MySpace in Democracy: inquiry on how social networks and media technologies promote and disrupt democratic practices

bySamuel A. Reed III

Overview

This unit on "MySpace in Democracy: inquiry on how social networks and media technologies promote and disrupt democratic practices" is intended to integrate with the School Districts Philadelphia's middle grades' Social Studies core curriculum. Through my proposed unit, students will conduct inquiry on how the proliferation of social networking sites, search engines, and electronic media shapes democratic practices. Inquiry and critical thinking will be core skills students will master. To lead students to master research skills this unit will use media literacy and free speech topics to provide students with seed ideas for their own inquiry. As Leonisa Ardizzone posits, students need to find themselves at the center rather than the margins of learning for critical pedagogy to take place. 1 My students consequently need opportunities to create their own media where their voices can be heard and honored. The hope is that my students' voices will placed at the center of topics related to digital literacy and democratic practices.

I teach 6th grade reading, writing and social studies at Beeber Middle School, located in the West Academic Area of the School District of Philadelphia. The pupil population is over 600. The student body is 95% African American and less than 1% percent is Caucasian. The balance of other students is bi-racially mixed or from other ethnic backgrounds. Finding ways to engage many of my disengaged students in reading, writing and reasoning is critical in helping them improve their performance on standardized test and preparing them for life after middle school. Consequently, I use media literacy and inquiry as part of my pedagogy. Last year I participated in the Philadelphia Writing Project's digital story telling study group and received a Pennsylvania Council of the Arts (PCA) Art Commentary grant to conduct inquiry around identity construction using visual and performing arts. Furthermore, I have used inquiry to explore hip-hop and its influence on youth culture. What sets this unit apart from my previous work is that students will make inquiry on free speech and information technologies, using the very technologies and social networks that interplay to promote and disrupt democratic practices.

Rationale

  • "You might peek into your kid's room, and your kid is on MySpace and they're
  • talking on the phone and they're texting and IMing and there's music coming from
  • the iPod — basically, you're seeing kids who are so technologically adept that
  • parents don't quite know what to do about it." Larry D. Rosen
  • "Google has utterly infiltrated our culture. It is a ubiquitous brand, used as a noun
  • and a verb everywhere from adolescent conversations to scripts for Sex and the
  • City" Siva Vaidhyanathan

To what extent does the Internet threaten or promote political and commercial freedoms? What does uncensored gossips on such social network sites like MySpace, YouTube, or Face Book have to do with democratic practices? How are global electronic technologies allowing the voice of youth to influence global, social, economic and political developments? Will the digital divide prevent some of my economical disadvantages students from having a voice in our new digital democracy? These are some of the questions I posed after I attended a presentation by Siva Viadyanthan during a University Pennsylvania Humanities "Forum on Origins". Vaidhyanathan a media scholar and cultural critic is involved in some fascinating work on what influence Google and global electronic technologies have on reading, writing, publishing as well as social and political practices. While attending this forum, in February 2008, I scanned the audience and noticed very few people of color, and got the sense, that although the presentation was talking about the role of open source and the freedom of information, the audience was pretty closed to privileged academics and their associates. Although I attended racially isolated public schools while growing up and I am African American like most the students, by virtue of my affiliation with the Teacher Institute of Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania and my educational background, I am tenuously a part of this privileged class, that often seems far removed from many of my students. As I left this forum, I asked myself, how I could help make topics about Google, electronic technologies and democratic practices relevant to my sixth grade students.

Media literacy is a critical component of making education practical for the information saturated and wired generation of students I teach. Vanessa Domine, a media education expert notes that:

  • Media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, produce and communicate
  • using a variety of media technologies. It implies a broad view of communication
  • technology to include computers, the Internet, T.V. video, film, books,
  • photographs, radio, audio tapes video games, poster, billboards, and even clothing. 2

One overarching concern for teachers trying to integrate media literacy into the social studies core curriculum is how to explore the contradictions between democracy and consumer culture? According to Cornell West in Democracy Matters, market driven media leads many young people to think that life is basically about materialism and social status. 3 Providing students a lens to explore media technologies' democratic uses and its underlying economic modalities is critical to improving students' media literacy skills.

Using media literacy to explore free speech and democratic practices will allow my students to engage in discourse about topics that resonates with their personal experiences. Many of my students have MySpace or Face Book pages and informally talk about "what's hot" and "what's not" on other students' pages. Cyber bullying is one of the disconcerting issues that have arisen as a result of students starting vicious rumors online. Therefore, it becomes critical that students understand rights and responsibilities of using media technologies. The following questions were modified from a standard media literacy curriculum which could serve as inquiry points regarding media technologies' social, economic and political implications: 4

  • Who created the Internet and who sponsors its?
  • What is the purpose of Internet?
  • Who is the targeted audience and how are websites tailored to their audiences?
  • What are the different methods used on MySpace and Google to inform, persuade,
  • and entertain?
  • What messages are communicated or implied about certain people, places, events
  • and lifestyles, over various media technologies?
  • How credible is information on search engines?
  • How do rumors and gossip circulate on the social networking sites?
  • Who is responsible for the actions of children on the Internet?

