Social Networking in the Classroom: Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go is everywhere and what better time than summer to launch the biggest gaming app in history? Kids, young and old, are getting out of the house and exploring their world in a whole new way.  An entire generation of students that have become so comfortable sitting at home interacting with the world through a tethered device and getting out of the house and  on the move. But summer has a way of ending far too quickly and based on my email inbox, teachers are already wondering what impact the app will have in the school environment.

Please note that I am a big fan of the game and have been playing, casually, with friends since its inception but I do share the concern of the app being disruptive to the learning environment.

If it were up to me, come the beginning of the school year, geofences (the same use to block YikYak) would be placed around schools to help reduce the number of issues.

I have been repeatedly told that I’m not in charge… so I guess I’ll go with plan B. How can educators take advantage of the craze and utilize Pokémon hunting in the classroom?

I have managed to spend an entire day tearing the internet apart to find some of the best ideas for pulling the educational benefits from the game.

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We discovered the Susan Russell House in Somerville in what I can only assume was Pokemon Go’s attempt to get me eaten by a wildly haunted house.

One that I would like to highlight came to mind while I was playing the game with a friend during a recent trip to Gloucester, Massachusetts when I noticed that PokeStops seemed the center on art instillations and historical landmarks. As a result we discovered hidden gems that we never knew existed in a town where we spent a good chunk of our youth.

Have students keep a log of where they have hunted and things they have learned on their
adventures. Many PokeStops offer a brief tidbit of information about the site. Encourage students to learn a bit more about each place they visit!

Here are some additional resources and ideas I really enjoyed reading and could offer some ideas for teachers:

How Pokémon GO Can Teach Social Skills to Children and Young People with Autism
Explore Everything with Pokémon GO (Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences)
Everything Librarians Need to Know About Pokémon GO
Three Ways Playing Pokémon GO Can Make You Smarter
Three Ways Pokémon GO Can Create Meaningful Learning Opportunities

Additional readind:
Pokémon GO’s Mental Health Benefits Are Real

And of course be sure to check out Monday’s Entry: “What Parents Should Know About Pokémon Go

Happy hunting friends!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Twitter Polls Become Cyberbullying Tool

In late October of this year Twitter introduced a new way for its 500 million users to interact with one another by launching Twitter Polls. While Twitter has always offered ways for users to gather information and opinions TwitterPollsthrough hashtags or simply having users cast their vote through either retweet or favorites, this new polling option offers an easier alternative. While the poll questions and tallies are public information, who voted and how is kept anonymous.

Unfortunately, teens across the world have twisted this new option into a new form of cyberbullying.

Since being launched, reports of cyberbullying through Twitter polls have surfaced in middle and high schools in Utah, Montana, and Michigan.

How the Polls Work

The Twitter polling system is rather simple in nature. Users ask a question TwitterPolls02and can add up to four options as an answer. Once the poll has been broadcast the ability to respond remains active for 24 hours before polling is closed.

How Students Are Using It

In some cases, students have stated that the polls being posted were just jokes but soon they took a turn for the worse. Some polls being posted included: “Who is the Ugliest Girl In School”, “Who is Dumber: John or a Brick”, “Who is the Biggest Slut?” While the polling closes after 24 hours, the results remain on the account.

Is This Cyberbullying?

Absolutely! Bullying is defined by actions that are deliberate, repeated, and hostile behaviors intended to harm another. Cyberbullying has been defined by The National Crime Prevention Council: “When the Internet, cell phones or other devices are used to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person.” These polls have added an entirely new level to this.

Who Is Responsible: Parents or School?

I’ve spent the last hour pouring over all of the articles regarding this subject and there seems to be a common theme- no one wants to take responsibility over the issue. One school principal currently dealing with this issue had this to say in one story, ” the school has no connection to or control over the polls. That hasn’t stopped parents calling the school with concerns about what is being posted. He said he hopes Twitter can shut the accounts down before one of the polls leads to tragedy.”

I bring this up because it seems to be a common theme when it comes to social media, bullying and the law.

It’s important to first remember that each state has a different law when it comes to bullying both online and off. To learn more about your state’s law, I encourage you to visit bullypolice.org for a breakdown.

From there I want to remind both educators and parents that when it comes to raising our kids it takes a village. It’s corny. It’s overused. It’s true.

It’s important that communities work together to educate and prevent these issues from coming up in the first place.

