Cyberbullying is Bullying

“You being bully!”

An article on the “Kids Health” blog defines cyberbullying succinctly: “Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person.” How do we address cyberbullying in schools today? Is it effective?

Before the discussion continues, we need to agree that cyberbullying is actually encompassed in the larger issue of bullying. The specific use of technology adds a facet to the larger issue, but the two go hand in glove.  As a matter of fact, bullying prevention programs often address cyberbullying as part of their curriculum. This begs the question “How is bullying being addressed in schools today?”

Schools all over the United States have adopted some form of an anti-bullying program. A recent study at University of Texas at Arlington, found that schools with anti-bullying programs were actually more likely to have bullying problems.

In another study, the U.S. Department of Education found that only 8% of anti-bullying programs used in American schools are actually research-based. One program, Olweus, was profiled by the U.S. Department of Education as an evidence-based proven program. It is a highly structured program that engages all players (administrators, parents, students, and community members). All players are coached in role-playing scenarios. They help proactively answer the what-to-do for all conceivable questions and situations.

After reading this study, I was left with the question of why I hadn’t heard about the Olweus program. It could be that the three districts I have worked in never had adopted a definitive anti-bullying program. To validate this, I checked all three district sites. The first district I worked in did adopt a program the year after I left. The other two clearly don’t address bullying anywhere on their public sites.

In Nancy Willard’s keynote presentation at the 2013 Bullying Symposium, she reported that during the three years Pennsylvania employed the Olweus program, they achieved no improvements regarding bullying. I am skeptical of this result. I wondered if Pennsylvania used the curriculum as it was intended, including all required communications and trainings. In my years as an educator, I found that schools and districts adopt many programs and then complained when they didn’t work in spite of their failure to fully implement.

Willard’s keynote was filled with excellent ideas to adopt in my classroom to create a community of students who can define bullying behavior and articulate what is acceptable and not. These strategies would easily work in a school-wide or district-wide setting. Further research on Willard’s suggested practices were found in articles and interviews with her.

Willard suggested beginning with a survey in order to collect data on student expectations regarding bullying. This could be altered to specifically address cyberbullying. The survey results would then inform the action needed for each school. The results should provide student quotes which can help norm a school. She strongly recommends including students in order to support positive peer intervention. She also uses this data to help students create positive social norms. More details can be read at Cyber Savvy.

I appreciated that Willard has a background in law. I believe that schools need to align with the vocabulary and expectations that are set regarding bullying by the courts. It would be wise to teach students and staff what is legally acceptable and not acceptable. I think this would bring some “real life” to the talk, and not come off as “just talk.” Although she admits that her suggested strategies are not yet “evidence-based,” there is plenty of evidence to suggest it will work.


Works Cited:

Almansi, C. (2011, Feb. 14). Cyberbullying: An interview with nancy willard. Retrieved from

Antoniades, A. (2013, Dec. 17). Reality check: Do bullying prevention programs work? Takepart, Retrieved from

Crosse, S., Williams, B., Hagan, C., Harmon, M., Ristow, L., DiGaetano, R., … Derzon, J. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service. (2011). Prevalence and implementation fidelity of research-based prevention programs in public schools: Final report. Retrieved from website:

New, M. (2012, Jan.). Cyberbullying. Retrieved from

Nsbsd: Parent resources. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Ohler, J. (2010). Digital community, digital citizen. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.

WFYIProductions. (Producer). (2013, Mar. 09). Bullying Symposium 2013 Keynote Speaker Nancy Willard [Web Video]. Retrieved from

Willard, N. (2013). Cyber savvy. Retrieved from


CommonSense Media

Digital Citizenship

Infographic courtesy of

Digital Citizenship must become a priority in public education. However, technology misuse/abuse is a societal problem as much as it is a school problem. If we are to become a civilized technological society in the 21st century, technology leaders must create a vision for intelligent technology behavior. Digital Citizenship must become the norm and not the exception in our society. (Bailey & Ribble, 2005)

At this point, I hope all educators would agree that technology is part of education. I understand that this statement is only a hope. Once this hope becomes a reality, there are a plethora of educated people that understand that visionary leadership is the fundamental key that will change the expectations of the inclusion of technology in our classrooms. Bailey and Ribble’s quote above from a 2005 article is one of countless examples which underscore the need for leadership support.

