MySpace Sued By 4 Families Of Abused Children

Four families with young daughters who were abused, molested or raped by someone they met on MySpace have filed suits against News Corporation (who owns MySpace). These are tragic examples of the real dangers that online communication tools can facilitate. Having had hours of discussions with parents, students, administrators and colleagues about the dangers of social networking sites, these stories make the dangers startlingly real.

Trying to think about this in a balanced way, I wonder how fair it is to hold MySpace responsible for these young women meeting these awful men. Yes, they used MySpace. But didn’t they also use computers, web browsers, phones, cars, the subway, public places like restaurants, parks and more to meet? Are they all to blame? Is this the same as overweight people suing McDonald’s? It is very difficult to understand who is at fault here. Who is liable? In the end does it actually matter, these girls have already suffered, and there is no recovery. On a forum on Slashdot someone suggested the parents be charged with negligence. Is there really anyone to blame other than the criminals?

Most often I tell families that the dangers are real. They must deal with that. It is however much more rare than one might realize. The overwhelming majority of perpetrators of sexual violence against children are victims’ parents. Read this great article highlighting the data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It’s also important to note that 79% of reported online abuse occurred at home.

The conclusion of the article really summed it up well,
The question is, “Are we going to take a “zero risk” approach to using technology and the tools of the Web?”

We don’t take a “zero risk” approach with our sports programs where the chance of injury, paralysis, and, in rare cases, death, is always present. We don’t take that approach with field trips where students travel to museums and historical sites in locations where they might be touched by crime. We don’t take that approach with recess on our playgrounds, or transporting our kids to and from school.

We can never eliminate all risk; but there are ways to maximize our students’ safety while using these incredibly powerful tools. Each tool needs to be analyzed individually to ascertain its benefits and the specific risks it might present. From there, thoughtful people can find solutions to the student safety issues that may arise.

As educational leaders we need to be safety conscious. We need to be prudent, reasonable; but we won’t live in fear and we won’t act from fear.

It is by opening doors, not closing them that we create new possibilities for our children and new futures for ourselves.

Would love to hear your thoughts, and how your school or home is responding to the sensational media coverage.

p.s. In other conspiracy theories, doesn’t network television have a vested interest in having parents be afraid of the Internet? It keeps the kids watching TV instead of YouTube when the parents take away the computer. I know that one is way out there, but had to toss it in the mix.

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Happy New Year!

Happy new year to all. I had a wonderful time traveling through Spain and Morocco and my christmas present took some unbelievable photos (evidence below). I have been learning so much about photography from the Digital Photography School blog and the Photojojo blog. Never thought I could learn so much about photography by reading blogs. Will my online professional development ever end? Let’s hope not.

This week has been busy with Winterim, a one-week period where teachers get to try out experimental courses with students. I am teaching Internet radio broadcasting to twelve 8th graders. They have put on two great shows and tomorrow is their final show. They are on live at 12:30pm EST (17:30 GMT) tomorrow January 11, 2007. Tune in to the chatroom and channel 1 at Webcast Academy.

I’ll get back to blogging soon. 2007, here we go…

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See You In 2007

I’m finally putting my report cards aside. I’m going to spend some time not thinking about educational technology for as long as possible. I’m headed to Spain and Morocco to do some backpacking. I can’t totally put aside the technology though as I pack my digital camera, memory cards, travel adapters, chargers, CD-R’s, USB card reader etc. During last year’s India trip I took similar equipment. This time I’m not taking a laptop though as I am only carrying one backpack. No room for extras. Just enough clothes to make it and a guidebook to pick my next destination.

I picked up a new digital SLR camera, the Canon Digital Rebel XTI. I am a bit of a photo snob, and I love my digital point and shoot (Panasonic Lumix). But this camera takes photos to a whole new level. I am amazed at my initial shots. I sprung for a decent prime lens which is giving me some great results.

I will be abroad for new years, but hope to try and tune in to some of the Worldbridges New Years Webcastathon. Some great voices will be broadcasting around the clock, so tune in when you can. If I have access to Skype I might try and jump in from a Spanish Internet cafe.

