The January issue of District Administration Magazine has a brief titled “Who’s Keeping Students Safe Online?” (at the bottom of the link) that states this:
Fewer than 25 percent of educators feel comfortable teaching students how to protect themselves from online predators, cyberbullies and identity thieves, says a new study from the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and Educational Technology, Policy Research and Outreach (ET PRO).
I would say that’s a problem. You?
Colin Jagoe says
Yup, that’s a problem. My next question is what percentage of teachers are comfortable keeping THEMSELVES safe online?
It speaks to the level of understanding of many people of the realities of our blended on/offline world.
Robin Ellis says
Teachers don’t talk to students about this saying they haven’t been *trained*, are not comfortable, don’t know what to say. But doesn’t everyone have the conversations with their own children, and if so what is the difference between talking to your students and talking at home?
Will Richardson says
I don’t think these conversations happen at home to often either, Robin. I get the sense that most of the parents of my kids’ friends don’t have much of a sense of what they are doing on the computer.
Anne Marie Rowley says
I agree that many adults do not know what their children are doing online. I also agree that the threat from predators and bullys, while possible is overblown. The discussion should happen on a variety of venues, both at school and especially at home.
I also agree with Colin that many adults are not familiar with how to protect their own privacy online.
It is very sad that all parents have to do is click on the help button and a walkthrough pops up. I think that people are just lazy or have the idea that something bad would never actually happen to them. It’s sad to think there are people like that. As far as teachers not showing students’ how to be safe… that is an injustice on the teachers’ part. If a child is abused we have to tell by law, but prevention is the key to stopping abuse.
Jared Ward says
The difference between what we teach our children and what we teach our students is legal liability, perceived or real. Those in a position of trust are expected to know what they are talking about when they start talking.
Also, those who assume that every teacher has children who are young enough to need guidance on the internet (or children at all) are assuming too much. I am in my 30’s, nearing my 10th year of teaching, and never had a conversation with my parents, who are younger than some of the teachers I work with, about internet safety because it wasn’t invented until I was in college.
The ability to share information on the internet is a relatively new development and one that many of our students don’t understand, on that I think we can agree. My point is that the things we should know how to do because we are parents, members of a community, or however we want to phrase it, should never be thought to be a substitute for real and effective training. I have a website, a blog, email, etc. but that doesn’t necessarily qualify me to teach web design or internet safety. If teachers giving instruction on internet safety is a priority, then teachers should be trained by the group that feels it is a priority, whether it is the school, the district, the state, or the nation. How much longer will it be before this question is answered?
Here’s just one more example where education is light years behind the times. It should have nothing to do with formal safety training (But I agree with you that it does). If technology was being utilized in schools and by teachers the way it should be, internet safety would be mere common sense to adults.
Does anyone have to train us to look both ways before crossing the street, or lock our homes when we leave for the day?
Do we worry about getting sued when we warn kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, or to use more caution when driving?
If we don’t adequately train all teachers in the technology that the kids are using, they’ll be totally ineffective when they try to espouse the dangers of it. It’d be like me (a male) sitting through a 90 minute lecture on child birth, and then being expected to teach someone how to deliver a baby. However, as someone who has been driving over 20 years, I would feel very comfortable teaching someone how to operate a motor vehicle.
Will Richardson says
I agree that effective training is needed. But I also think that as educators we have a higher responsibility to figure this out for ourselves regardless of the professional development provided. If we wait for others to teach us, we may never be taught.
Jared Ward says
Damon and Will make excellent points. What I get out of them is that we shouldn’t be afraid to teach what we know when we see a need. Also that we should be life-long learners and take a proactive role in our personal education and training.
Personally, I couldn’t agree more. But what of those teachers who don’t see this as a priority in their own training? I started a school blog last school year for our faculty and staff. A handful were excited about it, but few use it. The rest thought I was nuts (though that could be because a technology project like this shouldn’t be led by the ceramics teacher 🙂 and about 40% of our faculty have yet to set up an account to view the site, some because of lack of skill but most because of lack of experience. I have given handouts, taught professional development classes to teach about blogs, especially our blog, but those aren’t very well attended. With all of the struggles, I know it would be much worse if I didn’t have the administration’s support. The idea is gaining momentum. I think we would have a much easier time if there was broad and public support higher up the administrative chain.