Rather than turn myself into a broken record, I’m going to point you to an entry that I wrote last year regarding internet safety: Teaching Internet Safety: It Takes A Village. While a bulk of this entry talks about internet safety, I think the lesson can be applied to situations surrounding bulling. From there I’ll also recommend another entry for parents: Fight The Bully: What Parents Can Do.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

What Parents Should Know About The Eraser Challenge

The world of the internet never ceases to amaze me and what people, kids especially, are willing to do to achieve their 15 minutes of fame is even more shocking. I received an e-mail from a concerned parent in Connecticut this morning about a new trend in schools called “The Eraser Challenge”. Coincidentally, I had just seen a news report about this very issue.

Join me now in a massive eye roll as I explain the “challenge”:

To play the game, players will use an eraser and rub it back and forth on their arm between the wrist and elbow while reciting the alphabet and coming up with a word for each letter. Once they reach the letter Z, the opponents will compare their wounds.Pencil_eraser

It seems that this trend has existed for some time over the past year but is now gaining national attention after the game started growing in popularity among students at Bethel Middle School in Connecticut.

A quick look at YouTube shows this to be a rather viral trend with severe consequences prompting many participants to upload subsequent videos showing lasting scars as a result of participating in the challenge.

A Google search brings up graphic images of severe bleeding as a result of taking part as well as a handful of blog entries reporting trips to the hospital requiring stitches.

Despite the harm done, teens continue to participate, record and share the challenge in an effort to gain internet fame through YouTube, Tumblr, Vine, Instagram and other social networking sites.

School administrators and physicians are concerned about the residual effects of this behavior.  Aside from the immediate bodily harm being done, there is the concern that this could be a gateway into further self-harm down the road, including “cutting” behavior.

Additionally, with students breaking their skin while performing the challenge and then sharing the eraser with fellow participants, there is an increased chance of sharing bodily fluids and also infections as a result.

What Parents Can Do

For many that have attended my parent and community workshops, this advice is going to sound very familiar: TALK TO YOUR KIDS!

It is important when issues like this arise that parents get on board with having a conversation with their kids about what is going on in the world. Have it be just that: a conversation.

On the drive home from school or maybe over dinner, bring up The Eraser Challenge and ask your kids if they have heard about this.

If ‘yes’ ask them if they understand what the risks of these behaviors are and encourage them to talk to you or their teachers if they hear about their classmates participating.

If ‘no’  I still encourage an open dialogue about the issue. Many parents worry that by telling them about it, they will be giving their kids the idea to get involved in it. I believe the opposite to be true. By having the conversation they now know that this is something on your radar and that you’ll be looking out for this behavior (the marks are impossible to hide save for long sleeves).

Keeping an open and honest dialogue with your kids about this and any issue is the best bet to prevent problems in the future.

What Educators Can Do

In times like these, it truly takes a village to work together in an effort to lead our children down the best path possible.

Vigilance between classes and during any downtime throughout the school day is a must. Health classes may be the best place to discuss issues surrounding blood borne illnesses and diseases, risk of infections and scarring as a result in participating in the challenge.

Share current news stories and encourage open discussions amongst students about these and other events affecting their generation.

If an incident does occur at the school, it’s best to have an educated discussion with the perpetrators rather than figuring out punishment. Keep parents informed and share information through e-mails and letters home to help curb this behavior before more serious incidents occur.

As always, if you have a questions about a web site or app send an e-mail to info@joshgunderson.com and we’ll get you an answer!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Yik Yak (Don’t Come Back!)

If Ask.FM taught the world anything, it was that teenagers and the ability to remain anonymous cannot be mixed. In the summer of 2013, the popular Q&A web site became known worldwide after a series of bullying related suicides. Despite the public outcry, the site’s developers refused to aide in the investigation into instances of bullying and threats.

Social App newcomer, Yik Yak, found themselves being compared to the infamous Ask.FM this past week when stories of threats of violence and bullying caught the nation’s attention.

(Check out What Parents Should Know About Yik Yak to learn more about the app)

The app has been linked to the arrest of an Alabama teen for threatening to shoot someone, countless bullying incidents and bomb threats at schools in California, Georgia and Massachusetts.

Unlike it’s anonymous predecessor, the developer’s at Yik Yak have heard and responded accordingly to the outcry of parents and educators over the last week.

In what can only be described as an unprecedented move, Yik Yak has teamed with Maponics to license GPS data for over 100,000 public and private schools in the US. Using this data they are creating “geofences” around middle and high schools which will actually disable the use of the app while the users is within that area.yikyakbanned

As of early Thursday, these fences have gone live. In a statement, developer Brooks Buffington noted, “If for some reason the app is still accessible on a school’s grounds, all they need do is email us at yikyakapp@gmail.com and we’ll look into it ASAP.”

