3 Tips for Combatting Cyberbullying Through Empathy

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The cyberbully is one who can attack anywhere, anytime and with complete anonymity. These bullies are not restricted to school playgrounds or back allies. One can be attacked anywhere they access their technology, even in the safety of their own home. Because the perpetrators of cyberbullying can hide behind the mask of technology, it can be difficult to provide justice and even reconciliation. How can we, as educators in our society, deal with this problem? Some suggest to teach empathy.

Empathy Is Tough to Teach But is One of The Most Important Life Lessons

Empathy is the process of identifying with another person, attempting to understand their perspective and relate to it. As part helping to eliminate hate, and working toward a more inclusive society, empathy is a must.  Is it possible to use the same technology used for hurt to also heal? With cyberbullying being such a big problem, can we teach empathy effectively to help diffuse and limit this destructive behavior? Though it is hard to teach how can we foster empathy online?

Studies have been undertaken to discover and test ways to lower the impact of cyberbullying and to encourage positive relationships through teaching empathy. The following sections sugges a beginning: 3 ways that educators can affect positive changes in cyber-relationships.

1. Intervention Over the Long Haul

Not surprisingly, the most important step in combatting cyberbullying is for bystanders (teachers, family members or friends) to intervene. In a study by Machackova and Pfetch (2016), it was discovered that providing empathy to the victims of cyberbullying had a positive result.  As educators, we can encourage our students to build healthy relationships and to support each other.

Teachers can find use lessons and units of study that help to foster positive online relationships and limit cyberbullying on sites like mediasmarts.ca.

Schultze-Krumbholz & Scheithauer (2009) found that short term intervention through lessons in class tend not to last. The results of their study showed that longer term intervention was the only intervention condition showing significant positive outcomes regarding cyberbullying perpetration. (p.153) Thus, teachers may find better outcomes through longer term planning of units that address cyberbullying and building empathy.

2. Modelling

It is not enough to teach students what empathy looks like, or how to provide it, teachers must demonstrate it and engage in it themselves. In an article about teaching in online environments, Fuller (2012) states that having an empathetic environment for learners requires instructors to practice it themselves. This will look different, depending on the level of education. An example in online environments might be to make frequent contact with students through selective discussion board postings or regular email contact. The key is to connect regularly and frequently, especially early on to build trust. (p. 43)

3. Exploring Empathy Through Gaming

Role playing and the use of drama have been explored to foster understanding through multiple perspectives. Online gaming can be used to provide students with fun ways to engage in real world issues of poverty, globalization, and conflict through playing different roles within the environments such as Serious Games. Other online games like thomaswasalone  can help students explore feelings of isolation and problem solve to find solutions for it in a virtual setting. Other games presented on sites like commonsensemedia.org provide games and videos that are geared to various age groups, presenting issues related to bullying and cyberbullying that encourage greater thought about others and attempting to understand differing views.

As can be seen, there are strategies and tools that educators can use to help their students combat this issue. Being prepared and acting pre-emptively is important. Readers are welcome to share other resources and ideas as well. Let’s do something about it together.

Another video to ponder…

The Importance of Empathy in Everyday Life

References

Fuller, R. G. (2012). Building empathy in online courses: Effective practical approaches. International Journal of Information and Communication Technology Education (IJICTE), 8(4), 38-48. doi:10.4018/jicte.2012100104

Gentès, A., & Cambone, M. (2013). Designing empathy: The role of a “control room” in an e‐learning environment. Interactive Technology and Smart Education, 10(1), 31–48. doi:10.1108/17415651311326437

Machackova, H., & Pfetsch, J. (2016). Bystanders’ responses to offline bullying and cyberbullying: The role of empathy and normative beliefs about aggression. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 57(2), 169-176. doi:10.1111/sjop.12277

Mindshift. (2017, February 8). Empathy is tough to teach but is one of life’s most important lessons [web log post]. Retrieved from https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2017/02/08/empathy-is-tough-to-teach-but-is-one-of-the-most-important-life-lessons/

Schultze‐Krumbholz, A., Schultze, M., Zagorscak, P., Wölfer, R., & Scheithauer, H. (2016). Feeling cybervictims’ pain—The effect of empathy training on cyberbullying. Aggressive Behavior, 42(2), 147-156. doi:10.1002/ab.21613

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Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Words Hurt Even More!

