textbook, etc.  
Collaborative Editing:  Collaborative editing is a software tool that allows multiple people to edit a document simultaneously.  A group of users can create a document together, while in separate locations, that each can individually edit.  Google Docs is essentially a free online version of Microsoft Word.  It has similar features; however, it allows users to collaborate on documents, which is especially useful on a group paper.  EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative says, “Collaborative editing is a more efficient method of creating and revising documents.” (para.4)
            Collaborative editing is used when multiple people are in charge of writing and editing a document.  Using Google Docs to edit a paper is much easier than e-mailing back and forth between group members.  Another example when collaborative editing would be useful would be during a lecture.  Members of class could all edit notes to share with each other.  However, this editing process does have a few flaws.  First, all users must be trustworthy and communication must be clear.  With Google Docs, it is very easy for an unfinished paper to be submitted.  It is crucial that all users know what is expected of them.
            Collaborative editing is most beneficial in a group setting.  Google Docs is a great, basic program to use but word processing software would be more efficient in an independent setting. A wiki is a great tool for classmates to collaborate online, but if only one person is writing, a blog may be more appropriate. 
Blogging:  Writing a blog is essentially writing a journal online.  It is short for ‘web log’ because people write different posts on the Internet.  People write a blog for many different purposes, but most blogs tend to focus on one primary topic; I’ve seen cooking blogs, technology blogs, blogs about starting a business, or sometimes, it may just be about a person’s life.  Blogging can serve many educational purposes.  From blogging, I’ve learned so much about technology and just teaching in general. 
This sort of assignment is a part of the “new” pedagogy discussed in Marc Prensky’s article, “The Role of Technology in Teaching and the Classroom.”  Blogging is a student-centered, independent learning activity where the student is basically in control of their own learning.  The teacher does not teach but the students teach themselves.  (para. 2) To facilitate blogging using the “new” pedagogy, teachers would help focus what the students are to write about and the requirements to meet the assignment.  However, blogging may not be best used in the traditional classroom during lectures and so forth.  If you asked a student to blog about a teacher’s lecture, my guess is that you would probably get some off-topic, less than stellar posts. 
Using technology in the classroom is an extremely beneficial tool to aid student learning.  With technology, students are able to teach themselves rather than just rely on a teacher’s instruction.  Every student is actively involved in the learning process.  Screencasting, collaborative editing, and blogging are all useful tools that can enhance curriculum; however, this paper has shown that it is not appropriate in every classroom setting.  As technology advances, pedagogy and learning will continue to change.  As teachers, we need to continue to learn about these advances and how to better reach our students.  Utilizing technology is an extremely powerful tool to engage students; however, we must also be cognizant that it may not always be the best form of instruction.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Social Networking in Education

The social media storm was just beginning when I was just a young, eighteen-year-old college freshman.  Mark Zuckerburg was probably still enrolled in Harvard as I was ‘friending’ cute classmates I didn’t know.  My entire college experience was documented through photos, wall posts, and private messages.  Going through the teaching program, several professors gave warning after warning about the dangers of social networking.  After graduating from college, my goal was to be virtually invisible in all aspects online to students, potential employers, and colleagues.  Now, in my second year as a graduate student in an educational technology program, my goal is to now have an online presence and have classroom activities be well-documented online.  I’m no longer ‘friending’ cute classmates but ‘following’ educational professionals. 
Darcy Mayers wrote an article for Dell’s educational blog titled, Making Social Tools Your “Friend" ... Ideas for Streamlining the Home/School Connection.” After reading this article, I realized that social networking is no longer a taboo topic or inappropriate method of communication if used the proper way.  Social networking is just what our country is moving towards.  Tweeting with students is not only acceptable but encouraged because it promotes thinking about classroom topics outside of school.    Using social networking as an educational tool encourages responsibility, collaboration, communication, and so much more.  I had my third graders use StoryBird.  My sixth-graders worked together using Scribblar. 
Last week, I ran into my student-teaching coordinator that happened to be a huge advocate for not mixing social networking with education.  As I was sharing everything I have been experiencing in my educational technology program and ways I’ve been implementing technology into my own classes, I could see the hesitation and fear in his eyes.  There may always be educators that rebuff social tools in the classroom, but I know my students are actively engaged and learning.  Instead of handwriting a book report, students created a Fotobabble and gave voice to characters in the book. 

As social networking has matured, so have I.  It is no longer just a tool to connect with friends but a way to share and expand knowledge.  I use Twitter, LinkedIn, Delicious, Pinterest, and this blog as a method of communication and collaboration.  I’ve taken teaching suggestions from online articles, creative classroom activities from Pinterest, and attempted to develop a contact with nearby educational professionals.  I don’t believe it’s dangerous—it’s smart.  Utilizing social tools makes better teachers. Period.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Stranger Danger

As a child, my mother taught me about ‘stranger danger’ by scaring me to death.  She would tell me stories about kidnappings, rape, and murder, and I think I watched one too many Lifetime movies with her.  Even though this may be a slightly rough way to teach safety to your children, her parenting method worked.  I was completely terrified of pretty much anyone that I didn’t know; I remember on at least two different occasions where strangers approached me and I ran away.  Today, parents have an even bigger responsibility to protect their children; strangers are now able to target children in their own homes.  Internet safety is somewhat of a new conversation, but Darcy Meyers discusses the phenomenon and what parents can do to protect their children and their privacy in her blog article, “BEYOND STRANGER DANGER: Parental Control and Privacy Strategies to Protect Your Digital Child.”
Using blocks and restricting websites are an excellent way to prevent your child from viewing inappropriate websites, but Meyers insists that talking and reinforcing the danger to your children will ultimately keep them safe.  She says, “What is essential is creating and maintaining an open conversation that balances caution with fun and freedom.” Let your children or students know that they can come to you at anytime with questions.  As a parent or teacher, your first priority has to be to keep your children safe.  Even though it may be difficult or awkward to have the Internet safety conversation, it is a necessary one. 
Maybe my kooky mother wasn’t so kooky after all?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


What can I say?  Actually, what possibly can be said to console the families, ease the pain, or somehow, rectify the harm orchestrated at Sandy Hook Elementary on that chilly day in December?  There.is.nothing. Families are shattered; lives are ruined, and I think, the way we look at safety in schools has changed.  This tragedy wasn’t the result of bullying or abuse.  The victims at Sandy Hook were targeted only by matter of coincidence. 
In the aftermath of this, many have pleaded for new legislation.  Now, I’m not specifically for or against gun control.  I, personally, do not own a gun, but I respect the right given to those who do.  I believe that the right to bare arms has undoubtedly contributed to some of the violence our country sees today.  I honestly don’t believe, however, that prohibiting that right would diminish all violence in our society.  Do I think we should strip our citizens of their natural-born right?  Absolutely not, but something has to change. 
Schools are supposed to be one of the safest places for children and I suppose it still is, but after Sandy Hook, teachers, parents, and students all carry just a little chip on their shoulders.  In both schools where I’ve held teaching jobs had locked external doors – at all times.  There is a camera outside the front door and they must buzz to identify themselves before they are admitted.  Sandy Hook Elementary used this same safety regimen when allowing guests.  The fact that this didn’t protect the children or deter the gunman is quite alarming.
Something has to change.  But, what can we do? Where can we improve? How can we change?  When will this senseless violence end?