Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bully Mapping

There are times when I blog when I wonder about the consequences of what I “put out there” and how it may be perceived. There are also times when I feel like I’m getting thoughts out that may be incomplete or are in need of additional information. I try to explain to others about the nature of a blog not being a completist publication event. It is the spark, the impetus, if you will, for creating a conversation, not just the delivery of information. So please know, when I write what I’ve written here, it’s just that: a conversation starter. There are many implications and many holes to fill in, but the actions must begin.


I just read the most amazing blog post about bullying at summer camp and what one camp director did to begin to remedy the situation. YOU CAN READ THAT POST HERE.

One of the excellent ideas that the author wrote about was the concept of “sociograms.” The author describes them as “a social map of [a counselor’s] cabin twice per four-week session, to show which campers are ‘in’ and who’s being left out. On day five of each session, every camper fills out a questionnaire, which asks, among fun stuff like favorite activities, if anyone has made them feel unsafe.”

This resonated with me big time. This is a specific act that teachers can take to start curbing bullying at school. My mapping alarm went off. We can direct a path to our intended destination with just a few considerate and reflective moments of time.

When we map curriculum, we think first of evidence, then actions and tasks to get to that evidence. I think the same process would work for our work around antibullying efforts in schools.

This author gave me an idea that I’m calling RAP: Responsibilities, Actions, and Proof. (It relates to curriculum mapping: Content, Skills, Assessment.) If “RAP” is too convivial or contrived an acronym, use whatever you want to call it; but identify your action plan.

What are the Responsibilities around preventing bullying:

  • Conversation with students
  • Awareness of the outsiders
  • Monitoring of places where bullying could happen
  • Personal interactions
(Funny that those create an acronym: CAMP. That was the seed of this blog post!)

What are the Actions needed to stop bullying:
  • Knowing who the outsiders are and planning for specific actions to bring them in.
  • Keeping track of who is on the inside and who is on the outside.
  • Specifically addressing those who exclude others for any reason.
  • Creating a written plan/policy for those who bully others, and enforce it.
  • Getting personal with all students and using their individual interests to guide progress in creating and maintaining appropriate relationships.

What is the Proof that our plan is working:
  • Surveys of students that specifically address bullying, dignity, and safety
  • Personal interactions with stories of success
  • Observing students previously challenged integrated with peer groups
  • Reduction in the incidence of reported bullying episodes
  • Overall positive school culture as evidenced by preceding proof

Additionally, I think some attention should be paid, especially as kids get older, to online bullying episodes and actions being specifically addressed with proof something was done. Part of this means preventative measures including teaching students about internet safety, information literacy, and digital footprints.

I think too, it would be easy for this to turn into “bully tracking,” which is not what I’m suggesting. There may be some elements to self-fulfilling prophecies being fulfilled if we first identify someone as a bully or victim and then, perhaps subconsciously, treat them in a way that could enable behaviors that they would not have otherwise exhibited.

This is about observing who is in or out, identifying places where bullying could happen and being visible in those areas, how to bring everyone to the table, and creating a safe environment at school. “Bully Mapping” is about the plan for curbing behaviors that lead to bullying, the action triggers. If we want to prevent bullying, then we have to be mindful of the behaviors that precede it and quell those before the actions escalate.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Snapshot of a Modern Learner

Santos is not an enigma, but he is misunderstood.

Santos sends approximately 125 texts per day. He sneaks his phone into his classes either in his book bag or his jacket and is online just about all day. He posts messages to Facebook during class. He looks up answers to definitions of words online. He checks sports scores, plays games, posts his location so his friends can find him easily, and streams music through an app on his phone.

His teachers use technology as an event. Outside of school, he doesn’t separate technology from other activities. For him, it is air or water, something that he doesn’t really think about because it’s always available.