Google and Democracy

Having students explore the role of media technologies play in democratic forums and commercial enterprises will lead them to understand the effect Goggle has in our global place of ideas and commodities. The plan is not to vilify Google as evil and commodity driven, but to come up with rubrics to appreciate its searching capacity and democratic nature. By asking students to study, analyze search engines, and create arguments for and against using them, it will help them become critical consumers of information.

Many of my students rely more heavily on commercial search engines than libraries - our librarian was cut from our school budget- when conducting research. Betinna Fabos, a media studies scholar, illustrates how many educators are teaching students to evaluate websites as follows:

By turning students into librarians, they (educators) surmise, they will enable them

(students) to weed out "untruthful" web content on a page by page basis. Typical

teaching go like this: government sites (e.g.,www.nih.gov) tend to be objective;

commercial sites (e.g. obesity.com) tend to want to sell you something in addition

to offering often helpful information; homebuilt websites authored by individual

people, especially those identified by a tilde (~) (e.g. www.uni.edu/~faboo), tend to

be factually misleading or incredibly biased. Pages with grammatical errors, no

dates, and strong opinions are especially suspected. 5

Fabos cautions that students need to be made aware of the social, economic and political nature of websites. Commercial search engines betray the trust of users as objective sources of information because of their ranking of sites are influenced by keyword advertising sales. 6 It is therefore critical that I spend time showing my student how search engines' economic, social and political functions deludes the impartially of information on the web. To support my students' critical thinking skills I should not only focus on fact-based objective research projects, but deeper inquiry projects that provide students with skills to critically question both facts and opinions as well as multiple point of views found on a variety of web sites.

Free Speech and its Cyber Implications for Students

The First amendments states "that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assembly and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." The framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights could not imagine how peer-to-peer communications and uncensored gossip would play out in our media driven world today. When the founding fathers were establishing the Bill of Rights, certain groups were not even taken into consideration, namely women, non-white men, and children. Fortunately, our society has evolved and is more inclusive. However, the question of students' rights needs to be carefully considered when planning lessons that involve inquiry on the role free speech plays in the cyber world. According to David Hudson, a first amendment research attorney, students do not forsake their constitutional rights when they enter classrooms. The US Supreme Court has recognized that "students in school as well as out of school are 'persons' under our Constitution." 7 This means that my students have the right to express themselves in a variety of ways. However, my students do not have unlimited First Amendments rights. Often my students do not understand that they do not have the same level of rights as their parents or teachers. School safety and education of students take precedent over students' free speech.

Many of my students are turning to the internet to express themselves in variety of ways. The US Supreme Court has said that "students generally have broad freedom to express themselves on the Internet on their own time, using their own off-campus computers". 8 Some students at my school have been suspended for using computers at school to send vulgar messages, downloading pornographic sites as well as for cyber bullying conducted off school grounds. Part of the challenge of this unit is not to sensationalize the negative uses of computers and internet, but to offer students ways of coping with violations both in school and outside of school. An educator who appeared on the Frontline program "Growing Up Online", offers a simple slogan to teach younger students how to deal with inappropriate internet uses, "Stop, Block and Tell". 9 My students need ways to combat the misuse of cyber speech and develop more empathy when using the Internet and social networking sites.

Social Networks, Internet Safety and Polarization

Using media literacy to explore social networks will allow students to engage in academic discourse about topics that resonate with their personal experiences. Having discourse about Internet safety and privacy is often overlooked in many social studies classrooms. But many of my students and their parents are concerned about being targets of Internet predators. In March 2006, federal prosecutors in Connecticut charged two men with using MySpace to contact youths with whom they later had sexual contact. Following Congressional hearings about online sexual predators, MySpace hired a safety czar to improve the site's protections for young users. Twenty middle school students in California were suspended after participating in a MySpace group where one student allegedly threatened to kill another and made anti-Semitic remarks. In Kansas, authorities arrested five teenagers after one of the suspects used MySpace to outline plans for a Columbine-like attack on the boys' school. 10 Through engaging in deeper inquiry about social networks and its complication I believe students will be able to make more effective decisions on using social networking sites and media technologies as well as using their voices to address issues of online social justice.