Once leadership begins to think of technology as a given, which is actually required by our state standards, then we can move on to an implementation plan. In this day and age, with the commonality of technology, and with the inclusion of technology spelled out in the Common Core and the new Alaska state standards, I find it neglectful on behalf our our students that leadership has not grasped the need for educational technology for every one of our students. What will convince them? What entity needs to take them by the scruff of their necks to force this issue? A class action lawsuit was filed in the state of California to require all schools to provide equal access to instructional materials. I wonder if it will take a class action lawsuit to bring educational technology to every Alaskan classroom.
CommonSense Media outlined the educational need in their 2009 white paper.

The Need for Digital Literacy and Citizenship. This dynamic new world requires new comprehension and communication skills, as well as new codes of conduct, to ensure that these powerful media and technologies are used responsibly and ethically. Much of the interaction in this digital world happens at a distance, which can diminish the rules of cause and effect, action and consequence. Additionally, much of digital life takes place under the cloak of anonymity, making it easier to participate in unethical and even illegal behaviors. (CommonSense Media, 2009)

 At the point that all accept the need for digital literacy and citizenship for each of our students, educators will need quality materials to help them consistently and accurately educate students. CommonSense Media is already a provider of such materials. Their materials are available for teachers via website links, downloadable iBooks, or mailed flash drives which are preloaded with all their material for teachers who do not have online access. Our Google discussion on the topic of CommonSense Media’s materials indicated a consensus that the materials where easy to use for both students and teachers who were at any level of comfort with technology.
The iBooks are intended for devices that can easily play iBooks, like iPads. The books are available for four different age groups that range from Kindergarten to 12th grade. I downloaded one book as a sample on my MacBook and found that most of the iBook functioned well, after the initial download. I was able to push the download to all my student computers in an overnight batch, in order to take advantage of the hours of the day when the broadband is least impacted. If students were allowed to bring their own devices at my school, the iBooks would function better on iDevices. All the functionality, as the iBooks intended, would be available on iDevices.
The online materials from CommonSense come in two forms. The Digital Passport, which is intended for grades 3 – 5, provides an excellent platform for students to think about digital citizenship scenarios and skills. During instruction, using the online passport, teachers should take the opportunity to have open discussions with students about the scenarios and how those scenarios may apply in our students’ real lives. The other materials that are available online for teachers are step-by-step lesson plans, videos, and toolkits. All are well-organized and relevant. For those teachers with highly unreliable Internet or no access to the Internet, CommonSense media offers their media through the mail for a nominal fee.
My overall assessment of CommonSense materials is that they are excellent, relevant, and easy to use. Unfortunately, technology is still a choice for most educators, so only those that opt in will benefit from these terrific and free resources. I will continue to use these resources with my students few students in order to make some impact. Hopefully, others will follow suit.


Works Cited:

Bailey, G., & Ribble, M. (2005). Teaching digital citizenship: When will it become a priority for 21st century schools?. Retrieved from

Digital citizenship white paper. (2011). Retrieved from Microsoft website:

Educating, empowering, and protecting america’s kids: A common sense media white paper. (2009). Retrieved from CommonSense Media website:

Media and technology resources for educators. (2014). Retrieved from

San Francisco County Superior Court, (2009). Williams case: An explanation. Retrieved from California Department of Education website:

What does digital citizenship mean to you? (2014). Retrieved from

Elements of Digital Citizenship

The focus of this week was centered around Dr. Mike Ribble’s book, Digital Citizenship in Schools. Dr. Ribble suggests that schools look at digital citizenship from the perspective of nine elements: digital access, commerce, communication, literacy, etiquette, law, rights and responsibilities, health and wellness, and security.

My colleague, Andrea Stineff, did a terrific job illustrating the analogy of a driver’s license as compared to driver’s education. I enjoyed the picture she painted as a young child, too young to drive, begins the awareness of etiquette (communication) on the road and continues adding to their vehicle and road awareness to the point of expertise as a licensed driver. This is a clear cut example that can be used with a leadership team as they rally interest in digital citizenship in their staff, student body, and parent support.

Honestly, the nine elements presented in the text were not new to me. But, I found Dr. Ribble’s suggestions for assessing school and student levels of knowledge and responsibility, when it comes to digital citizenship to be reasonable and helpful in the sense that a school community could easily adopt these strategies in order to build a strong plan. If a school wants to meaningfully look at technology and digital citizenship, it is helpful to have tools at the ready to help make this change fluid.

The issue of school change does center around leadership support. Ribble suggests “The technology leader is the administrator, technology coordinator, or teacher who is responsible for leading the technology work done in the school, site, or district.” Dr. Ribble, I respectfully disagree. As a coordinator for a school who is a strong advocate for integration of technology (which includes digital citizenship) and who has attempted in many ways with many audiences to inspire change, the coordinator cannot make the change happen without leadership support. The IT Director for my district has also expressed frustration with the level of technology integration in our district due to lack of high level administrative support. So, again, I am advocating that leadership vision for a 21st century school which includes technology and support for staff is the key to ensuring change happen.