Since most reading this are likely to have more experience than I do what are the magic words that you say to your faculty when trying to sell the idea?
My experience with many teachers in my building (who are used to a certain amount of autonomy in their room) is that they are incredibly resistant to edicts from on high, regardless of their merits. They’ve seen what they perceive as educational fad after educational fad come and go, and are unwilling to take that leap of faith.
The only real success I’ve ever had was by showing each individual how these tools would help them engage and enthrall kids and teach their lessons.
Bring one or two along slowly. Let them talk to their friends at lunch about what they are doing and the successes they are having. You will find critical mass towards the tipping point.
Betty Gilgoff says
As virtual worlds blend with real worlds for our children/students, it becomes a question not of who is keeping our children safe online, but more simply, who is keeping our children safe? As a community we all have a responsibility to be present and involved in the “communities” our children are engaging in. Just as I give my children/students permission to go out and play/engage in the real world in increasingly developmentally appropriate ways, so must we do so in the online world. But, as with the real world, we need to be there with them and get to know others in their world as well. Whether real or online, it still takes a “village to raise a child.” If districts and principals are concerned they can lead by being sure to support ways that teachers can learn to also be present in the online worlds their students are exploring.
Don Watkins says
It’s no wonder people are scared. The threat has been hyped for years. Recent research published I think in the New York Times suggests that the cyber-bully, online predator scare is a bit overblown. Refer to this story from the Times.
Debbie S. says
This stat doesn’t surprise me. To speak about online predators, you have to speak about predators in general, which I think makes most people uncomfortable. And since “predator” is often synonymous with “sexual predator” and sex is such a taboo subject, even between adults, let alone around children, it’s no wonder teachers “aren’t comfortable” – for any NUMBER of reasons.
We humans like to believe that if we don’t acknowledge something or talk about it, then it isn’t real. That attitude saddens me, because it give the “something” far more power than it deserves. SchoolHouse Rock was right, you know: KNOWLEDGE is power.
As parents of a 9 and 7 year old, my husband and I have spoken to our kids – in an age and maturity level appropriate way – about both on and offline predators (who are STILL most likely to be people we know, of course). We’ve worked with our kids to educate them about “safe surfing” – important since they google for info nearly every day – and discussed maintaining privacy of passwords, even between each other (which is about the extent of the identity theft issue needed right now).
These lessons don’t have to be taught in a lecture manner. There are plenty of teachable moments at home – and at school – where these issues can be discussed as a natural course of conversation.
Steve Arrowood says
There are people in education working on this. I used to work with Swift Kick, a company that I think has a great approach for this topic.
Instead of focusing on the fear, they put the focus on the value, with the theory that in order for people to want to learn about and teach using these tools, it is first necessary to understand the ‘why’ – why are these online tools so valuable for kids’ learning and futures.
When people see more value than fear of potential damage, then they tend to use the tool, and in the process learn how to be a safe user. Think cars.
Joyce Hansen says
As a grad student about to tackle ELA in the pubic school system, I’m pumped to use new technology. There are a number of books that teachers can bring into the classroom for exactly this kind of instruction.
If you want to be obvious, try CYBERBULLYING and CYBERTHREATS: Responding to the Challenge of Online Social Aggression
If you want to take a round-about approach, supplement 1984 with LITTLE BROTHER. It’s a great intro into online security, with all the fear and paranoia we’ve come to love.
Marie Scearce says
As much as our students are called “Digital Natives,” from what I have seen lately in the classroom, they just don’t understand the resources available to them when they have a high quality internet connection and a machine.
My students don’t know how to open 2 windows at a time, where and when to put the URL, the difference between a web site and a search engine.
