Archive for the ‘You Tube’ Category

The Digital Gaffe

There is no shortage of resources to tap into to address and teach digital citizenship to students these days.  Not a day passes when a headline does not jump off the front pages of the news that stirs and disturbs the notion of safe, smart, and civil engagement online.

From UCLA student Alexandra Wallace’s ill-timed, insensitive rant on You Tube, in which she slammed Asian-American students for talking on their cell phones in the UCLA library, in the wake of the devastating news of the Japan earthquake, to the front page New York Times article about the viral cell phone picture of an 8th grade female student, to the Israeli government demanding that Facebook remove an incendiary Facebook group that fanned the flames of extremism, it is frankly not possible to escape the perils and challenges of living in the digital age.

As educators and parents, how are we to address this deluge with kids?

Well, we can’t turn the other way, and hope that the digital gaffe will disappear.  It won’t.

But where is the space where kids can wrestle with and talk through the complexity of these issues, without fear of reprisal and punishment?

First, parents need to create a safe space at home for open conversation to happen.  When confronted with digital missteps by their kids, parents need to remain calm, catch their breath, and avoid visceral responses.

Second, schools need to talk with kids about digital citizenship.

Schools need to make judicious use of Advisory programs, social and emotional learning, history, civics, and writing classes to provide opportunities for dialogue to occur in smaller settings with a genuine back and forth about the subtle and blatant problems that emerge with ill-advised technology use.  Kids also need to feel that adults will listen to and identify with the challenges kids face with media.

As these lessons and discussions take place, schools need to communicate with parents to help continue the conversation in the home.  This can happen through follow-up letters and resources sent home to parents, or through parent education evenings, where parents can share and strategize about how to handle the online environment at home.

Schools and parents need to work together to build and maintain an above ground culture with kids.  When an incident arises, schools need to approach the student and family to work with them to help resolve the situation, in partnership.  As we all know, particularly with technology, information travels with speed. It is critical to help kids figure out ways to reorient situations that start to arise.  Schools need to take the time to talk through scenarios and think out loud with kids the steps needed to reach successful outcomes. Kids cannot do this alone and need the help and guidance of teachers and parents.

As a response to Alexandra Wallace’s YouTube rant, Jimmy Wong, an Asian-American, flipped Wallace’s rant on its head with a catchy ditty “Ching Chong” that went viral and “leveled the playing field”, as writer Dave Pell shared on NPR. “Sometimes it’s about being smarter, funnier or more creative,” Pell writes.

Not every kid will have the tools to invert a digital gaffe, in the way Wong did, but every kid needs and deserves the space to voice and devise an antidote to digital gaffes. And the last thing parents and educators want is for kids to go underground, and have to do figure out solutions to the digital gaffe on their own.

In The New York Times, in an article titled, Erasing the Digital Past, Michael Fertik of Reputation.com, highlights the stakes of posting online:  “The Internet has become the go-to resources to destroy someone’s life online, which in turn means their offline life gets turned upside, too. We’ve reached a point where the Internet has become so complicated, vast and fast-paced, that people can’t control it by themselves anymore. They now need an army of technologists to back them up online.”

Kids don’t have the good fortune of having an “army of technologists to back them up online”, and they can’t pay services like Reputation.com to guard their online identities. But kids can expect that the adults in their lives are the go to people when they make or experience a digital gaffe.

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Think before you post.  No doubt former UCLA student Alexandra Wallace has learned this valuable lesson.  Her ill-timed, insensitive rant on You Tube, in which she slammed Asian-American students for talking on their cell phones in the UCLA library, in the wake of the devastating news of the Japan earthquake, fast went viral, and her life is forever upturned.  All it took was one click and one post, and her identity went public, from what appeared to be a private conversation with herself in the bed of her dorm room.

Her video sparked a deluge of responses, from a You Tube rebuttal by the UCLA chancellor, to a ditty by Jimmy Wong, in which he flipped Wallace’s rant on its head.  Remarkably, the Asian-American Wong has forgiven Wallace for her racial diatribe.  On NPR, Wong commented: “I was pretty offended at first, but then I realized that this is just someone going on a rant — we’ve all done it before. My visceral reaction to the video would not have been as appropriate.”  He goes on to say: “I would like to tell her that I totally forgive her. I would love to meet for coffee and give her a big hug.”