Social networking sites like MySpace and FaceBook provide a forum for my students to meet and communicate with students of similar interests and background. My students are increasingly using media technologies to shape their identities and expand their social networks. However, this creates the risk of polarizing my students who already attend racially and economically isolated schools. Case Sustein, a Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Chicago notes some implications of group polarization on the Internet as follows:

  • The phenomenon of group polarization has conspicuous importance to the current
  • communications market, where groups with distinctive identities increasingly
  • engage in within-group discussion. If the public is balkanized, and if different
  • groups design their own preferred communications packages, the consequence will
  • be further balkanization, as group members move one another toward more
  • extreme points in line with their initial tendencies. At the same time, different
  • deliberating groups, each consisting of like-minded people, will be driven
  • increasingly far apart, simply because most of their discussions are with one
  • another. 11

The Internet is now providing a forum where my students extend the "cool kids or geeks sections" in the cafeteria, beyond the school walls into their virtual world. This further isolation can present interesting challenges in schools. Students can form cyber gangs or outcast groups which prevent students from crossing social boundaries. In some ways cyber polarization creates more permanence than school cafeteria cliques. When students go home and turn on their computers and see hurtful sayings or images on their social networking pages, the home which may have been a refuge is not even safe grounds. The "sticks and stones" follow you home.

Interestingly, many young people have found ways to create multiple identities in the real and virtual world. Some youth use the internet to develop coping skills and create new personas. A female teenager, featured on "Growing Up On Line", who was teased and isolated at her school, used social networking sites to create a new "gothic diva" personality. Her online postings alarmed her school administrators and parents, but got her acceptance from a community of similar "gothic" teens online which in turned resulted in her peers at school seeing her in a more favorable light. 12 My challenge as a classroom teacher is to encourage my students to mix-up their internet and media technology exposure. I therefore, will encourage my students to view websites that are different from their typical online media exposure. Furthermore, I should help my students understand the positive and negative impact social networks, group identity and social isolation has at school, home and in virtual communities.

I plan to use media technologies to engage my students in inquiry and conversations about free speech and safe internet practices while simultaneously teaching reading, writing and critical thinking skills. Ultimately using media literacy should improve my students' abilities to negotiate the standard reading, writing and social studies curricula mandates. Pennsylvania State Academic Assessment standards for 6th grade are provided in appendix # 1.

Objectives

While this unit will be anchored in media literacy and explore the implications of free speech, we will closely examine social networks and search engines. Consequently, I will teach such concepts as free press, media economics, youth cultural issues and critical thinking skills. The unit will guide students' inquiry into how the internet and media technologies influence the way young people socialize, communicate and participate in a democratic society. Through exploring free speech and media literacy inquiries students will improve their reading, writing, researching and reasoning skills. Narrative objectives are described within 3 major categories below:

Researching and Analyzing Free "Cyber" Speech

Instead of just reading and writing text on the page, students will use information technologies to contextualize what already know about the power of information. The first part of the unit involves exploring the role and responsibilities of a free press. It is through this initial step that students will see how search engines and social network sites promote and disrupt democratic values. The internet has drastically complicated the roles and responsibilities of free speech for students, teachers and parents. Hudson illustrates this point as follows:

  • The Internet has revolutionized communication throughout the world, allowing
  • people to correspond instantaneously at relatively low cost. Federal Judge Stewart
  • Dalzell called the Internet the "most participatory form of mass speech yet
  • developed." However, this speech-enhancing medium has led to numerous
  • controversies, causing many people to view the Internet as the premier First
  • Amendment battleground. 13

To provoke students' inquiry I will have them describe in their own words what free speech means. I will guide students in researching free-speech laws such as the Communications Decency Act and the Child Online Protection Act, and laws that mandate Internet filtering in public libraries or schools, such as the Children's Internet Protection Act. I plan to use selected video clips from the Public Broadcasting Company (PBS) Frontline documentary "Growing Up Online" to expose my students to risks and rewards of free "cyber" speech and social networking. Once students obtain some formal knowledge about social networking they will conduct inquiry into their own free speech practices. Students will conduct web research on free "cyber" speech roles and responsibilities. Students will explore how social networking sites promote lifestyle choices. Lastly, students will complete a PowerPoint research slides reflecting the pros and cons of free speech on the Internet.

Critical Thinking and Evaluating Media Technologies

Critical thinking is essential to good citizenship. This unit will teach students to gather, evaluate and question filtered information from online sources. To further engage students in the inquiry process we will analyze and interpret the credibility, accuracy, and reliability of search engines and social networking sites. Furthermore, we will learn effective searching technique and safe practices for using the Internet.

We will use a media literacy lens to evaluate web sites. I will support my students in learning how to shift through the variety of information found online. Students will learn to check for the following: clarity of information, the purpose of the site, the relevance of the site, is there bias on the site, the validity and verifiability of the site. According to Chris Street, an English learning language and adolescent literacy specialist, teachers need to help students develop the "Habits of Mind" when evaluating online resources. This means that students need to be able to carefully choose where and how they use the Internet. Through focusing on "habits of the mind" I will help my students critically access that all media technologies do not provide accurate or unbiased information. 14

Using and Creating Safe and Age-Appropriate Media Technology Resources.

To culminate this unit, students will explore, practice and produce their own multi-media resources demonstrating safe Internet practices and cyber "free" speech responsibilities. I plan to use the Ikeepsafe.org and other websites to expose students to Internet safety issues such as handling cyber-bullying, balancing real life with virtual identities and the risks and rewards of media technologies. The Ikeepsafe website is produced by Internet Keep Safe Coalition, a broad partnership of corporate and nongovernmental agencies that disseminate resources to teach children safe uses of technology and the Internet 15.

Lastly, to support students to synthesize what they have learned about the role media technologies play in promoting and disrupting free speech practices, students will create digital media products. Students' public services media products will model what they learned about the role search engines and social networks sites play in providing youth a voice in democratic societies. Students will create concise public service (PSA) using PowerPoint slides, podcasts, videos, web pages or other suitable digital formats. Students will be proud to showcase their critical thinking and higher order thinking skills using their improved communication and media literacy skills. To support us in creating our media technology end-products I plan to collaborate with Temple University's Media Literacy Education Lab.

Strategies

Because I teach two sixth grade classes of literacy (reading and writing) and social studies during at least 120 minutes per day, I will have ample time to spread my unit over 4-6 weeks. The core content of this unit will be taught primarily during social studies lessons. However, some of the writing and reading skills could be taught during my balanced literacy block. Alternatively, I can teach the unit over an entire marking period incorporating critical thinking and free speech concepts embedded across the reading, writing and social studies curriculum.

Before, During and After Non Fiction Reading Techniques

The Pennsylvania State Standards Assessment (PSSA) in reading and writing requires students to become proficient in reading non-fiction text. Therefore, our study will deliberately focus on reading background information about free speech from electronic and non-electronic sources. Before students complete their PowerPoint presentations for their portfolio grades, students will complete BDA (Before, During and After reading) exercises in which they analyze, compare and contrast communication technologies and understand how the Bill Rights relates to free speech rights and responsibilities. BDA strategy is an interactive reading and note-taking tool that allows students to comprehend nonfiction text. Before reading, students can prepare to read by scanning websites for bold text, hyperlinks and pictures for clues, making predictions, or setting a purpose. During reading, students can ask questions and have dialogue about web sites. "Text rendering" is an example of a during-reading activity. Text rendering directs students to say or record any words, phrases or sentences that resonate for any reason, including confusion and lack of understanding. I plan to use BDA strategies for reading web pages, essays, non-fiction and other text related to our inquiry topics. 16

Other Graphic Organizer and tools that can be used during BDA activities are provided below:

K-W-L ñ What You Already Know, What you Want to Know and What You Learned

Using a K-W-L graphic organizer is a good starting point for eliciting students' prior knowledge and determining what they know about a particular concept or democratic process. Using KWL is great with inquiry planning because teachers can ask probing questions to lead student to learn new things; and after completing the reading, writing and inquiry process students can describe what new things they learned. 17 When asking clarifying questions it encourages students to think for themselves. I often let my students know I do not have all the answers. I find that facilitating discussions through using a K-W-L chart supports both my higher and lower functioning readers and writers. After leading class discussions, I have students work in small groups and revise and illustrate their K-W-L charts which expand their thinking for making connections to their inquiry.

Venn Diagram

Using a Venn diagram allows students to organize information to compare and contrast concepts. For example, students can represent similarities and differences of communication innovations ñGuttenberg printing press vs. Internet- or students can compare and contrast cyber bullying vs. face to face bullying. Students could also compare and contrast different Internet safety websites. I plan to conduct mini-lessons using an inter-active Venn diagram found on the ReadWriteThink website. (http://www.readwritethink.org/materials/venn/ )

Vocabulary Squares and Frayer Model

A vocabulary square is a graphic organizer divided into four quadrants that helps students demonstrate their understanding of word origins or parts of speech, synonyms or antonyms, visuals logos or icons and formal brief definition of words. 18 Students take ownership of words that they are able to show their understanding from multiple perspectives. The Frayer Model is an alternative graphical organizer for word analysis and vocabulary development. With the Frayer Model students define a word, provide characteristics for the word, and provide examples and non-examples for the word. 19 I will use vocabulary graphic organizers when previewing key terms as well as introducing interesting or difficult concepts found in certain articles, essays and websites related to our inquiry. For example, I could have students make a vocabulary squares for the words like democracy, free press, cyber bullying, media literacy, bias, social networking, rights, freedom, filters, isolation, etc. I find using vocabulary squares are great "warm-up" or "do now" activities, for previewing or reviewing big ideas related to my main lesson objectives. Examples of vocabulary square models can be found on the following links: http://englishseven.com/toolsforthought/VocabSquares.pdf , and http://www.justreadnow.com/strategies/frayer.htm

Timelines

Timelines provide a visual tool for studying events that happen over a period of time — a day, a year, or topic across the centuries. Researching and creating timelines appeals to students' visual, mathematic, and kinesthetic intelligences. 20 Timelines will help my high-level and lower level readers understand and apply cause and effect concepts found in lots of social studies text. I will have students use interactive online graphic organizers to reflect how communication innovations have evolved over time. After modeling how to create timelines and exploring several communication or free press' timeline websites I will have students create their own timeline using the following link: http://www.readwritethink.org/materials/timeline/ Students could create interactive timelines reflecting how communication inventions like the Guttenberg press, typewriter, telephone, camera, television, computer, cell phone and the Internet impacted societies. As a part of their WebQuest students may select at least two communication technologies , one from the period before the second half of the 20th century, and one from the period after the second half the 20 th century and outline the positive and negative impact each innovation had on society.

Constructive Responses

As per the Philadelphia School District's curriculum, students must be able to respond to open-ended prompts related to fiction and non-fiction text. For example, the TAG it 3 strategy graphically helps students to Turn a prompt into an opening statement; Answer a prompt; Give details, evidence and examples from the text to support their answers. 21 The more practice students have with this method of responding to text the better they perform on their state test. Therefore, I will have students write constructive responses for standard academic text about the free press, media technologies as well respond to websites and videos related to our inquiry. Refer to the link -http://www.phila.k12.pa.us/schools/creighton/PSSA%20tag.pdf - to see how this strategy looks and works graphically.

Web Site Evaluation Graphic Organizer

Using graphic organizers to evaluate websites provides a quick effective way for students to evaluate the relevance, accuracy and reliability of information. I will provide mini-lessons on how to recognize various types of websites. Students could evaluate internet safety websites reviewing government sites (gov.), commercial sites (com.), organizational sites (org.) and individual sites ( ~). The graphic organizer could chart a brief description of the visual layout of sites, the aim of the sites, the source or author of the sites and keywords found on sites. Some sites may have interactive games; others may have flash media presentations; while others may have advertising banners and product placement features; or others sites may be more text base with less visual images.

For deeper inquiry into social networking sites and internet safety I will lead students to critically analyze the continuum of information about social networking and internet safety. For example, who is more responsible when a child harms herself as result of cyber bullying that takes place on social networking site? Would a parent's advocacy group say it was more social networking sites fault? Would an Internet coalition group say it was more the parent's fault for not monitoring her child? By placing the internet safety debate on a continuum should helps my students see how using social networking sites presents risks and rewards in our free speech practices. Sample lesson plan # 2 provides more details on how this website evaluation inquiry will work.

Inquiry Strategies

Inquiry learning provides students an opportunity to improve their critical thinking skills. David S. Jake, et al. in an online article "Inquiry Based learning and the Web" posit that inquiry-based learning is a process where students formulate questions, obtain facts, and then build knowledge to reflect on their original question. 22 To support students' inquiry and research skills, I will ask them to explore the essential question "what are the pros and cons of free "cyber" speech on the internet for 'tweeners'?" An essential question such as this one frames the research and requires students to make decisions and a plan of action. I plan to use a WebQuest to lead students to complete their PowerPoint research project. A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented lesson format in which most or all the information that learners work with comes from the web. To create a WebQuest you create a document with hyperlinks on a PowerPoint or MS Word Document that guides students through an inquiry process using the web resources 23. Through using a WebQuest, students will creatively present the pros and cons of the free speech as it personally relates to them.

I will conduct mini-lessons to support this inquiry process. Using K-W-L to determine what students know about democracy and free "cyber" speech could be a good starting point. To guide students to through their WebQuest projects it is important to allow for active discourse between teacher and students as well as among students in small groups. Often many of my students know far more about formal academic topics than they realize. It is through talk that they really make connections to what they know informally with formal academic content 24. For example, if I ask students what they know about the Internet and its role in democracy and the freedom of speech, initially, many might not be able to articulate well on this topic. However, through questioning students about what they know about social networking sites and their influence on fashion, language, and life styles students may began to understand the role Internet plays in their freedom of expression in general and children's rights to free speech in particular. Discourse allows students to ask lots of questions of the teacher and for the teacher to ask further probing questions or turn questions back around to other students. It is from this discourse that students refine their own personal inquiry stance. In addition to discourse, I will have secondary resources available. This may include Scholastic Magazines, topical articles, videos and documentaries. Media Specialists may visit or field trips may be planned to obtain additional primary resources. Comcast sponsors the Ikeepsage.org, so I may plan a trip to Comcast's Philadelphia Offices. Students will also visit the local library and school's media lab to conduct web searches on their inquiry topics.

Multi Media Strategies

To prepare students to create public service media products, mini-lessons will be conducted either by visiting media specialists or myself on how to use cameras, audio, video clips, I-Movie and Garage Band. Websites such as www.ikeepsafe.org , www.storycenter.org and www.streetside.org will be reviewed to offer models of internet safety videos and student-created digital media. Furthermore, students will discuss and analyze how sound, visual images and special effects enhance media presentations. Through modeling and viewing PowerPoint Slides, digital stories, podcast and videos, students should be able to come up with interesting ways to depict free "cyber" speech rights and responsibilities. Students will not be allowed to use cameras or practice using media making software until they complete storyboards or outline their concept for their public service media product. When creating their storyboards or concept outlines students will consider: target audience, visual images, script, text, lyrics, sound track, transitions and special effects 25. Visiting media specialists may reinforce ideas on copyright and "fair use" practices.

Resources

In previous years, I have collaborated with the mentally gifted support teacher and librarian to do special media projects. Their support provided additional resource persons for my students including those with special needs. In addition to the resources available at school, I plan to collaborate with Temple University's Media Education Lab. The Media Education Lab supports teachers through providing workshops, publishing its scholarship and conducting community services. Through the Media Education Lab and Temple University's School of Communication and Theater Studies I have previously worked with a graduate student who was interested in observing how I integrated media education in my middle school curriculum.

Parents will serve as another vital resource for this project. Letters will be sent to parents informing them about the nature of our inquiry project and to solicit their support. The letter will provide the options for parents to exclude their child for viewing certain sensitive material on from the film, "Growing Up Online." Parents will also need to sign off on Permission Forms to use any of students' images or work that may be circulated outside of the classroom. Lastly parents will be called upon to attend special field trips and serve as primary resources when students are conducting research about about free "cyber" speech and internet safety.

Grants fund may be procured to support any additional resources or materials required for this project. The Southern Poverty Law Center, through its Teaching Tolerance Grant offers grants for K-12 to promote respect for differences and an appreciation of diversity. Materials such as videos, books and magazine subscriptions or funds for field trips for our inquiry work could be funded by Teaching Tolerance, DonorChoose.Org or other local or national grant funding organizations.

A list of resources including websites, videos, magazines and materials for students is annotated in the Students' Web and Media Resources section.

Assessment

Assessments will include evaluation of students' WebQuest, PowerPoint, response journals and their free speech internet safety public service media products. The Web Quest will be graded for its completeness; writing standards and the reflection of students' research. Included in the grade will be an assessment of the student's ability to use and evaluate internet sources.

Students' journals will demonstrate their understanding of free "cyber" speech risks and rewards. Students' website evaluations will be assessed on how they describe and constructively analyze wide range of websites covering issues about social networking and internet safety. Ultimately students should uncover how MySpace, Google, other social networking sites and search engines despite their inherent commercial interest offers opportunities for students to address social justice issues.

Classroom Activities / Lesson Plans

Sample Lesson Plan 1

Title: Time Line ñ The Power of the Press -

Grade Range and Subjects: 6th - 8th Grade Social Studies and Literacy (Reading and Writing):

Duration of Lesson: 2-3 Class Periods of at Least 45 Minutes.

The specific goals are to: understand the cause and effect of communication innovations on freedom speech practices, visually represent how communication inventions changed societies; analyze and explain the positive and negative impact of at least two different communication technologies from two different time periods; and use a variety of websites to gather information about how communication innovations have evolved over time.

The materials and resources include but are not limited to: print, electronic and interactive timelines, scissors, construction paper, glue, Webquest links, PowerPoint, pre-formatted or teacher generated graphic organizers.

Inquiry Question: What role did communication inventions have on the freedom press and speech in the United States?

Do Now Activity ñ Quick Write - How do modern communication innovations make the world seem flat.

In their journal books students will describe how the new ways of communication make the world seem flat. Students may consider the increased speed at which people travel, receive goods and how much faster it takes to send and receive messages.

Mini Lesson ñ Compare and Contrast Inventions Printing Press vs. Internet.

Using the website http://www.cbc.ca/kids/general/the-lab/history-of-invention/default.html the teacher will discuss the role of printing press and Internet in changing the way people communicate. The teacher will provide a brief history on Gutenberg Printing Press and Internet and compare and contrast what impact these technologies had on free speech practices in the United States.

Activities - Great Moments in Communication Timeline

Working in pairs or groups of threes, students will assemble a timeline to reflect how communication technologies have evolved over time. Students will receive a pre-formatted activity sheet that contains great moments in communication covering Before the Common Area -BCE/ BC- up to modern times, Common Era -CE/AD-. Students will have to cut apart the great moment boxes and place each event/innovation in chronological order. Next students will have to create a timeline by pasting the great moments on construction paper. Students may decorate or create borders or provide other enhancements for their communication's timeline. The handout for the great moments communications cut out sheets can be download at the following link: http://www.cybersmartcurriculum.org/act_sheets/CY00_Stdnt_G68_L23a.pdf

After the timeline is constructed students will select two communication inventions from different time periods, one before the 1950's and one after the 1950's, and hypothesize positive and negative impact these inventions had on freedom of press and free speech practices. Students may use the early referenced websites or other websites provided in their Webquest.

Wrap-up or Extension— As a wrap up students will interview an adult who grow up before the invention of the internet and ask them five major changes the Internet has brought to society and record the results in their journal notebook.

Sample Lesson Plan 2

Title: Web Quest- Evaluating Websites and Free Speech on the Internet.

Grade Range and Subjects 6th - 8th Grade Social Studies

Duration of Lesson: 4-8 Class Periods of at Least 45 Minutes.

The specific goals include but are not limited to: identifying students' right and responsibilities in cyber speech; explaining the importance of balancing first amendment rights with students' safety at school; critically thinking about and evaluating a variety of websites; understanding social networking sites benefits and risks; and improving media literacy and research skills.

The materials and resources include but are not limited to: print and electronic content on the first amendment, online media links, PowerPoint, pre-formatted or teacher generated graphic organizers.

Inquiry Question: What rights do students have on and outside cyber space?

Do Now Activity ñ K-W-L Free Cyber Speech Rights

Students will complete a Frayer Model vocabulary square for the term "free speech" and create a K-W-L chart listing what they already know about free speech rights on internet. What new things they want to know? After the project is complete they can list the new things they learned. The teacher should allow for lots of discourse and ask probing questions to help students generate extensive lists for their K-W-L charts. For a warm-up students may list 3-5 things they know about free speech rights on the internet. For the K-W-L chart to be considered complete, students should name at least 10 things they know and want to know about the topic.

Mini Lesson ñ What does MySpace mean for students' First Amendment Rights?

The teacher will guide students in understanding their First amendment Rights as it relates to life online. Students will learn that they do not forsake their constitutional rights while online or in school. However, they will learn that they do not have unlimited first amendments rights while at school or when it come to providing a safe school environment. Teacher will provide a few cases of online first amendment rights' cases and lead students in discourse to evaluate if other students' first amendment rights were violated. Cases may include any of the following listed below from the website- http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/PDF/student.internet.speech.pdf :

  • -Beussink v. Woodland R-IV School District, 30 F.Supp.2d 1175 (E.D. Mo. 1998)
  • -Coy v. Board of Education of the North, Canton City Schools, 205 F.Supp. 2d 791 (N.D. Ohio 2002)
  • -J.S. v. Bethlehem Area School District, 807 A.2d 847 (Pa. 2002)
  • -Killion v. Franklin Regional School District, 136 F.Supp.2d 446 (W.D. Pa. 2001)
  • -Mahaffey v. Aldrich, 236 F.Supp. 2d 779 (E.D. Mich. 2002)

Activities: Social Networking and Internet Safety Evaluation Web Quest.

Working in groups students will complete a graphic organizer as a part of their Webquest project. Students will evaluate several internet safety websites that provides different slants and approaches for promoting internet safety. Websites may present a variety messages or convey their content using varying styles. This may include but not limited to the following: corporate or commercial facade, governmental or parent organizational appeal; animation or more text based. Furthermore, some sites may persuade students and parents to avoid social networking sites by emphasizing internet predators, cyber bullying issues, while others sites may offer positive alternatives for using social networking sites such as homework help and teen support groups.

The Internet Safety Website graphic organizer will specifically have students record the following information:

  • -Title of the website and URL address
  • -The author(s)/ sponsor(s) of the site
  • -Type of site ñ commercial ñcom., non-profit/organizational -org., school or educational ñedu . individual /personal (tiddle)- ~ or other (specify).
  • -Intended Audience- kid friendly, parent friendly, teacher friendly, or a combination.
  • -Site Construction ñ animation / graphics, text / statistics, other (specify)
  • -Persuasion Technique- Fear Tactics about social networking sites, Positive alternatives to social networks, balance perspective both positive and negative aspects of using social networking sites presented.