As much as the students don’t know, I think my colleagues are often worse. Especially my colleagues who are my age. I know people who only use their email by duress. The world of blogs is no more real to them than the world of Narnia or Harry Potter.
So where to start, chicken or egg?
Will Richardson says
Thanks for the comment, Marie. More and more I see people rebelling against the idea of “Natives” when it comes to this stuff. It’s a catchy phrase that just doesn’t hold true. We’ve got some catching up to do, for sure, but the gap isn’t as big as perceived, especially when it comes to learning with technology instead of just producing with it.
It’s difficult to talk to kids at school about what is right and wrong on the internet when we have blocking systems that decide for us. And at home maybe no one is checking to see what they are doing or explaining what is appropriate.
I have decided to start teaching how to use wikipedia and where to go next because most students don’t know how to use it properly.
Isafe.org – implement a student mentor program, or simply take them through the program yourself.
Do a webquest on Netiquette – or have student group develop skits demonstrating inappropriate or appropriate behavior online.
There’s lots of ways to do it…just takes time and creativity.
I would guess there are teachers who do not have time or a reason to learn to use various internet tools and strategies for their classroom. These teachers will need professional development and peer support to become comfortable until they are themselves ready to teach it. There are those teachers with either limited numbers of computers or limited access time for the computers without a reason to do so. I have been told of a local school system where there is 1 pc for all the instructors to check their email. If this is true, learning to teach the technology is the LAST thing on their minds. And then of course, there’s the ‘generationals’ – those who feel that implementing technology into their curriculum cannot possibly improve or supplement what the teach. Sorry dinosaurs… Your time is gone.
Irregardless of which category those in the 75 percentile fall, the Broadband Data Improvement Act makes it the responsibilities of the schools to teach about cyberbullying and cyberethics/safety. My personal opinion it should be a teach the students AND the parents. So many parents simply do not know what to do to encourage their child to be safe and appropriate online.
Tracy Redford says
I agree with you Melissa. As teachers we do have a responsibility to teach our students about cyber bulling and cyber ethics/safety. As a parent and teacher I agree with the need to help educate the parents too. From personal experience many of my child’s friendâ€™s parents are unsure on how to keep their child safe.
Marie Scearce says
“there is 1 pc for all the instructors to check their email”
Whoa! That is certainly an obstacle! “the medium is the message so I guess that district is sending a loud message, don’t rely on email for communication here!”
It is obsticales like this that divide the staff into those who won’t try the 2-point-oh tools and those who just side step the administration.
At my school we only have one phone with an outside line where all teachers are supposed to make school related calls. Being a person of little patience, I use my personal mobile phone because I can’t be bothered carrying student records to the phone or waiting in line.
I just also realized that I also use my own laptop because the dinosaur of a computer on my desk is not just not happening.
It’s surprising when teachers get in trouble themselves for the things they post online. I know we try to provide teachers with training in this area. I’m always struck with the amount of surprise when teachers are exposed to online dangers and how to teach to them.
I’m with Debbie on this one. My discomfort in covering this unit in my OWN courses — a unit which is required, as part of the course — fundamentally stems from my experience being trapped, over and over, between district expectations for teaching CONTENT and that vast and amorphous area of things which could cause students to become “uncomfortable” and thus could cause administrators to have “no choice” but to discipline us for.
Those who have suggested that some teachers are not prepared to teach this aren’t wrong, but they are nonetheless missing the point. This isn’t about the dinosaurs.*
Because even IF they were prepared, unless those teachers trust their own districts and administrators not to trap them in the middle, they will NEVER feel confident teaching that subject.
Indeed, I’d suggest most teachers I’ve spoken with in the past few years don’t feel confident about much at all anymore. Being held to expectations which are impossible, and knowing that none of us are truly trusted or safe, is rampant, and taints so much of our time.
