SafeBook – How to be Safe on Facebook Infographic

How do you stay safe on Facebook, and other Social Media sites?  This is an essential question that many are asking, hoping to avoid cyber-bullying, identity theft and loss of privacy.  Yesterday, I found this excellent infographic that simply explains some of the key attitudes and behaviours that everyone should use when setting up and interacting on Facebook.  The infographic was designed by Fuzion, a marketing and PR design company that wanted to help educate students on how to use Facebook safely and easily.

Safebook%20-%20online%20guidelines

The Fuzion team have provided this excellent infographic that clearly outlines the best practices and usage of a social media tools like Facebook, with insightful advice, helpful settings, and excellent strategies for dealing with bullies!  They also have some strong advice for parents and teachers, and how they can be involved to help make Facebook and Social Media safer and friendlier for everyone.  There specific advice for parents is:

We owe it to our kids to show them how to:

  • Set up their personal accounts properly

  • Maintain their privacy settings

  • Connect with “friends” safely

  • Think about what they post

  • Post appropriately

  • Spot and deal with inappropriate behaviour

  • “Unfriend” and Block certain users

  • Report Bullying

If you would like to use this poster in your classroom, and to share with your students, parents and wider community, please, visit this page here, as they have a larger PDF version you can print out.  Thanks Fuzion for this wonderful tool that can help educate and make Facebook Safebook!

How can we all help to end Bullying? (Cyber or Not!)

Please see this cbc news  article to learn the heartbreaking story of Amanda, a young woman whose bullying tragically led to her taking her own life.

I, like many of you, have been very upset with the news of Amanda’s passing.   She struggled with horrible, inexcuseable bullying, and she took her own life rather than face her tormentors anymore.  She tried changing schools, she tried making new friends, yet, her bullies followed her online and continued to make her life a living hell.  What did Amanda do to deserve any of this?  Nothing.  No student ever deserves any of these attacks, nor insults, nor mental and physical abuse.    Amanda wanted to live her life, to enjoy this world, to make friends and to feel good about herself.  Why would any student want to take that away from her?  How could this have gone on for so long and led to such a tragic ending?  What can we do to help end this so no one else has to go through what Amanda has?

We all need to step up and confront bullying WHENEVER and WHEREVER we see it.  If you see someone bullying someone else in the hallway or the street, STAND UP.  Tell them its not ok!  If you see the same bullying done online, STAND UP, help them, confront the bully and let them know it is NOT OK to bully anyone else.  We can’t turn a blind eye, we can’t just tell them to “Stick up for yourself”.  We need to all come together and really STAND UP when we see bullying.  It is not something we should condone, or allow to happen in our presence, online or offline!

PARENTS and EDUCATORS:

We need to role-model and monitor our students, not just in school, but out of school.  There is a saying that many people are familiar with, that “it takes a whole village to raise a child”.  We all have a role to play in guiding and monitoring our students and children, and it needs to happen wherever we are!  We cannot standby and abdicate the online world and let students run around without any guidance, supervision, or role-models online.  We need to be online with our students and our children.  We need to stop and confront students and children when they are misbehaving!  We have no problem doing this in shared public spaces like malls, libraries, or other community centers.  Why do we not do the same online, in Social Media?  Why do students have free reign to privately do whatever they want on Facebook and other social networks?  Why do parents avoid connecting with their children online?  Why are teachers so afraid of role-modelling appropriate citizenship in online environments?  If we, as parents and educators don’t teach students how to behave well in these online (and offline) environments who will?

If you are a PARENT:

  • befriend your child on Facebook and other Social Networks. Use your account to keep an eye on their activities.  Would you let your child take your car without first going over all the safety information and rules, and lots of practice with you, in the car?  Why would online social media be any different?
  •  Ask them to signin in front of you, show you what they’ve been doing and saying online.  Demonstrate to your children what friendly, respectful behaviour looks like online.  Talk to them about what you are seeing in their “news feed” that is innapropriate, or dangerous!  Communicate often about whats happening in their own social networks.
  • talk to your children about the permanent nature of anything online and how anything they put online will be there forever!  There is no ‘delete’ on the internet!
  • Ask your child if they have been bullied online.  Talk about resources and strategies that they can do to help it stop!  (see the Cyber-bullying page)