Happy holidays and happy new year everyone. See you in 2007.

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Teachers Need Objectives

Want to be a great teacher? Then know what learning objectives are.

I recently listened to the wonderful Geek

netcast #48 where they discussed the confusion of teachers wanting to learn technology tools rather than how to use them with their students. They discussed the existence of a class called “Microsoft Word”—their response, Microsoft Word is not a class, it is a tool! Of course I agree.

Randy (a friend from Teachers College“) writes on Results Now, Mike Schmoker’s new book. Randy quotes, “In most cases, neither teachers nor students can articulate what they are supposed to be learning that day.” This sums it all up. Students are dying to know what is expected, what is coming. We should tell them, and let explore it in the most powerful ways possible – give the access to the Internet, to the library, to local experts to graduated cylinders to dictionaries…to whatever they need.

I am tired of the discussions on what tools we need to train teachers on. Our training models are too slow for that technique. By the time we’ve trained, that is out, and students are on to new things. We need to be training our teachers on how to plan lessons properly, how to communicate the objectives to students, and how to facilitate an exploration of the concepts at hand. They need to be prepared to have students bring in tools that work for them. Yes, using Facebook might just be the best way to plan your next community service project. Deal with it. Heck, embrace it. Why not? Your students are going to with or without you.

Sorry for the rant. Lay out the objectives and see how much closer your students will be to achieving them. Don’t try to trick them into getting there, it will surely land you short of your goals.

My next post should be on how tech integrators fit into this picture (since you are my main readers). I am working on it.

Participatory Conference

This year’s NYSAIS Tech Conference was professionally thrilling for me. I had a slight advantage over most attendees though, as I got to plan the conference blog. On 21st Century Learning (my weekly webcast), Alex and I interviewed Bill Fitzgerald to figure out how to use the free software Drupal to power our conference blog. Listen to that interview here:
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Planning a blog for technologists and librarians who come from the high-tech world of New York independent schools was a challenge. I had two main goals for the site: 1) allow people to explore web 2.0 technologies and 2) make the conference (and site) a more collaborative experience.

I think the blog was fairly successful. Before the conference started I sent out an e-mail to all the registrants and the New York City technologists asking them to register for the site, and try out some of the “homework” assignments I posted. The assignments were to get people using the tools, hands on. Most didn’t try the site until they got to the conference, but then traffic really took off. I think the blog will have a lot of use going forward for the New York City tech community who hosted it, but it will take a concerted effort (like anything worthwhile) to keep it going. I do believe it is in all of our best interests though – I’d like to see it blossom into an online extension of our already vibrant group. Our last show covered how the site works, so take a listen here:
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Results of the homework: our photo gallery, our blog posts (internal or external) and our bookmarks.

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Raucous First Day at NYSAIS Conference

The first day was overwhelming to say the least. I showed people the new conference blog site and talked about how to blog, post photos, and share bookmarks. People really latched on to it and are making the site an incredible resource and online meeting place. During the sessions I had the chat room projected up at the front of the room and it was flying by. Really exciting stuff. Catch the podcast of Rob Darrow here and the Will Richardson/Alan November podcast here. First speaker didn’t know it was up there (last minute call), but Will and Alan latched on and were all for it. We are asking speakers from now on.

I just finished sending out my class coverage information for tomorrow. Now it is time for much needed rest before the exciting media literacy workshop I am attending in the morning. See you in person tomorrow or in the chat room at 5:00pm.

My room at this instant:

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NY Tech Conference - Be There Remotely or Personally

The NYSAIS technology conference starts tomorrow and I couldn’t be more excited. I think this is my fifth year attending, but who’s counting? It is great to connect with other technologists from around New York – I am always amazed at how bright, energetic and creative these teachers are. If only we all worked in the same school, now that would be fun. Or really nerdy.