Santos opens books and is frustrated when he can’t click on the words or pictures for more information. Santos listens to his teachers lecture, feeling strange that he can’t pause, rewind, fast-forward, or have anytime access to the information. When his teachers have trouble with technology or web tools, Santos often helps them. He knows how to bypass his school’s internet filter and often helps his teachers access Youtube videos to aid in instruction.

His History teacher recently assigned a project that culminated with a Power Point presentation on one of six topics within the upcoming unit. Santos and his group were told specifically what to include in the project: a map of the country they were studying, a statement about the economic impact of the country’s current drought situation, definitions for 8 words from the textbook, and at least 4 images depicting life in that country.

If you ask Santos what he DID for his History project, he can articulate every detail. If you ask what he learned, he recites the definitions to a couple of the words he defined. When asked to give an example, he falters. Santos participates in school as if it were a giant check-off list. He’s not necessarily always learning at school, but he is always DOING something. When he finishes one task, he moves on to another. He does okay, though. His grades are better when he’s interested in what he is doing at school, and marginal when he’s disinterested. Unfortunately, that happens more and more often as he gets older.

When Santos is assigned a big task at school, he goes home and creates a Facebook group around it. He shares what he finds on the topic with others and they share back. He creates his own opportunities for collaborative learning. His teachers don’t know about this.

Santos knows where to find information. He does not necessarily discern what information is relevant and he doesn’t necessarily know what he needs to learn from the information. But he knows where it lives: everywhere. He is more likely to find and copy information without attribution than he is to connect ideas and create something new from it.

His parents think he would make a good lawyer or doctor. Santos thinks he would be really good at developing Augmented Reality programs or designing nanocircuitry that would enable the creation of incredibly small computing devices. He learns about these things at night on his own. He told the Career and Technology teacher at his school what he was learning. The teacher handed him plans for a canned cardboard rocket project.

Santos is connected to kids in China, England, Germany, and Australia, and he doesn’t think about distances or time when he interacts. The interactions are both synchronous and asynchronous. If he doesn’t understand what one of the other kids says, he translates the language with an online tool so that they can effectively communicate. He is connected to these kids because of a mutual interest in nanocircuitry. They regularly share ideas and sketches and critique and revise each other’s work. He found them through a message board online. Several weeks ago, they all sat in on a webinar that was broadcast from Mumbai, India on the topic of “Nanotubes.” Santos did this at 3:00 in the morning, lying in bed with his laptop.

Santos is a good kid. He accepts the role he has at school, like most of the other kids, and like most of the other kids, Santos thinks that school is largely a time machine.  He leaves his world and goes back in time at 7:30 AM Monday through Friday. At 3:30 PM, he re-enters his world.

Kids like Santos are reverse pioneers, navigating worlds that everyone older than them values. Santos recognizes that the topics that he is really interested in are largely blocked or ignored at school. He thinks it’s funny that he goes to school to learn a few things that he will be tested on, but don’t really represent his current or future worlds. Santos believes he learns more outside of school than he does inside of school.

Instructional nostalgia doesn’t count for kids like Santos. His teachers can’t dismantle his reality to maintain comfort in their professional practice. His teachers are going to have to embrace all that modern learning means, though, act on it with purpose, and make technology as ubiquitous as a pencil. Right now, Santos is not being adequately prepared for the world he will graduate into, at least in school. His teachers mean well, but Santos knows that they are accountable for specific content, delivered in ways to help him maximize his score on state assessments, which leaves little time for anything that would matter to him in a meaningful way.

That’s why he stays up late at night to learn about nanocircuitry, with a worldwide cadre of like-minded peers.

Santos knows that technology doesn’t move backwards. However, he is constrained by a system that is more frightened by the “what ifs” rather than the magnificence of the “what could be.”

Technology doesn’t wait until everyone is ready for it. It is innovation. If kids like Santos will become the future innovators, then they need opportunities to innovate with the tools and technology of tomorrow, not yesterday.

-Michael Fisher
Mike on Twitter

*Image remixed from users Caito and Chux, and includes an original quote.

Originally published at Smart Blogs: