New Ask.fm Owner Wants To Eliminate Bullying, Moves Company to the US

In summer of 2013, popular social networking site Ask.fm brought bullying back to the forefront of the minds of people around the world, sparking debates on privacy and digital responsibility (see What Parents Should Know About Ask.FM)

askfmofficeThe site allowed users to interact anonymously by asking and responding to questions. Naturally, young users took advantage of the ability to remain in the shadows of the internet and took to posting mean, threatening and harassing comments to users leading to a number of bullying related suicides.

In a quite deal for an undisclosed amount of money, Ask.fm has been purchased by the owners of popular dating app Tinder and will be moving the company to the United States.

The company behind the deal, IAC, will be working in conjunction with the New York Attorney General’s office and investing “millions” into making the web site safer for users.

A statement by the NYAG’s office reads:

Under the terms of the agreement, Ask.fm will revamp its safety policies and procedures, including creating a new online Safety Center, hiring a trust and safety officer to act as a primary safety contact, and establishing a Safety Advisory Board to oversee all safety issues. Ask.fm will also review user complaints within 24 hours and remove users that have been the subject of multiple complaints. An independent safety and security examiner will be appointed to examine the changes and report on compliance to the Attorney General’s Office for three years.

This is a major relief to parents and educators alike who have seen the site growing in popularity since its introduction in 2010. Today it boasts over 130 million users with roughly 700 posts made each second.

The brothers responsible for the founding of the web site will no longer be involved with its operations as a part of the deal.

“They had a laissez-faire, libertarian attitude,”  according Chief Executive of IAC, Doug Leeds, emphasizing that under the new regime, threats of violence and other distressing content would “not be welcome”.

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 Ask.FM

This week continues my regular series “What Parents Should Know.” This week’s entry was prompted by recent events.  Have something you’re wondering about? Send me a message and I’ll do my best to find an answer: info@joshgunderson.com

Following the August 2 suicide of Hannah Smith, parents have become very concerned about their kids using the popular social networking site, AskFM. The site is in the vein of others like Formspring (which is currently under new management and closed).ask-fm

Founded in June 2010, the site’s purpose is simple enough in allowing users to ask one another questions anonymously. The key to the site’s popularity and overall appeal to others being the anonymous bit.

Like most site, AskFM has simple beginnings, allowing users to ask each other harmless questions like “what is the last movie you saw?” or “what’s your favorite YouTube video?” Like all well-intentioned things, the site quickly became grounds for anonymous hate messaging and cyberbullying.

AskFM has gained notoriety over this summer as it’s been attributed to a number of European teen suicides. From July to August, the deaths of Daniel Perry, Hannah Smith, Erin Gallagher and Joshua Unsworth were said to have been instigated by bullying on the site.

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Privacy for the site is basic at best. You have two options: allow anonymous questions or do not allow then. The site also allows you to Blacklist or block users who you do not wish to interact with. I suggest, that if you are going to the site, do not allow for users to interact with you anonymously. This is only going to lead to problems.

User Interactions
Most users are just using the site for the reason it was intended. I joined up about a week ago to learn more about the site and just today received a question from a fellow user asking me “What is your one major weakness?” I have the option of answering with text or recording a video response. (For those who are wondering the answer is Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bars from Disney world and if I had the ability I’d record me crying tears of joy while eating one in Magic Kingdom!).askfm002

Users can link their Facebook or Twitter accounts to find friends or search through the millions of users to find questions, answers or new friends.

The issue comes from the ability for users to interact anonymously. This allows for mean-spirited users to send messages like “drink bleach,” “go get cancer” and “go die.”

Reporting Inappropriate Use
Despite what the media is currently saying about the site, it is possible to report users for inappropriate use of the site. On a user’s pageaskfm001 in their questions you will see a downward arrow. Clicking on this bring a drop down menu with the option of reporting the content. That said, what the site does to control, remove or moderate this content, I have no good answer for you there. With 65 million users as of July of 2013, I can’t imagine that it’s easy to moderate every complaint that comes through in a timely manner.

That Being Said
At the end of the day, I can honestly say that when it comes to sites like AskFM, Formspring and others, do not allow your kids to use them. Any site that allows users to interact with complete strangers (see: Omegle) or allows for anonymous interactions is no good in my book. Any sane person would look at this site and say “No, thanks!”

I would strongly recommend sitting down and having a very serious conversations with your kids about sites like this. Remember to make it just that, a conversation. If you come in defensive and demanding, your kids will shut down and want nothing to do with the conversation.

I also have to say that I can’t help but point the finger at parents in these situations. Yes, Mark and Ilja Terebin (AskFM’s founders) should be doing more to keep their users safe and should rethink the way they are running things over there. Along the same lines, parents need to be paying more attention to the sites that their kids are joining and taking responsibility in keeping them safe.

If choose to allow your child to join sites like AskFM, I strongly encourage that you go over the site’s policies and privacy options with them. Make it a requirement that they cannot allow anonymous questions and users to interact with them.

Do you have a questions about an app or social networking site? Please feel free to e-mail your questions to info@joshgunderson.com and I will do my best to find you the 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.

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.

Social Networking in the Classroom: Twitter

Over the past two week’s I’ve been introducing ideas for how to integrate social networking in the classroom. This week we’ll continue the discussion with the micro-blogging site- Twitter!

When it comes to social networks, Twitter is probably one of the least complex. Created and launched in 2006, Twitter is a micro-blogging site that allows users to send and read text-based updates limited to 140 characters.

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When it comes to uses in the educational setting there are many possibilities. One of the perks of twitter is that people do not need an account to access someone’s twitter feed (the exception being if the feed was only available to followers). If you wanted to create a classroom twitter account to post announcements, links to supplemental materials, or reminders the process is quick and simple.

From there, you have the world at your fingertips! I’ve compiled a list of some ideas I’ve found around the web and heard from others about using Twitter in the classroom!

Like I mentioned last week with Facebook, don’t require students to follow you on Twitter as many may not have accounts or may not be allowed to by their parents. Find other ways to share information with them if this is the case.

Keep The Conversation Going: Use a classroom hash tag to facilitate continuing discussions after class has ended. Use hash tags to create a specialized Tweet feeds to share information and discussions. I’ve been to many conferences where a specialized hash tag was used by attendees and presenters to share what they were experiencing. It’s a lot of fun! I even use the tag #JoshOnTour when I’m on the road so family and friends can keep tabs on what I’m up to! Students and educators will also use this tag to share their experiences during my programs! Tweetdeck is a great tool to help keep you organized!

Follow and Share: Use a classroom twitter to follow and share ideas with other teachers at school and all over the world! Maybe another classroom is learning about the same topics and a you can tweet ideas to one another. Stay in touch with other educators to discuss teaching trends, classroom ideas, or upcoming events and conferences.

Real-World Updates: Big news event going on? Follow hash tags and buzzwords to get a real time stream of news coming in from all over the world! (Again Tweetdeck is a great tool in these situations to help filter in content surrounding what you want to be tracking)

Share Links And Videos: Find an interesting article or YouTube video that goes along with a class discussion? Use the “Share on Twitter” option to instantly send the information out to your students. Discuss what you found the next day in class.

Classroom Tweeting: Watching a video in class? How about taking a field trip? Encourage students to tweet during these events to share ideas and thoughts about what they are experiencing. This can be helpful in creating discussions and sharing ideas. You might also find some of the shy students standing out in these discussions! Remember to create a hash tag to easily follow the proper discussion! You never know who might be watching! I’ve heard great stories of authors, filmmakers and even myself jumping into classroom discussions via Twitter!

These are just a few of many ideas out there. I also recommend checking out Edudemic’s blog post “100 Ways to Use Twitter in Education, By Degree of Difficulty

Have you used Twitter to enhance the classroom experience? I’d love to hear about it!

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.

Image Source

Social Networking in the Classroom: Facebook

Last week I introduced my all new blog series and in the introductory entry I talked about the pros and cons of introducing social networking to the educational environment. The series continues, looking at each network and it’s uses in the classroom!