*[as for those dinosaurs: people need to stop harping about already, and stop treating them like luddites; many such folks merely have other priorities, and aren’t provided with real resources (like working computers) anyway, and if we train them to be “ready” before we resolve the larger issue, we’re just going to make them all much more stressed out. Which is to say: I’m tech savvy, but if I weren’t, I’d be pissed at the call for the dinosaurs to get with it already — because there are neither sufficient computers nor support structures in my school, and it’s going to get a LOT worse in the next few budget cycles — you want me to “get with” a program that can neither sustain or support me? Nice try, but no.
Will Richardson says
Thanks for the comment, Boy. But to be honest, I don’t buy it. What percentage of teachers have no access to working computers in their own lives? Forget what the school provides. If we wait for that to happen, we’ll be dinosaurs forever. But I’ll say it again. My expectation as a parent is that the educators in my kids’ rooms a) are learners who will recognize that technology is now a part of the fabric of how we learn (not too much to ask, I don’t think) and b) that they will learn how to leverage that for themselves (and, in turn, model it for my kids) regardless of the lack of support or understanding from the school.
Maybe that’s too much to ask. But if it really is, it is a very sad commentary on what we should expect from the people who teach our kids.
I appreciate the response to the peripheral issue of resources, Will, but I’m more interested in your thoughts on my core concern — that teachers like myself feel like they are both being ASKED (by parents and standards) to address ethical issues, and that they WANT to in valid and thoughtful ways that connect to students, yet that they feel THREATENED by administrators who don’t recognize the validity of the discussions, and see those discussions as inherently unprofessional and thus job-threatening. (As in: “stop mentioning MySpace in class, please…” or “no forums; that’s district policy” or “if you keep talking about wikipedia as a potentially positive example of community sharing you’ll be undermining our curriculum; don’t do that anymore.”)
I speak, incidentally, as a teacher who left a job recently in part because the administration called me to the table, made me very uncomfortable, and asked me to stop having and using those spaces, discussions, and teachable moments which students, parents, and standards mandated I use to discuss exactly these issues. I WANT to teach this stuff, and I want to do it well. But I NEED to have a job, and my local schools all now bounce most teachers after two years in order to keep costs down — this economy makes it tough to gain tenure, and I have a family to feed.
Remember, the original questions you asked was about CONFIDENCE. Am I confident about teaching this stuff? No longer, no. I’m terrified about it.
I wish you didn’t see this as a commentary on teachers. I wish, instead, that you saw it as a commentary on how business models of how schools are run, and helped me bemoan the resulting lack of trust in teachers BY administrators, which is undermining all our best efforts to change the way teaching and learning happen.
Will Richardson says
Sorry if I’m sounding snarky. Catching me in one of my “we need to get past the reasons why not” modes even if that may not be central to your concern, which, by the way, I hear and see and acknowledge is the reality of many, many teachers I talk to. And I know of no other answer other than being able to create a compelling case for those administrators that are too scared to rise to this moment. It sucks, I know. And it’s unfortunate that folks like you who obviously care about the profession are caught in the middle. (I’m one to talk, I know.)
At the end of the day, this is a commentary on teachers AND systems. They can’t be separate, especially when we’re talking about kids and school. It’s all about control, about ceding control in the face of some on the surface risky alternatives to what we currently do. And that control is not abating; as you suggest, if anything, it’s getting retrenched. I can’t even begin to tell you how frustrating it is to watch in my own kids’ educations.
So, no easy answers, I know, other than to look inward and do what we can as learners first, teachers second, and employees third to make a difference for our kids.
Teachers are different, and the survey result doesn’t account for that:
– some teachers would feel comfortable teaching the topic, except that they’re concerned that they’ll get misunderstood or punished by principals, parents, etc.
– some teachers don’t feel comfortable because they haven’t been trained on how to teach the topic
– some don’t have resources to teach the topic
– some teachers don’t feel comfortable because they don’t know about the topic
– some teachers don’t want to teach the topic because they are terrified b/c of the aforementioned “predator really means sex predator” situation
– some don’t want to teach the topic because they think technology is silly/irrelevant/a fad
….etc etc etc
No point in arguing about which group is the biggest or most important to address — in the absence of actual data about why teachers are uncomfortable teaching “cybersafety”, all of the groups need solutions equally.