This year there are some snazzy new features (if I do say so myself, read on to see why): for one, Alex, myself and the EdTechTalk.com team are going to be live webcasting the keynote speakers. This means if you are going to miss (or not be attending at all) any session, you can listen live. Check the full schedule. While listen, be sure to join the chat room to ask speakers questions remotely. Talk about expanding your audience.

We also decided to create a collaborative conference blog/website. I was inspired by participating in the K12 Online Conference site, and created 3 homework assignments for people to try out before, during or after the conference: try blogging, photo sharing or bookmark sharing, whatever works for you.

This conference is all about collaboration, and the site lets people experiment with great, free collaborative tools. The site also lets non-attendees participate. So whether or not you will be at the conference, please do join us. As we like to say at NYCIST (who is hosting the site), the knowledge is in the group.

If you need someone to talk you through it, Alex and I did a preconference webcast today, so give a listen.

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Sorry For the Duplicate Post - NYSAIS Conference Info On The Way

Sorry that my David Warlick K-12 Online Conference post came up again. Was messing around with my previous post and reposted it. Now I can’t get rid of it!

Oh well. Look this week for my post on the new NYSAIS Tech Conference collaborative blogging post. We are taking our NY state tech conference to the next level – online collaboration for all the attendees and beyond. We will be live broadcasting, blogging, sharing photos, links and more. Stay tuned for more info in the next couple days.

The conference starts Wednesday, so I better be ready before then. Hope you’ll be able to tune in, in some way or the other.

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Watch David Warlick's K12 Online Conference Keynote

I planned to go to bed early tonight after I finished writing my parent-teacher pre-conference writeups. Instead, I started watching David Warlick video keynote address for the K12 Online Conference and I couldn’t stop. As usual, David was spot-on on everything he was talking about and finished his keynote talking about how we all need to be 21st century learners – obviously I liked that since my blog is called 21apples (find out why) and my weekly webcast with Alex Ragone is called 21st Cenutry Learning.

This “conference” is so interesting because it is all going to be conducted online. You can read about it, participate in live events, check out the agenda, see a map of who all is involved, visit/edit the conference wiki and more.

A wonderful opportunity for teachers, technologists and everyone in-between to learn more about technology in education. How can we do it, why should we do it and more. If you want to use the Internet, computers and tech in general in your school, “be at” this conference. You can even get graduate credit for participating in this online conference.

On a side note, David Warlick’s Hitchhikr website will be charting all the blog posts and Flickr pictures connected to this conference.

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Do Students Have To Learn From Experience? Laptops And Students, Oh My!

As a tech director in a 1:1 laptop school I have the opportunity to see a wide range of student treatment of their computers (see picture). We start our program in the 8th grade. In a whirlwind of excitement we do our best to keep students from overloading their computers with questionable software that’s going to inflict spyware, popups and the like onto their machines.

In the most recent drama, some of our pro-Mac students (we use Dell’s) have installed software that makes their Windows machines look just like Mac OS X. They also convinced lots of others to do the same. They soon realized that their hacking around caused a number of functionality issues (like not being able to see their address bar in Internet Explorer). In the process of cleaning up the machines we learned that we had to insert the Windows XP CD to replace missing system files – wow, is this Windows 98 or what? Couldn’t remember the last time I had to insert a XP cd. When installing the software students were asked if they wanted to overwrite “essential operating system files.” What do you think they did? They clicked “yes” to everything. In fact, students who were helping other students made sure to tell them to click yes to everything.

After all our discussions about operating systems, reliable software, etc, at least 10 students (out of 40) took the leap. Did they have to individually learn from from the negative experience? Was there a way as teachers we could have prevented this? Is this just normal teen behavior? Some students certainly don’t take those risks, but is that more about their innate risk-taking or does it have to do with the education they receive? If only the answer were so cut and dry. I think it is a mixture of all these things, but letting older students mentor younger students might be a way to “learn from experience,” even though Peter Senge thinks that doesn’t exist (read his great book). All I know is, we should be able to get better and better from year to year. Less trouble, less of the same mistakes made each year. But we don’t. We are a school, but are we not a learning organization?

Do you have particular grades that go through the same challenge each year? How do you deal with it?

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