While I applaud this bold move by the developers, I see this as band aid on a knife wound.

Students will still have access to the app once they leave school grounds and the possibility of bullying, rumors and threats still exist.

It is worth noting for parents that the app is rated 17+ or mature. I encourage parents to set restrictions on their children’s devices to ensure they are not able to download these apps.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Social Networking in the Classroom: Blogging, Part 3

This marks the 3rd and final entry in the Blogging in the Classroom Series! To catch up on the previous entries you can see Part 1 Here and Part 2 Here! As always please feel free to share comments below or by shooting me an e-mail at info@joshgunderson.com. Want to catch up? Check out the archives link! Next week I will continue with Part 3 which includes some great ideas to get your classroom blog rolling!

What it comes to blogging in the classroom I feel like the ideas are endless! I have to be honest that I’m a bit jealous that this platform wasn’t available when I was in high school! Across the curriculum there are a number of ways blogs can be introduced to the classroom. A student can use one blog over the course of the year, or even over the course of their career at an education institution. This creates an amazing portfolio of their work!

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Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So what are some ideas to get your kids writing!

Use Regular Writing Prompts
Put up a weekly or biweekly writing prompt for your students to respond to, setting a due date for the responses. Have them comment on one another’s responses to get a conversation going. Depending on your blogging platform, you can moderate comments before they are visible to ensure that nothing inappropriate comes through.

Respond To Class or Homework Readings/Discussions
Run out of class time? Post the topic of discussion onto your blog, letting the students know, and have the discussion continue. Ask students to discuss how a current reading applies to a student’s own life. This would be great for history classes and discussing how past events may mirror current happenings.

Current Events
Post a link to a current news article and ask students to respond with their thoughts and ideas. This is especially great if there is something that is going on that may affect their world!

Book Reviews
Ask students to write a review (positive or negative) of a book they read for pleasure, summer reading or a book your reading in class. If it’s a book they read for pleasure, perhaps offer extra credit for a review?

Free Write
Rather than investing money into notebooks (think of the trees!) have student do their free writing on a blog. This allows you and their fellow students to respond to their thoughts. Again, depending on the blog platform you choose, students can set entries to be viewed only by you.

Photo Blogging
Great for art and photography classes! Encourage students to share their projects only by uploading their photography or scanning in their artwork. Like with writing, this allows students to build an online portfolio for themselves and to share their work with the world!

Review Fieldtrips and Assemblies
As homework following a fieldtrip or assembly, ask students to react and review what they learned or saw. Did they take pictures? Ask them to include those moments in their entry as well. This allows students to work on their writing skills as well as getting feedback on these activities.

These are just a few ideas! A simple web search can find you loads more! Talk with your fellow teachers about how they would use blogging in the classroom and work together to create a blogging community!

Are your students already blogging in the classroom? Share your ideas for blogging in the classroom in the comments section below!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Social Networking in the Classroom: Blogging, Part 2

Last week I introduced part 1 of Blogging in the Classroom. The response has been amazing. I thank you all so much for the e-mails! This week I continue to Part 2 where I will discuss the pros of blogging in the classroom! As always please feel free to share comments below or by shooting me an e-mail at info@joshgunderson.com. Want to catch up? Check out the archives link! Next week I will continue with Part 3 which includes some great ideas to get your classroom blog rolling!

Have you picked out your blogging platform? Now it’s time to move on to the pros of blogging in the classroom blog!

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Image courtesy of sixninepixels / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One thing a teacher friend pointed out to me is how blogging can help with the federal mandate that literacy is to be a cross curricular activity. Try thinking outside the box for how students can use writing in each subject matter. A social studies class can blog about current events, science students can report regular findings on experiments, language arts classes have an entire world of possibilities! Now is a great time to start thinking outside the box!

Even math students can use their writing skills. I took a class in college called “Math for the Liberal Arts” (which translates into Theatre Kids that are Bad at Math but the Subject is Required). Rather than spending day after day doing math worksheets, we focused on one math formula or theorem and wrote a paper about it. It allowed for us to be creative and learn something at the same time (my paper of dimensions involves aliens from a 4th dimension- totally aced it)!

Blogging can also be a great way to give voice to students who may not feel they have one. This is one of the ideas that I presented in my pros and cons list of social networking in the classroom. Kids that are less inclined to speak up in class may end up being the best commentators on a discussion post made by a teacher or fellow student.