Facebook, for all its flaws, is still on top when it comes to the world of social networking with over 1 billion users (665 million daily active users). Facebook isn’t going anywhere. It is even predicted that within the next two years Facebook will have created and introduced Education Accounts. But why wait?

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Bringing a social networking site into the classroom can, understandably, be a difficult decision for any educator. There are many factors to take into account including your own safety and privacy. The number one rule I will provide: Never use your personal account!

There are very easy ways around having to provide your personal account information to students. Creating a Page or Group for your classroom allows you to have conversations and share with students without giving them access to your information. They can send private messages through the page or hold conversations on the Page’s newsfeed.

I suggest taking the time to understand the ins and outs of both Pages and Groups to find out what works best for your classroom. From there it’s just a matter of what you choose to do!

Communication: A Facebook page or group opens up a common line of communication between students and the teacher as well as other students with questions. The digital environment can encourage more conversations and less cliques. Wallflowers are more likely to contribute and work together with others in this environment, allowing them a time to shine.

A page also allows for absent students to stay connected and up-to-speed with what it happening in the classroom while they are gone. The can participate in online discussions as a potential way to earn class credit without being there (establish and enforce a rule on this early on and stick with it! Students may abuse the right!).

A Page or Group on Facebook also allows parents to stay connected with what is going on in their student’s classes. Groups allow you to upload files so forgetful students have access to permission slips and other important documents via the internet and don’t have to stress about looking for it! This also allows you to share photos from class trips, classroom activities and other on goings! Parents won’t need to pry information from their kids in order to have a conversation about their day.

Apps: Facebook offers a large variety of apps that are perfect for the educational environment. There are 200 available apps, some developed by Facebook, others by outside developers. To save you from searching I found some great one’s through Brian Jenkins’ blog post at TeachHub!

Study Groups: Students use this popular application to work together outside of the classroom. They collaborate on group projects, share notes, discuss assignments, and help each other prepare for tests.
SAT Quest: This application prepares students for the SAT with short, five question SAT prep games. The questions become more difficult as students move to higher levels.
Quizlet: This handy tool is on of tne of the largest and fastest growing flashcard websites. Over 1 million registered users have uploaded tens of millions of flash cards. Flash card sets are available for a variety of topics including standardized test prep, languages, math, and science.
To Do List: Students use this application to organize their school assignments. Students can make multiple lists.
Zoho Online Office: Although it’s designed for businesses, this application is used by students to store their documents and class presentations online. They can then share their documents with other students. It’s a great way for students to manage their information.
Quiz Monster: Students create their own quizzes with this very popular application.
GRE GMAT SAT Vocabulary Flashcards: This application includes 5000 words students should be familiar with before taking the SAT. It also includes 1100 words for the GRE and GMAT tests. Students mark a word based on its level of difficulty. An easy-level word repeats after nine days and a medium level-word repeats after three days.

Once you’ve established how you plan on using Facebook in the classroom it’s important to keep with it! Educator Dr. Rachel Baum of Wisconsin describes Facebook in the classroom as a ladder approach:

Baum also offers up her own list of Do’s and Don’ts of using Facebook in the classroom:

Post Frequently: This keeps the conversations fresh and keeps them going. It begins to feel more like a discussion rather than notifications that can get lost in a student’s regular newsfeed.

Post More Outside Information Then Class Announcements: Though many students won’t read these, those who do are invited to deepen their experience in your class.

Connect What You Post To What You’re Teaching: In a few words, connect what you are posting (videos and articles) to what the class is learning and make it a part of the next class discussion.

Let Students Know You’re Looking At Their Work: A fine example:
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Don’t Make Facebook A Requirement: Many students may not be on Facebook either as a personal choice or the choice of their parents. Be sure to think of alternative ways to connect with students who may not be on social networks.

Don’t Be Afraid of Inappropriate Use: By introducing an educational aspect of Social Networking to students many educators have found that it has become less of a distraction and allows students to understand how to responsibly use this technology.

There is so much more to be discussed! Please use the comments section to share your own ideas, secrets or even do’s and don’ts you’ve discovered by introducing Facebook to your classroom!

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.