Together we can make it STOP!

By: Farheen Zaidi

We may have heard this phrase over a million times.  Unfortunately, no matter which age group you look at, there is always a fear of someone being bullied.  With the latest technology at hand, bullying has escalated to a newer level.  Cyber Bullying!  No matter how hard one may try to prevent it, it creeps its way into every classroom.  Us as educators can try our best to protect our students.  I suggest using technology to beat technology.  The following are the top three digital tools that can help you notice, stop and prevent cyberbullying from affecting your classroom.

Connect Safely

Connect Safely is an online resource that provides techniques for noticing the signs and symptoms of cyber bullying.  Gives great tips for appropriately dealing with and preventing negative side effects (to an extent) from occurring.  Great for teachers, parents, colleagues, and students.

Delete Cyberbullying

Delete cyberbullying is an amazing resource that provides great tips and techniques to someone in how they can protect themselves.  Gives links to latest petitions and news related to cyberbullying.

WikiHow

WikiHow Website for learning how to stop cyber bullying is just phenomenal.  Provides illustrations with detailed explanations on how to effectively catch the right signs and symptoms of someone affected by cyberbullying.  Gives great advice on how to deal with it and prevent it.  This is a must have.

Together We Can Make it Stop! 

Technology in the Classroom: Connector or Isolator?

Ask any educator, technology is an enabler. Used properly, it enhances curriculum. However, if improperly implemented, technology can have many different negative effects on education and students. One of those negative effects can be isolation.

Connector or Isolator?

Whether or not technology connects us or isolates us is a very complex topic of discussion. With one click of the mouse, an individual can be connected to someone on the other side of the world. The two parties can converse, interact, discuss, and socialize. Basically, they can engage in typical social interactions despite being across the world from one another. Wouldn’t that fact alone make the strongest argument for technology being a connector? If only it was that easy.

Today, many educators would argue that students are too connected to their devices. Instead of connecting face-to-face, many students interact on their devices as well as face-to-face. At lunch, in the halls, on the bus—you will see many students, some in groups, with their faces in their devices. They are often engaging in the social activity, but just in a different way. That begs the question: if there is the opportunity for face-to-face interaction and an individual choose to interact socially on their device, are they isolated? Depends on your definition of interaction, isolation, and socialization.

As someone who has spent the last six years in the classroom with high school aged students, I can say that I am often concerned with how much time is spent socializing on devices rather than in person. I often believe that I should be limiting technology in my practice because students obviously have enough tech time on their own and would benefit from being device-free for a while. However, forcing students to disconnect and go device free is not an easy job. Furthermore, am I just isolating them even more if I pull them away from their main form of socialization? Are people these days more isolated?

Tech as Isolator

Research points out that people today are more isolated. Social networks formed via technology are weaker (although broader and more diverse) than those formed in more traditional physical settings (neighborhoods, voluntary associations, public spaces etc.). These digitally formed networks tend to be more superficial and less involved than more traditional networks that may have been formed prior to recent developments in technology (Hampton, Goulet, Her, & Rainie, 2009).

cell phones classroom

Technology does not always provide a richer learning environment. Often, technology is misused in the classroom and this misuse leads to negative consequences. Recent research from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) suggests that student performance improves when technology is used in moderation, however, overexposure causes educational outcomes to drop.

According to the OECD, educators are still playing catch-up when it comes to enabling our practice with technology. Specifically, the OECD states “adding 21st-century technologies to 20th-century teaching practices will just dilute the effectiveness of teaching.” As an educator who actively tries to integrate technology into my practice, this makes my head spin. I wonder: when will the pedagogy catch up with the technology? Will it ever?