With technology being another cross curriculum requirement, blogging in the classroom helps students build skills they will be needing in college and beyond. In addition to building writing skills, blogging also builds typing skills, enhances their knowledge of working with media like photos, videos and, in some cases, HTML.

I also look at blogging as a fun way to enhance the creative process. Students will begin to look at the world in a new light- anything could be fodder for their next entry. It is a fun way to allow students to engage with one another and the world around them. Depending on whether your blog is private or public- it allows outsiders to stumble upon and share their thoughts on a topic. I’ve stumbled upon kids blogging about seeing one of my programs- not only do I read them, I’ll comment!

At the end of the day, blogging can also be a lot of fun! I do most of my writing on Tuesdays and set up a queue to get me through the week. I look forward to my weekly trip (read: hostile takeover of a corner) to Starbucks to take in the world around me (ie. eavesdropping on blind dates) and get my writing done! I think students would feel the same way once their start working to find their voice!

Are your students already blogging in the classroom? Share some of the pros that you have found in the comments below!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Social Networking in the Classroom: Blogging, Part 1

A few weeks ago I introduced my new series “Social Networking in the Classroom” and the response has been inspiring! In the introduction to the series, I weighed the pros and cons of integrating social networking in the classroom. In the following weeks I discussed Facebook followed by Twitter. This week’s topic? Blogging!

This week’s topic is being broken into three parts! Why? There’s so much to talk about! This week’s entry will look at some blogging platforms I think are pretty awesome for the classroom environment. Next week I’ll talk about the pros of blogging in the classroom. In the third part I will share ideas for blogging in the classroom. (The other reason is that I wrote the whole entry and saw how long it was so breaking it into multiple parts just made sense to me.)

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Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You might notice right away that I have avoided specifying one specific blogging platform to use. There’s a very simple reason for this, there are so many! I think it’s best to find what works best for you and your students. I’ve done a quick web search just to get an idea of the best blogging platforms for a classroom.

These are in the order that I thought of/discovered them and I promise I’m not getting anything special for promoting them…unless they want to give me something. Free Edublog? Hint hint WordPress!

WordPress- Since starting this blog back in June, I’ve really grown to love all that WordPress has to offer. The platform is simple to use and pretty straight-forward. It’s free to use though a premium account offers a few more perks but they aren’t important if you’re looking to keep things simple (I’m a simple user and paying $99 a year doesn’t seem worth it to me… I need that money to support my Starbucks habit!) The only drawback I would see with WordPress is that each student would need to create an account in order to become a contributor on the classroom blog. The perk I see with that, is that students are free to continuing their blogging once the class has ended!

Edublogs– Edublogs is exactly what it sounds like- blogs for education! The site is run by the people at WordPress and has all the same features!  The site is safe, secure, and for education only. While a simple blog is free, if you want to be able to embed video and HTML, you must pay for an upgrade. $35 will get you a year of Educator Pro and is great if you want to be able to facilitate blogging in your classroom and create accounts for students.  You can moderate students entries and comments with this feature as well.

Looking to connect the entire school? Edublogs offers that as well. Create a massive blogging community of students and educators. The cost varies by the number of blogs you wish to create. You can contact Edublogs for a quote. Not sure if Edublogs is a right fit for your school? They give you a free 30-day trial to give it a chance!

ClassPress- ClassPress is much like WordPress in its functionality. A one year subscription is the same at $35 with discounts if you subscribe with 5 or more teachers. Once you are a member you are able to create an unlimited number of students accounts. The site also automatically filters content in students entries unlike other which require you to actively look out for inappropriate language. One thing I really like on ClassPress is the drop-box feature which allows students to submit assignments digitally into one place. There’s no worrying about students misspelling your e-mail address. This also allows the teacher to upload files for download by students. Supported formats are Microsoft Word, Excel, PDFs and Powerpoint. Want the kids to have a record of their blogging at the end of the year? You can download PDF journals that can be printed, e-mailed or loaded onto a thumb drive!

Kidblog-While featuring all of the perks of the above platforms, Kidblog goes a step further to ensure the privacy of its users. Student accounts are private by default and the site is fully COPPA compliant, not requiring any personal information from students using the site. Comment privacy settings allow for filtering out unsolicited outside comments. As the audience is fully limited to those in the class, the site allows for the creation of password protected parents and guest accounts. As far as I can tell, the site is free to use but I’m not 100% on that.

Have you used any of these platforms in your classroom? Have any suggestions for other sites that can be used (I know they’re out there!)? I would love to hear more in the comments section below!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.