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Spencer, CC-E avoiding 'Cyberbaiting'

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cellphone, social network policies help

Globally, 21 percent of teachers have experienced or know another teacher who has experienced "cyberbaiting," according to the Norton Online Family Report.

Spencer and Clay Central-Everly administrators want to keep their teachers from becoming statistics, but first they had to learn about the technological threat.

Norton defines cyberbaiting as "when students irritate or 'bait' a teacher until the teacher gets so frustrated they yell or have a breakdown. Students are ready for the teacher to crack and film the incident on cellphones so they can later post the footage online, causing further shame or trouble for the teacher or school."

The districts' cellphone and social network policies may go a long way in shielding teachers from that risk.

Spencer's policy bans electronic devices during the school day, unless a teacher permits the use during a specific class.

"We do know there are kids who have found some pretty amazing capabilities of smart phones," Superintendent Terry Hemann said. "I think a lot of schools are struggling with, 'What's the right amount of use in school buildings and when?' Some schools permit more cellphone and smartphone use than others."

CC-E allows high schoolers to use their cellphones during lunch and between classes.

"I think it's been well received by the kids," CC-E Principal Curt Busch said. "That doesn't mean they don't try to sneak and use it when they're not supposed to, but when they come into the classroom, it's supposed to be off. They're going to bring them to school anyway, and it's too hard to have zero tolerance on those things."

However, one cyberbaiting incident would change that.

"I hope it doesn't lead to that," Busch said. "That's all it would take, one episode like that, and these things would be banned. This is a privilege that's been opened up for them, but it would be gone like that."

Spencer Middle School Principal Steve Barber said he has seen a survey showing different levels of restriction have little to no impact on cellphone usage in schools.

"More so, the conversation is, 'How can we use technology in the classroom and do personal cellphones play a role in that?'" he said. "'What kind of enforcement do you want and why do you want it?' ... We look at it as a tool that can be negative, but there are also chances for it to be positive."

Barber's colleague Beehler believes social networking, on the other hand, has largely been a negative influence.

Of the teachers surveyed by Norton, 67 percent said being friends with their students on social networks exposes them to risks. However, 34 percent of teachers still take that risk.

Spencer administrators are proactive with their teachers on the topic.

"Obviously, we encourage them to make that a family or private Facebook account and 'friend' only friends or relatives, just to avoid any conflict," Beehler said.

CC-E Superintendent Bob Raymer does not believe the topic has surfaced in his district.

"But, I would discourage it if it did because, basically, it just opens up the possibility of anything being put online about people, whether it's students or teachers, so I would certainly discourage that," Raymer said.

Busch said social networking presents a fine line for teachers and students.

"Teachers are held to higher standards with their professional relationships with kids," Busch said.

He identified himself as "old school," while many of his teachers are younger.

"This is how they grew up and how they communicate, so I would caution them in remembering their boundaries," Busch said.

Hemann believes his teachers try to stay out of compromising situations both inside and outside the classroom.

"We have teachers with good heads on their shoulders who are doing the best they can to handle every situation in a professional manner," he said.

Barber added that, while he hopes teachers take administration's recommendations and policies seriously, no one is 100 percent immune.

"There's no fool-proof policy or procedure that is guaranteed to protect you."

Google connects Spencer students

Collaborating on student projects at Spencer High School used to require copious emails and jump drives.

Google has simplified that process.

All students have a school-sponsored Gmail account, which can be accessed at school or home, that allows them to use Google Docs for documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings and forms.

Michele Dirkx utilized the system for a collaborative essay she assigned to students in her English class.

"Since they all had Gmail, we were able to create a Google Doc they had to share with each other and with me so I could keep an eye on the drafting process," Dirkx said. "They could all work on it at the same time, so they could see what each person was doing."

Another benefit is the ability for other students and Dirkx to comment on the document without making structural changes.

"It allowed me to see them commenting during class time and then I could go in and answer questions during class and outside of class along the way," Dirkx added. "In the past with just paper copies, I was not able to do that as immediately, so this is a much better way to do that."

Dirkx said students gave positive feedback.

"They were able to see the progress of the paper and communicate with each other," she said. "I even had times when a student was sick, but able to be on the computer at home and work with their classmates."

She also plans to use Google Docs for joint PowerPoint presentations.

SHS Assistant Principal Jade Beehler believes the school's status as a Google domain is beneficial.

"With kids having Google connections, all our communication can go through our network, which is really trackable," Beehler said. "All of it can be done without going to Facebook or Hotmail or something like that, which makes it better to monitor it."

Google access was tightly regulated at first, but those regulations are starting to loosen. Google chat is now allowed and the privilege of emailing outside of the school's domain is starting to open up, especially for students contacting colleges.

"There may be some chemistry students who want to chat with a MIT professor or a graduate doing Peace Corps work and the band may want to Google Chat with them," Beehler said.

Regardless of the use, school administrators want to make sure it is appropriate.

"It should all be educational," Beehler said, "and that's our hope."

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Kids are always smarter than the Teachers..

-- Posted by Cookster on Sat, Jan 7, 2012, at 10:53 AM

This article is a great way to give the wrong idea to a group of kids who simply haven't thought of it yet. Good grief...

-- Posted by notinia on Wed, Jan 11, 2012, at 9:58 AM

If I would have had a camera phone 35 years ago in school, probably been a teacher or 2 spending a little prison time.

-- Posted by clayfarmer on Wed, Jan 11, 2012, at 11:10 AM

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