This is a great opportunity for schools to use Wallace’s You Tube gaffe as a teaching tool to help kids understand the power of the post.  Here is a possible teaching plan:

Start by having students watch the Wallace video. As they watch, break students into 6 groups, and adopt the perspective of the group, and plan a response to the video from that perspective.  The groups are

(1) The University – the Chancellor, (2) an Asian-American student at UCLA, (3) the American Civil Liberties Union, (4) The New York Times, (5) Common Sense Media, and (6) The Daily Bruin.

Have students share their responses in their groups and then switch and partner with a student from another group to share their perspective.  Rotate two or three times so they have the chance to hear a few different perspectives, then open up the discussion to the whole class.

Then have students watch the UCLA chancellor’s You Tube response.  Have them consider its effectiveness.

Then, have them watch Jimmy Wong’s You Tube song response.

Which is more effective, the song or the Chancellor? Why?

The New York Times in an editorial on the subject shares the following:  “Eugene Volokh, a First Amendment scholar at U.C.L.A., counseled why Ms. Wallace’s video is “clearly constitutionally protected,” no matter how obnoxious. A purpose of the American university, he said, is to debate major decisions about social and other policies — to build consensus and the foundations of community. To assure worthwhile debate, it’s necessary to protect some worthless, even hurtful, opinion.”

Have students debate whether the video should be “constitutionally protected.”

Finally, should Alexandra Wallace be punished by the University?

She ended up withdrawing from the university.  She suffered a natural consequence.  Here is her letter of withdrawal, from The Daily Bruin.

Here is a wonderful story from NPR, titled, “Jimmy Wong Saves The Internet.” It hits on a creative way to address cyberbullying.

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Here is Alexandra Wallace’s apology to the Daily Bruin and the New York Times editorial on the controversy.  Also, here is the New York Times story on the controversy. This is a great opportunity to open conversation with students about the importance of thinking before you post, and the concept of public by default and how quickly things can go viral.

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A look at the digital white water rapids coming at us.  Powerful snap shot.

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Facebook wants to get into China.  Or, at least that’s what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has led us to think.  On a recent visit to China, he declared, “If you want to connect the whole world, how can you leave out 1.6 billion people?”  Well, Mr. Zuckerberg will have to find a way to crack the Great Firewall — the impregnable Chinese Internet blocking system in place.  No Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube on the Chinese mainland. Because of social unrest in Xinjiang over a year ago, the Chinese government has put in secure measures to contain social media traffic.

But, as China looks to guard itself against intrusion, the country is also seizing on new initiatives to catalyze innovation through a drive to increase the number of patents, with the goal of 2 million by the year 2015, up from 300,000 applications in 2010.  In The New York Times, David J. Kappos, director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office explains: “The leadership in China knows that innovation is its future, the key to higher living standards and long-term growth. They are doing everything they can to drive innovation, and China’s patent strategy is part of that broader plan.”

Having just returned from China as part of the International Society for Technology Education led People to People delegation, which comprised thirty U.S. school and university educators, I was able to experience the limits of social media in China, and to see the engine of innovation at work.

I toured and visited schools in Beijing, Xian, and Shanghai, and saw primary and secondary schools, and universities.  From the remote, rural Dongtun primary school, to the high tech, futuristic Shanghai TV University, I viewed a China as wide as the Mongolian steppe in terms of technology integration, access, infrastructure, and innovation.

At the Dongtun primary school, situated 90 minutes outside of Xian in central China, there was no heat (it was 20 degrees outside), and students sat in tight rows, doing recitation work. The students wore winter hats, coats, and gloves to stay warm, and while there was a coal burning stove in the corner of each classroom, it did not generate much heat.  There is one computer for the whole village, and its use centers around increasing knowledge about agriculture for the farmers.  The Chinese government has committed to putting one computer in every village, and the computer lives inside the home of one person.  The purpose is to give access to agricultural information.

In sharp contrast to the rural schooling, the work at Shanghai TV University is visionary and accelerating at a fast pace.  They took us into a surround vision room with interactive screens on the floors and walls.  It was a stunning atmosphere, with touch screen, and holographic imagery.  The Microsoft Envisioning the Future project is what comes closest to what we saw.  Shanghai TV University claims that they are a year away from deployment in homes and schools.  In our discussion with the Shanghai TV University educators, they expressed interest in learning about differentiated instruction, one to one computing, collaboration, and creativity.  They want to begin to move away from textbooks, and exam focused teaching, to utilize multi-modal approaches to make teaching and learning more engaging.  Interestingly, the day I left for China, international test scores showed that Shanghai students are at the top of the world in reading, science, and math.  On The Program for International Student Assessment, a test run by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Shanghai blew away the competition.

There will no doubt be continuing tension between new modes of teaching and attention to testing and success, as measured by performance on traditional assessments. In The Wall Street Journal, Chinese educator Jiang Xueqin, comments:  “Chinese schools are very good at preparing their students for standardized tests. For that reason, they fail to prepare them for higher education and the knowledge economy.”  Jiang goes on to ask:  “But what about the entrepreneurs and innovators needed to run a 21st century global economy? China’s most promising students still must go abroad to develop their managerial drive and creativity, and there they have to unlearn the test-centric approach to knowledge that was drilled into them.”

The most interesting discussion occurred at the YKPao International School in Shanghai. We talked about a technology vision for the future, if given a blank slate, like the one YKPao has in starting its secondary program. YKPao is currently a K-6 school, but is expanding to add a secondary 7-12 school, on a separate New England boarding school modeled campus.

However, much of a new technology vision is constrained by government control of access to the Internet, blogs, and collaborative learning community models. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and objectionable content, like certain New York times articles, are all blocked. CNN is tightly controlled.  When watching CNN at the hotel, the screen would go black for minutes at a time, and then come back on. YKPao and Beijing International School, another school that we visited, both expressed frustration with the censorship, and the limitations it places on their ability to open up access for their students.

The first item that rose to the surface in our discussion with YKPao educators, who were from Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, was the issue of email and whether schools are doing a disservice in continuing to teach students with email.  As many of us know, email is the messaging of last resort for students.  Real-time communication in the form of chat, text, and video dominate their social interactions online.

A recent NYTimes article supports this trend. Andrew Bosworth, director of engineering at Facebook, comments in the Times article: “The future of messaging is more real time, more conversational and more casual. The medium isn’t the message. The message is the message.”

James E. Katz, the director for the Center for Mobile Communications Studies at Rutgers University, explains, in the same Times article:  “It’s painful for them [the younger generation].  It doesn’t suit their social intensity.”

At Beijing International School, where many students stay for two to three years at a time before their families are relocated, the school creates digital portfolios with students, from application to graduation.  Families want access to their child’s learning, as they migrate to different parts of the world.  Everything lives in the Cloud.  Every year is carefully organized, mapped out, and continuous, so that they also know their students really well.  They have student led conferences where kids share their digital portfolios.

Beijing International School is hosting a conference on the Flat Classroom Project in late February.  They have partnered with Katie Salen’s Quest to Learn School in New York City, using Gamestar Mechanic, which “was designed as a learning platform to foster the development of 21st Century skills while teaching the principles of game design.”  Beijing students create and design their own games, and iterate through the process with students in New York City, testing prototypes and receiving feedback. They are using design thinking, and are intrigued by the opportunities with game design.

The two international schools, YKPao and Beijing International, are global in their outlook and approaches, and open and eager for innovation with technology. They are just further along than the Chinese schools that we visited, but the Chinese educators with whom we met share interest in innovation, collaboration, and technology integration, and appear to want to move at a fast clip, like Shanghai TV University, to catch up and even surpass U.S. educational approaches. Our tour guide in Shanghai captured the pace of innovation there when she said that she buys a new map every six months because the city is changing so fast.

I am fascinated to follow the direction that China heads in with technology integration, social media, especially if Facebook can gain a foothold in China, and education.

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