I’m really delighted that Nik Peachey is my last guest blogger before I leave for the ISTEK Istanbul conference. Nik will also be at ISTEK.
Nik is an expert in the use of digital tools in language learning and a wonderfully laconic presenter. What is even better is that he starts off his talks saying he really knows nothing about technology – that’s my kind of cyber-expert! 😛
Nik is giving one of the concurrent keynote talks at ISTEK. The really annoying thing is that he and I are presenting at the same time. I won’t be able to see his talk, and he may steal some of my audience.
The good old days before cyber-bullying
I spend most of my day working with technology either training online for Bell, face to face in the classroom at Westminster Uni or writing about and presenting useful technology for teachers at conferences.
Getting teachers to use technology with their students is still a struggle. Understandably there’s still a lot of reluctance from teachers and a lack of understanding from school managers and administrators, and at times conflicting pressures from parents, too. Many teachers find themselves between a rock and a hard place having to cope with conflicting demands and provided with questionable ‘support’ and training and most importantly having to face all the possible consequences of any mistakes.
It’s no surprise then that one of the most frequently asked questions at any presentation or workshop I give is connected to students’ safety and the threats from the very much publicized cyber-bullying and cyber harassment.
Whilst I don’t deny that cyber-bullying happens and can be traumatic for many students I’d like to put this in perspective with a personal story.
In many ways I had an idyllic childhood. I grew up in the country, went to a small village school that had a total of around 50 students and was able to walk the two miles home on my own along the deserted country roads. But it wasn’t so idyllic for a while because, for reasons completely unknown to me, there was a boy a couple of years older who would intercept me every day on the way home, threaten me and punch and kick me.
This went on for a couple of weeks until I finally told someone (another child not an adult) and the situation was sorted out, really quite simply because someone else knew what was going on. Previously there had been no proof or evidence and it would have been the boy’s word against mine. In those days, I anyway wouldn’t have even known who to tell.
So let’s bring this back to the modern age of cyber-bullying and what I tell people when they ask me about it.
The fact is, it is almost impossible to cyber-bully someone without leaving traces. Text messages, emails, comments on profiles etc, all of these digital artifacts exist as evidence.
Secondly, it is very difficult to send a message, comment etc without leaving a trail straight back to the person who sends it, so perhaps this is why there are so many stories about cyber-bullying, because if you are cyber-bullying someone, the chances are that you are going to get caught.
This is all very well, but in an ideal world we would be able to prevent this from happening, so here are some tips:
- Be sure that your students are aware that cyber-bullying is unacceptable and will be dealt with.
- Make sure they know what to do and who to speak to if they feel it is happening to them and make sure that everyone knows that threatening messages can and will be traced.
- Don’t use web-based tools that allow for anonymity so that anyone who interacts with your students through a website has to be registered.
- Make sure students know how they can block messages from people that make them feel uncomfortable.
- Check the websites you use for any built-in tools that may exist for reporting abuses and for blocking and make sure your student know how to use these. Most companies are keen to ensure that the services they provide aren’t abused and will take action to stop anyone who is being a nuisance or potential threat.
- If you can get students to create an email account that they only use for schoolwork, so that if they need to register on a site to use it, they use their school email account rather than their personal one.
- Send a letter home and get permission from parents and make sure they are aware that you are not only using websites with students but that you are also educating them about the dangers.
- And of course make sure that students know that they shouldn’t share personal locations, phone numbers or addresses etc.
The threats that students face online aren’t new and they aren’t going to go away because we take these measures, but it’s not a reason to stop using technology. If anything, it makes the virtual classroom a much safer place to be than the real one. Our students won’t stop using technology just because we don’t use it with them in school, so the best way to deal with it and to protect them and keep them safe is to educate them about the dangers and show them how to deal with the threats.
Ironically, a couple of years ago, as social networking was starting to catch up with my generation and more of my old school friends started to find me on Facebook, I got a friend request from the boy (now almost 50 years old) who used to follow me home and bully me.
It’s strange how some memories don’t go away and I have to say I was a bit curious to see what had become of him and why he thought it was time for us to be friends, but in the end I just clicked on ‘Ignore’ and he was gone.
Nik’s talk at ISTEK is entitled Digital Tools for Digital Literacies.
For those of you hoping to follow the live stream of the ISTEK conference online, you can find details of how to do that on the conference home page – http://elt.istek.org.tr/
Here’s the ISTEK programme. Remember that Istanbul is TWO HOURS ahead of UK time, one hour ahead of Central European time.
The ISTEK programme
Saturday, 2 April
09.45-11.15 Opening Ceremony & Plenary Keynote – Jan Blake
11.15-11.45 Coffee Break
11.45-12.30 Concurrent Keynotes Teresa Doguelli, Gavin Dudeney, Deniz Kurtoglu Eken, David A. Hill, Maureen McGarvey, Luke Meddings, Russell Stannard, Burcu Tezcan Unal, Dede Wilson
14.15-15.00 Coffee Break
15.00-15.45 Concurrent Keynotes (repeat) Teresa Doguelli, Gavin Dudeney, Deniz Kurtoglu Eken, David A. Hill, Maureen McGarvey, Luke Meddings, Russell Stannard, Burcu Tezcan Unal, Dede Wilson
16.00-17.15 Plenary Keynote – Rod Bolitho & Closing
18.30-22.30 Cocktail, Pecha Kucha hosted by Lindsay Clandfield & Karaoke hosted by Ken Wilson at ISTEK Göztepe Sosyal Tesisler (ISG)
Sunday, 3 April
10.00-11.00 Plenary Keynote – Dr Jack C. Richards
11.00-11.30 Coffee Break
11.30-12.15 Concurrent Keynotes David Evans, Eric Baber, Lindsay Clandfield, Mark Griffiths, Ozge Karaoglu, Jamie Keddie, Nik Peachey, Ken Wilson, Andrew Wright
14.00-14.45 Coffee Break
14.45-15.30 Concurrent Keynotes (repeat) David Evans, Eric Baber, Lindsay Clandfield, Mark Griffiths, Ozge Karaoglu, Jamie Keddie, Nik Peachey, Ken Wilson, Andrew Wright
15.45-16.45 Plenary Keynote – Scott Thornbury
16.45-17.15 Closing Ceremony