My sentiment is mirrored by the authors of Project 2061,

Although teachers are central to reform, they cannot be held solely responsible for achieving it. They need allies. Teachers alone cannot change the textbooks, install more sensible testing policies than are now in place, create administrative support systems, get the public to understand where reform is headed and why it takes time to get there, and raise the funds needed to pay for reform. Thus, school administrators and education policymakers need to support teachers.


Works Cited:

Chapter 14: Reforming education. (2013, Dec. 09). Retrieved from

O’Connell, J. (Producer). (2011, Apr. 30). Digital citizenship in schools: Dr. Mike Ribble [Web Video]. Retrieved from

Ribble, M. (2011). Digital citizenship in schools. (2nd ed.). Eugene, OR: ISTE.

Curating a Digital Footprint

Scare tactics at work.

In a day and age when schools are still looking backward to see what footprints look like behind them, forward thinking educators are coaching students to curate their digital footprints and to imagine what footprints could look like.

For years, schools have watched over students to ensure they are safe. This protective stance is what still informs how we take care of students as education tries to evolve with technology. Many of our digital citizenship programs teach students about the evils of technology and how they can avoid these monsters. A YouTube video created by Romero Benjamin in 2011 is an excellent example of how we continue to teach our students about digital citizenship. Watch out for hackers and bullies! Especially watch out for what might be associated with you out on the Internet! And for god’s sake, don’t post anything that might hurt you in a job interview some day! Cyber bullying has reared its head as being the latest and greatest in bullying issues. Bullies can have long-lasting effects as they spread slanderous tales about you across any number of social media. As well-meaning educators, we tend to solve these problems by either ignoring social media by blocking student access at school or we confine our discussions to dealing with the direct problem at hand.

Proactive educators are seeing digital footprints as an opportunity. Certainly, we need to educate students about the perils of a negative footprint. But forward thinking teachers and school leaders are teaching students to curate their digital footprint. A blog written on the subject by W. O’Byrne, who is a professor of educational technologies, gave advice that can be distilled into one sentiment: “I would rather be proactive and create online content that people will be directed to when they search online for information about me.” In researching additional thinking on the subject, Jason Ohler’s youtube video on digital footprints held my favorite advice. Meaningfully post media on a regular basis to create the footprint you want. I teach 6th graders. I usually have them post media under an account set up by me. Why not teach students to set up accounts for themselves? The projects we do could be posted under their names. This would enable them to think about and maintain control of their digital footprints at a young age. I can imagine critics arguing about age limits and other obstacles. Whether we like it or not, students set up accounts prior to the allowed age.  If they are old enough to be on social media, they are old enough to curate their digital footprint. I envision a school with a forward thinking plan would have parent meetings to explain the school’s thinking. I am specifically thinking of the school I currently work at. Almost all of my students are on Facebook. None of them are yet 13. Projects they create could be posted on Facebook, with parent knowledge. It would be another way to include the community in virtual school activities. Brilliant!

Benjamin, R. (Producer). (2011, August. 11). Computer Ethics: Online Privacy [Web Video]. Retrieved from

O’Byrne, W. (2012, March 19). [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Ohler, J. (2010). Digital community, digital citizen. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.

Ohler, J. (Producer). (2014, Feb. 03). MOOC spr2014 digital footprint [Web Video]. Retrieved from

Importance of Education Mission Statements and Digital Citizenship

Terry Pickeral, Co-director of the National School Climate Council, answers, “why is a mission statement important?”

Adaptation or creation of focusing elements, like mission statements and mottos, will inform supporting elements like character education in order to develop digital citizenship awareness in education.

We’ve been seeing mission statements for years. These tired pieces of paper tucked away, dog-eared and yellowed can’t be important, right? This must be an idea from yesterday’s schools. In fact, leaders in industries around the world do rely on mission and vision statements. A current article on the business website, Sitepoint, underscores the need for a mission statement. Its purpose is to synthesize the reason for being, give focus to the institution, ease the decision-making process, and hold the institution accountable. With this in mind, it is clear that an educational institution that does not review their mission annual and publish it for all to see doesn’t understand the purpose of a mission statement and is not a serious and dynamic educational institution.