Tech as Connector

As stated earlier, this is a very complex topic. Yes, technology has the ability to isolate us, but it also has the ability to connect us. I think it is very important, as an educator, to understand that technology has the ability to isolate, but also understand that technology has the incredible ability to bring marginalized groups or individuals together. As someone who has experienced first-hand the power of technology to bring learning communities together, I have a hard time simply classifying technology as either a connector or an isolator. I believe it has the power to do both and, as educators, we need to be aware of this and harness the power of technology to enable, not isolate our students.

tech connector

When it comes to collaboration, technology is key. The majority of the time, when we think of collaboration, we think of students working in groups on a project. However, collaboration can happen in a variety of spaces, not just the classroom. Collaboration can happen with the help of applications such as Google Docs, Microsoft’s OneDrive, Dropbox etc. Why limit students to brick and mortar environments for collaboration? I would argue that expanding the environments enriches the learning experience.

Whether or not we as educators will ever catch up to technology when it comes to practice and pedagogy is next to impossible to know. All we can do is be mindful and knowledgeable in our practice. Teachers need to be life-long learners and with a life-long learning mindset, we are at least trying to catch up. I think if we can do that, we can be confident in our practice.

Hamption, K., Goulet, L. S., Her, E. J., & Rainie, L. (2009). Social Isolation and New Technology. PEW Research Centre: Internet, Science, & Tech. Retrieved from: http://www.pewinternet.org/2009/11/04/social-isolation-and-new-technology/

Keevil, G. (2014). Technology cuts through isolation for northern students. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/education/technology-cuts-through-isolation-for-northern-students/article18023606/

Kesling, B. (2015). Technology in classrooms doesn’t always boost education results, OEDC says. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://www.wsj.com/articles/technology-in-classrooms-doesnt-always-boost-education-results-oecd-says-1442343420

 

 

Overcoming the Digital Divide

Strategies and tips for schools with limited technology available to students and teachers.

By: Andrew Jaglall

 

Getting students ready to learn and use essential technology skills needed for the 21st century requires collaboration between all parties involved in the education system including teachers, principals, and superintendents at a district level. We are often hearing about new and exciting technologies being used in some schools around the world, such as using Google Classroom or Office 365 to collaborate digitally across districts, while some schools are lucky if they have a functional computer lab in their school. Some of this digital divide is a result of institutional barriers in our education system. Addressing these needs requires a collaborative approach and a ‘champion’ who will recognize and advocate for technology in schools.  Some of the institutional barriers that hold back effective implementation of technology in schools include unsupportive leadership, school timetabling, and school planning.

Leadership

Some principals may be uninformed or unsupportive about technology usage in schools and its impact on student learning. With this issue, there may be resistance to spending money on technology in schools. They may view other aspects of school funding more important compared to investing money in technology.

School Timetabling

School timetabling often involves scheduling into blocks, where students are unlikely to be inside for more than an hour without having a break such as recess or lunch. Additionally, many classrooms have multiple teachers to cover all curriculum subject areas for one group of students, making it hard to have students immersed in technology for extended periods of time.

School Planning

A school without a plan for effective implementation of technology is unlikely to have successful, meaningful technology use in classrooms. School planning of technology use includes providing adequate opportunities for staff and students to overcome any resistance to new technology

Being cognizant of these potential barriers, there are different strategies that a teacher could use to increase funding/interest in technology for their school.

Advocate

Some people may simply be unaware of how much potential a new technology tool or program could have. Educate them! Show them new tools (if you have access on a personal device) and start talking about ideas of how it could be used to help or enhance student learning. Principals may be more willing to invest money in technology if they know they have a person who is willing to put time and energy using it in their classroom. If at all possible, share your opinions on school timetabling if you feel that it doesn’t provide the opportunity for exploring new technologies.

Look for funding opportunities

Some outside companies provide a technology grant for schools to use to purchase technology for their school or to complete a research project that incorporates technology. One particular grant that comes to mind is the Best Buy School Tech Grant, which offers schools up to $10000 to spend on technology projects. Looking for opportunities like this might make it easy to encourage technology use school-wide.