If you are an EDUCATOR:

  • There is no question, you need to be involved in new social media tools as a professional.  Its time for you to become familiar with these environments. If you saw bullying in the schoolyard, you would stop it immediately. If you saw bullying at your local mall, or dairy queen, you would stop it immediately.  Educators NEED to be online with students.  We have an obligation to teach proper behaviour no matter what the environment.  To pretend its not our place is to abandon our most needy students.  The ones that have no one to stick up for them. If Educators cannot lead the way on proper social media usage, who will?  We cannot let students have a private club online with no adult supervision. We are starting to see the results of our abdication so far.
  • This does not mean we need to cross personal boundaries.  Consider setting up a professional Facebook account for interacting with students.  Use it to role-model and to supervise.  Let students know that they have adults in their social network. They are not hidden away anymore.  They have to be responsible for their online activity.
  • Use Social Media in your classes!  Students need a safe, supervised environment in order to learn!  We need to create these safe spaces online that encourage respectful, polite and friendly connections.  Students need feedback on their behaviour to learn.  Students need instruction on what is appropriate or not.  Students need discpline when they cross the line.  We can’t continue pretending that students are not on these tools, or are invisible when online.  We need to teach them.

If we all seriously look at social media and online environments as extensions to our communities, not seperate spaces, we can begin to demonstrate safe, responsible and respectful usage of these new tools.  If we don’t take the time to learn and teach students and children how to interact online without bullying, we will have so many more problems in the future.

Amanda, I’m so sorry we all let you down.  I will think of you and your experience often, and I hope that your legacy will amount to a genuine change in how we teach children and students how to be better citizens, online or offline.  We will all miss you Amanda.

Who does “Google” think you are?

We have all been warned that our Social Media profiles and online activities through sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus keep track of where we go, what we look at, what we click on, and who we interact with, but its easy to dismiss this “profiling” when it is not very apparent or visible.  Ever wondered why that advertising on your Google search was targeted at exactly the things you like and buy?

Have you ever wondered what kind of “profile” google has created about you?  Well you can  see your advertising “Catagories” and your assumed “Demographics” by clicking on this link:

http://t.co/hSxzJaPf

Its a very insightful experience to say the least.  Now, in order to deconstruct what these “Categories” and “Demographics” are saying, let me share my “profile” for you to see:

Click on image to “embiggen”

As you can see from this image, Google has correctly identified me as a “Male” and although I won’t turn 35 until later this year, they were pretty close to my current age.  Google definitely figured out exactly where I live in the world, and is thus able to target advertising directly at me from local companies in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

The “Categories” that Google has identified as my “key interests” are very insightful!  I think that they have created an accurate ‘picture’ of what I am most interested in, and what topics I am most likely to engage in online.  You can see that I like Movies, Online Video, K-12 Education, Technology, People and Society, and Libraries!  If you knew me in person, you would most definitely agree with this online google “profile”.

What is helpful to note, is that by accessing your own Google Profile, you can “Remove or Edit” any of these categories or demographics at anytime, if you knew about it!  So, please, get informed about your online Google Profile!  If you want to learn more about maintaining your online privacy, there are many other tools and strategies that you can employ to keep yourself from being “targeted” through strategies like google page.    Please see this page to learn how to “Opt out of Everything Online” to remove any profiles or targeted advertising!

Stay informed, and stay in control of your online identity!

Students WANT Social Media!

There is no doubt that Social Media is quickly embedding itself into all aspects of our 21st century lives.  We are increasingly looking at new ways of connecting online, using technology to bridge time and distance that keeps up apart.  This is no different in Schools, where students are desperate to find and use Social Media tools, and to further develop their skills and knowledge on how to best use these new tools and communication avenues.  Many of the tools we explore help students search, find, connect, produce and then share their experiences, knowledge and understanding! So why not at school?