A 21st century mission statement, distilled by all stakeholders, can easily include digital citizenship as part of the core focus. In my opinion, digital citizenship must be included in 21st century education. To ignore the inclusion of technology is not only backward, but serves to eliminate a core element of education. It would be akin to leaving out Reading, Writing or Rithmetic. In our reading of Digital Community, Digital Citizen this week, and in our discussion board, the idea of adding the words “global” or “digital” to mission statements was discussed. I accept the point that current mission statements can easily be adapted to include digital citizenship. But I don’t endorse the practice of arbitrarily throwing in 21st century words to mission statements. Too many districts create and adjust mission statements in order to check-it-off-the-list as opposed to making a meaningful adaptation in order to change a philosophy, or a way of doing business.

Part of the problem of changing words in a mission statement “for show,” was addressed in the Two Camps video on YouTube.  One camp is the “old school” leaders who think what we have done in the past applies to current practices. Frankly, I don’t understand how this camp is still encouraged in this day and age. Their existence contributes to this backward way of thinking that in education, we should just leave well enough alone. I was speaking to a colleague this week who felt that the number one job of education is to teach language arts. The second priority, he felt was that students should graduate being technically literate. After that is the instruction of math skills. If we look at education through this lens, expectations for graduation and for high stakes testing look a lot different than what we are doing in education now. Why are we still looking at education the same way we did in the 1950s? Why are we still looking at the inclusion of technology as an add-on? Why are we still letting teachers opt in or out of using technology in their classrooms? I question the ethics of the decision that instruction of a key component of 21st century education is an option.

Gregory, A. (2010, Nov. 13). Why you need to write a mission statement. Retrieved from

Ohler, J. (2010). Digital community, digital citizen. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.

Ohler, J. (Producer). (2014, Jan. 8). Two Camps When It Comes to Digital Ethics [Web Video]. Retrieved from

Pickeral, T. (Producer). (2009, May 29). Why is a mission statement important? [Web Video]. Retrieved from

The Next Generation of ISTE Standards

Researching the Saugus Iron Works

Years ago, a community called the International Society for Technology in Education  (ISTE) formed to advocate for students. This group came together to take on the role as steward for technology standards for the world of education. Key players in this organization come from every corner of education. Since 1979, ISTE advocates for the seamless integration of technology into education by funding the effort with countless volunteers hours and many annual hours. As time and technology have changed, so have the ISTE standards. They have evolved from being software and hardware specific to ensuring specific uses of technology in education. This change mirrors the shift to a web 2.0 mentality. Wesley Fryer reports for the Interactive Educator. His reporting is an example of countless similar sentiments, “Accessing and using information available online is just the starting point for digital literacy in the 21st century.” He also cites an interesting hockey analogy by the former Maine governor and principal architect of the Maine Technology Learning Initiative, Angus King. “Gretzky was once asked how he was able to score so many goals. He answered that he always skated to where the puck was going to be instead of skating, like everyone else, to where the puck actually was.” When we think of the next generation of ISTE standards, we need to imagine where technology will go and address the standards in that manner.

The next generation of ISTE standards cannot be linked to specific technology, software, or hardware. Technology changes too fast. Too many people have license to create and distribute technology, which is a good thing. New standards need to envelope creativity and collaboration. “Of specific importance is how to manage learning in the digital domain so that we can help students become lifelong learners who develop perceptions, perspectives, and habits of mind that will allow them to navigate the Digital Age creatively and critically – creatically, as I like to call it. (Ohler, p. 6). I don’t know if I like the new portmanteau very well, but I suppose someone has to be thinking of those!

Many of my colleagues, in our google discussion also seem to agree that creativity needs to be a fundamental aspect of the future ISTE standards. If we are preparing students to be successful in the future, it makes sense to look at business and industry to find out what they expect their fresh faces by their water coolers to come prepared with, whether this be literal coolers or virtual. Harvard compiled a list of skills that successful employees of the future will need based on hundreds of interviews of corporate leaders from all industries from around the world. These skills boil down to problem solving, collaboration, flexibility, initiative, communication, analysis and imagination. Doesn’t it make sense to pair our education standards with those of the industries that will be employing our graduates?

For now, it’s not going to be easy to meet the new Alaska Standards and thoroughly embed ISTE standards to ensure our education system produces digitally literate graduates. There are terrific examples of how some schools are getting it done. Ferryway School in Malden, Massachusetts, collaborated on a terrific project researching the Saugus Iron Works. It took a team of educators to accomplish fantastic results. I imagine, they had complete support of the leaders in their school and district to make this happen. The issue of leadership and the critical need of their support will be saved for another discussion.

Fryer, W. (2005, Autumn). The digital face of 21st century curriculum. interactive educator, 1(2), 24-28. Retrieved from

Nichols, J. R. (2013, March 4). How to prepare students for 21st century survival. Retrieved from

Ohler, J. (2010). Digital community, digital citizen. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.