Find technology/professional development opportunities

Search for new professional development opportunities around technology and invite your colleagues! It could be a good way to learn about new technology yourself and encourage others to integrate it in the classroom as well. Look for unique opportunities, such as the Best Buy Geek Squad Academy, which will come in and work with 60-100 students for a 2-day technology camp, with topics including digital music, robotics, film and script, 3D printing, and digital citizenship. These opportunities are likely to ignite a curiosity and interest in technology across your school building.

Looking for new opportunities to receive and incorporate technology into our teaching practice will be a positive step towards teaching our students the 21st century skills that they will need in order to be successful in the workplace and help close the digital divide that may exist between schools.

References

Bingimlas, K.A. (2009). Barriers to the successful integration of ICT in teaching and learning environments: a review of the literature. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education, 2009, 5(3), 235-245

Butler, D. & Sellbom, M. (2002). Barriers to adopting technology for teaching and learning. Educause Quarterly.

Conley, L. (2010). Barriers to integrating technology.

Nicholson, D. (2015, September 10) Barriers to successful integration of educational technology.

Create Awareness about Equitable Access to Technology

Socio-economic factors can have a significant impact on equitable access to technology, student learning and achievement outcomes.

by Daraius Bharucha

Access to education is a right for every child in Canada. However, the nature of this access can vary greatly depending on socio-economic barriers for the individual student as well as for the schools located in low-income or economically depressed neighborhoods.

While technology integration in education is becoming increasingly prevalent as a way of enhancing teaching and developing 21st-century skills among students, those students who cannot access technology due to socio-economic conditions are not receiving an equitable level of education (Nazar, 2015). The digital divide is exacerbating the already difficult situation for these students.

Impact

Looker and Thiessen (2003) report that many families from a lower socio-economic background do not have access to technological hardware at home or are unable to afford software programs or plans that provide access to the Internet.  Conley (2010) states that some schools that are located in low-income neighborhoods tend to have less access to technology in the building and offer fewer options for technological training or technology related courses. This inequitable access to technology in schools and homes can result in serious consequences for students. These students:

  1. Will have lower computer skills and limited access to digitally transmitted information and knowledge (Nazar, 2015).
  2. Will have greater challenges in being able to avail of technology enhanced learning formats such as blended learning, flipped classroom or online e-learning classes (Equitable Access, 2015). As these formats become more prevalent their ability to be able to keep up with their learning will be affected, potentially leading to lower achievement levels and higher drop–out rates.
  3. Will not be seen as good candidates for entry into higher education institutions as they will have insufficient technological skills and even if accepted, would struggle to keep up with required achievement expectations (Sun & Metros, 2011, p. 160).
  4. Will have a significant adverse impact on their career choices and future job opportunities and will be shut out from jobs requiring well developed technological skills (Sun & Metros, 2011, p. 156).

 

Possible Solutions

Some ways in which the equitable access to technology can be achieved for students from low socio-economic backgrounds is through open access and free software applications, access to learning modules available through YouTube, TedEd, and other educational websites. Subsidies from government and school boards for hardware purchases and subsidized or free access to the internet provided by business corporations.

 References

Conley, L. (2010). Barriers to Integrating Technology – The Digital Librarian. Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/site/thedigitallibrarian/barriers-to-integrating-technology

Equitable access. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.core-ed.org/thought-leadership/ten-trends/ten-trends-2016/equitable-access

Looker, D. E., & Thiessen, V. (2003). The digital divide in Canadian schools: Factors affecting student access to and use of information technology. Ottawa: Statistics Canada, Research Data Centres Program. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/81-597-x/4193614-eng.pd

Nazar, D. (2015, October 20). Helping Students Combat the Digital Divide . Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KSkWalmV1s

Sun, J. C., & Metros, S. E. (2011). The Digital Divide and Its Impact on Academic Performance. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED524846.pdf