I’ve just realized over the last few days that students will learn safe and proper use habits if they are modeled. I just finished reading the Footprints in the Digital Age article published in Educational Leadership. In addition, I went to a conference where Anne Lesko gave an excellent presentation on how to use Moodle with gifted second and third graders in her classroom. The students, the teacher and their work were phenomenal. We have been trying to protect our kids by protecting them from the internet. Instead we should be teaching them how to navigate through it. We should lead. Instead we hide. Unfortunately, our decisions as adults to hide our heads in the sand has left our children vulnerable to cyber-bullies, predators and unethical use of a very powerful tool.
I think especially when it come to social networking, students are flocking to these sites as teachers flee in droves away from them. I feel that it is imperative that we are examples, mentors, and models of how to safely conduct yourself in the digital age. Otherwise, we will have no influence on the norms that are set in these communities. I feel that there are a multitude of ways these tools can be used to our advantage as educators.
Beth Still says
Maybe if these teachers keep their heads buried in the sand long enough then the problem will go away? Don’t you think? Heck, they have also ignored other changes going on in education, why bother with something so trivial as teaching kids how to be safe online. Since when did it become the responsibility of teachers to actually teach pragmatic information??? Most teachers are too busy with other things like printing off zillions of worksheets anyway!
I wish that I could say that the statistic suprised me a lot. I think this has to do a lot with the idea that the students are digital natives and we teachers are just learning the language. Of course you want to be comfortable with what you are teaching and unfortunately too many teachers just aren’t there yet. There are SO many tools out there that we could/should be using in the classroom with the students. We have to teach them to be good stewards of this great gift – the ability to have all this information at the click of a button!
Ms B says
Given that the system in which I work, with hundreds of thousands of kids, bans all users (including teachers) from social networking sites, there’s little room for online demonstration in the classroom.
Verbally, some issues are covered in our Crossroads program for senior students.
At what stage are these matters (which involve out of hours activities/social interaction) the province of, um, parents? Who surely have some responsibility in the matter, for getting informed and providing advice? We only have so many hours in the school day.
Joanna Sanders Bobiash says
I find this debate very interesting. I think it depends on how you use technology in your classroom. Before you let your students loose to perform a science experiment, you need to make sure they have the “safety talk” first so that no one is injured by the equipment. By teaching them to be responsible “digital citizens” before letting them explore the digital world, they will develop the knowledge necessary to protect their personal information and the ability to use the power of the web responsibly.
Graysen Walles says
This is a difficult issue to confront, as many of these issues take place out of school. I have worked in both high and middle in urban areas. Gang issues, and a variety of threats take place on line at facebook and mostly myspace. We have caught numerous students involved in crazy activity.
It would help to hold sessions to deal with the issue, but parents will need to participate to support the process.
Mike Berner says
This is an extremely interesting topic. I have often thought about the down fall and benefits of limiting computer use. As a teacher I see the power of technology to allow students to be creative, yet at the same time I see the destructive nature of technology. Students abusing social networking and intellectual copy write.
I recently started a blog (http://generosityeffect.blogspot.com/) in order to get some feedback regarding teaching ethics in school. One of the major arguments that I have received from my coworkers is that cultural shifts and the proliferation of technology have created a â€œflexible moralityâ€ in students. Iâ€™m now wondering what they would say to limiting computer use and itâ€™s effects? Rick you have my wheels turning. Pop by my blog and let me know what you think.
Brian Malina says
This is a fascinating discussion. As a non-educator and a parent, this conversation provides great insight into the questions teachers are faced with when deciding what topics to tackle in the classroom.
For those who are covering Internet Safety, I wanted to pass along a link that I think would be helpful.
The link connects to a free collection of activities, lesson plans and other resources on this exact subject. The resources are created by leaders in the fields of education and Internet safety, such as ReadWriteThink and NetSmartz, a website from The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I work for Verizon and support the Verizon Foundation, which funds Thinkfinity.org