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) is described as “an educational leadership organization dedicated to advancing best practices and policies for the success of each learner. Our 150,000 members in more than 145 countries are professional educators from all levels and subject areas––superintendents, supervisors, principals, teachers, professors of education, and school board members.” They have produced this amazing infographic that outlines the many different ways that Students want to, and already are, using Social Media! (click to embiggen)

An introduction to Google Plus!

Have you heard about Google Plus?

Google Plus is a new Social Networking tool that the engineers at Google have put together!  It was designed from the ground up to be more secure, private, and easy to use and share your stuff through!  While it has been in “Invite-Only” mode for the last 2 months, they just opened it up for anyone and everyone to sign up. (http://plus.google.com to sign up)

Why should you check out a new social network?  Whats wrong with the ones you use now? (Facebook / Twitter) Well, Google Plus (or G+) is meant to keep your private info, well, private!  You have to actively choose to share your information or posts.  You can connect with lots and lots of people *(like on twitter), but they don’t automatically get access to your private posts or photos that you share only with friends and family.  It is also easily intergrated into other google services, like Gmail, or Gdocs, or Gcalendar.  So, if you are already a Google user, than Google Plus will fit right in.  If you are interested, I highly recommend you check out this short video introduction I made to see how it basically works and how you can start building your circles!

My top 6 reasons why I love and use Social Media!

Today I wanted to share with the readers of this blog my top 6 reasons why I am so pleased with social media as a tool for Educators!  I have been teaching now for over 7 years, and 6 of these have been teaching part-time as an “online” or distance educator.  Throughout these formative years, I have struggled, as all new teachers do, with figuring out what Educating is all about.  I have sought like-minded Educators in my district, attended many Professional Development workshops, and collaborated with my peers at the school level.  This has allowed me to grow and develop as an educator, which I value very much.  The one concern I had over these developing years was how difficult or how time consuming this was.  Collaboration happens just a couple of times through the year, Professional Development only offered 5 days in a school year. Conferences were typically expensive, far away and did not cover the curriculum I taught my students.

With the development of Social Media, especially Twitter, I have had more Professional Development in the last 6 months than the last 6 years!  I have ‘met’ more like-minded Educators, worked collaboratively with people from all over North America, have been able to virtually “attend” conferences that were far away through backchannels and have expanded my understanding and knowledge greatly!  How did I do this?  By spending about 30 mins a day on twitter, reading the stream, clicking interesting links and by finding other like-minded Educators to ‘follow’.  

I have found new ideas and strategies to try.  I have been inspired by what others have been able to achieve.  I have been helped by people I’ve never met in person, but have communicated with often.  So, what are my top 6 reasons why I use Social Media?

  • Equality – Twitter and other Social Media is very flat.  You can communicate, follow, and converse with anyone else on the medium.  This has allowed me to dialogue with Trustees, Superintendents, CIO’s, Politicians, and other important people that make up my ‘community’.
  • Collaboration – Got a good idea?  Share it and see who else wants to contribute and have access to the final product!  Twitter and other social media has allowed me to find fellow online English educators, as well as others to share challenges, pitfalls, success, and dreams.  It becomes easy to network and work together with other web 2.0 tools.
  • Discussion and Debate – The weekly #edchat discussions and debates on twitter allow Educators and anyone else interested to talk about issues we all face.  What works?  What doesn’t?  What can you do to help your school?  What should districts do to support their educators? Each week there is a new topic to debate and discuss with hundreds of participants and points of view.
  • Better than Expensive Conferences – There has been a recent trend of conferences for educators becoming very expensive.  Coupled with travel and accommodations, Educators are quickly priced out of attending such conferences.  Social Media lets me attend pro-d EVERY SINGLE DAY.  You never know what you’re going to learn when you jump on twitter for 10 minutes in the morning!
  • International Community – Social Media can help “tear down that wall” as Ronald Regan once said during the Cold War.  My community of Educators is truly international, with many voices coming from all over North and South America, Europe, Australia and other countries.  With developments in real-time translation from Google Translate, this is going to grow and expand, as it won’t be hindered with language difficulties any longer!  Star trek technology? Nope, its here today.
  • Local Community – Twitter and other Social Media tools have allowed me to explore and connect with other Educators located right in my backyard!  Apart from the teachers at my local school, it was difficult to find other Educators in my district who are working on really cool ideas and strategies.  Through twitter I am able to connect with educators from around Vancouver, the Lower Mainland, and the Province, allowing me to get a sense of what’s happening in lots of other districts.  Together, we can all ‘rise the tide’ of BC Education!

I hope my exploration of the reasons why I love Social Media so much as an Educator and a Professional have helped you understand why it’s important to try these new tools.  Just like the telegraph, the telephone, the television and other important technological developments have changed the way we interconnect, these tools are paradigm shifting, truly creating a flat, fair and fun landscape for 21st Century Educators!

Got another reason why Social Media is good?  Participate in the discussion by adding your thoughts below!



To Block, or not to Block, that is the Question!

Should Schools Block Social Media?

This is a huge issue in the education world right now, with teachers, students, administration, support services, IT departments and researchers offering advice and suggestions on how best to move forward on the issue of Social Media in schools. This post will try to frame the issue in a way that explains its importance, best-practice and larger perspective to help us make the best decisions which are guided under the premise of “helping our students prepare for the world they are going to inherit and assume”.

Everyone who is involved with the education world has some input or suggestions on how to address this issue in their learning environments. Traditionally, and specifically in our School District, Vancouver, we had blocked the use of Social Media (Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Ning, etc). Now, changes have been made, and many of these sites are now open and available to students. This was the result of our new Superintendent and his vision of the new information based world our students are going to graduate into.

From some perspectives, it makes a lot of sense to block these sites, as some studies have shown increased productivity among students, as they would stay more on task if the distractions are removed. While there is some merit to this, I think that ultimately, we need to teach children how to succeed in a world full of distractions, as they will be suffering much greater consequences later in life if they have not learned the importance of self-regulation (fired from job).  Students need to learn the art of moderation while still in a safe environment with low consequences.  We do not want to graduate students who are not mature, empowered or enabled into the adult world, as they will end up falling on their faces, and making much more dire mistakes.  Education is essentially about preparing our students to be independent, enabled and empowered, not dependent on outside mechanisms for self-regulation. 

A different perspective would be to look at the act of filtering as a political act that in effect censors students from free and unfettered access to information. If a school board decides to block a critical website, or resources that they may not agree with, is that representative of a democratic society? Because there might be critical groups on facebook, does that mean the entire platform should be blocked?  School districts should be non-partisan, open, and reflective of the larger democratic world that we all appreciate and enjoy.  We do need services to block information that is harmful (pornography, malware, virii, etc), but that can be and is done effectively by the Provincial Learning Network, the larger, province wide filtering system.

Another angle to look at this is through the eyes of resource preservation. Bandwidth is a finite commodity and if it is all used up with youtube videos and facebook surfing, there would not be enough left for more school based research or other academic focused activities. This exact issue has come up in other formats previously. In most school libraries, there are a few select resources that are always being taken out (Guinness book of World Records, Harry Potter series, Twilight series, etc). Now, when Teacher-Librarians noticed this increase in use, they took special measures to make sure these resources could be made more available to all. They bought more copies (increased bandwidth), they created wait-lists (queuing) and they put the books in the reserve section (cache-ing). They did everything they could to keep these popular resource in circulation for most students. Why shouldn’t this approach be used with the most popular internet sites?  Using this library analogy, blocking social media sites because of their popularity would be the equivalent of removing the most widely read and used books from our school libraries.   We need to adequately fund our district infrastructure so that we can provide these information based resources to our students.

Finally, I think the most important angle to examine this issue is through the lens of preparing our students for the world they will inherit.  Students are using Social Media now, on their own smart-phones, on school computers, at internet cafes, on their friend’s computers and at home.  They are interacting with friends, family, other students, corporations, organizations, and other groups.  Many students are making catastrophic mistakes, posting inappropriate material, losing jobs and employment opportunities, and alienating themselves from other social groups, BECAUSE they have not been taught how to safely and properly use Social Media.  If we continue to ignore the social media usage, assuming students “know what to do”, then we, as educators and parents, are letting them down.  It is our job to teach how, what, where, when and why about Social Media.  If we don’t, who will?

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