A sample of the Webquest Internet Safety Website Evaluation Graphic Organizer is provided in appendix # 2.

Wrap up or Extension ñ Pros and Cons of Free Speech WebQuest Slide Presentation

After completing their graphic organizers, students will make deeper inquiry on the pros and cons free speech as it relates to social networking sites. Working in pairs students will use the Internet as well as other secondary and primary sources to produce 10 PowerPoint slides reflecting (5) pros and (5) cons of free "cyber" speech. Students will have to cite sources for images, facts, opinions and websites used in producing their slides.

Sample Lesson Plan 3

Title: Free Cyber Speech and Internet Safety Public Service Media Product

Grade Range and Subjects: 6th - 8th Grade Media Arts and Social Studies (Reading and Writing)

Duration of Lesson: 6-8 Class Periods of at Least 45 Minutes.

The specific goals include: creating storyboards; planning, and producing internet safety public service announcements (PSA's); demonstrating persuasive appeals using media technology while incorporating: images, lyrics, text, music, transitions and special effects; demonstrating acceptable "fair use" practices by sampling lyrics, text, data, royalty free images and content; using multi-media as service learning component.

Materials / Resources: LCD projection, royalty free material, Digital Camera, I Movie, Garage Band, pre-formatted or teacher generated story board templates.

Inquiry Question: How can you use media technologies to inform your peers about free speech rights and responsibilities and offer Internet safety tips?

Do Now Activity ñ What's in a name?

Students will make a name for their own social networking site that would promote Internet safety. Students will come up with an original name for a social networking website that would compete with MySpace. Students will create a logo or symbol for their site and describe what their site's name and symbol means.

Mini Lesson ñ Demonstrate "Fair Use" Practices

The teacher or visiting media artist will provide mini-lessons on copyright and "fair use" guidelines for school projects. It is critical for teachers to spend time covering what is the acceptable use of music, photographs and motion media. The general limitations to be discussed include: Motion Media (such as movies, commercial, or television programs): 10 percent or 30 seconds; Text: 10 percent or 1000 words; Music, Lyrics, music videos: 10 percent or 30 seconds; Numerical data sets: 10 percent or 2,500 field or cell entries; Illustrations and photographs: 10 percent or 15 images in collection; no more than five by a single artist or photographer. 26

Students must understand that they still must cite or credit their sources. If they want to use more content than the above noted limitations, they must write the copyright holder for permission. To assess whether students understand acceptable "Fair Use" practices, different scenarios using free speech /internet safety topics, images, and text will be presented and students will have to decide if the case is acceptable or not acceptable "Fair Use".

Activities ñ

Students will view selected internet safety and cyber bullying clips from the documentary "Kids Growing Up online" and clips from Ikeepsafe.org and netsmartz.org websites. These varied clips provide different perspective and approaches to informing the public about the pros and cons on free cyber speech implications for school aged children. The clips will be use to further explore issues around media literacy and provide context for my students to consider ways that the Internet could be used to promote positive social justice service learning projects. While viewing clips students will take notes covering the following questions: how is the Internet being use to help young people shape their identities? What is cyber bullying how it is different or alike face to face bullying? How did seeing the film clips change your views about the internet? Did seeing any of the film clips inspire you to want to find new ways to use Internet to promote positive social change? Why or why not? What impact does the Internet have on the first amendment rights - free speech?

Wrap up or Extension — Internet Safety Public Service Announcements (PSAs)

This unit may culminate with an Internet safety PSAs showcase. With support from a media arts partners such as Temple University's Media Education Labor or Comcast students' work may be presented at outside venues. In preparation for the showcase students may work in groups of four; students will form production teams to create an informative digital PSAs to deal with issues such as free speech online, cyber bullying, positive uses of social networking sites, internet safety, etc. The teacher or media artist will model how to use storyboards for planning their own digital video, pod-cast or other digital media. Students may use images from their inquiry process, PowerPoint slides, website evaluations as well as create their own material. Students may also and present live performances of raps, spoken word, hip-hop inspired dance moves to reflect their inquiry about MySpace in Democracy.

Annotated Works Cited and Resources

Works Cited / Teacher Resources

Ardizzone, Leonisa. Listening to Youth Voices: Activism and Critical Pedagogy Useful Theory Making Critical Education Practical ed. Rebecca Goldstein. New York. Peter Lang Publishing, 2006. This contributions provides a scholarly and practical analysis of critical pedagogy for public educators.

Burke, James. Tools of Thought: graphic organizers for your classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2002. A book written by Jim Burke of Burlingame High School, California, is a must have for teachers using graphic organizers for English and Humanities content.

Case, Sunstein. Republic.com 2.0. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007. This timely book provides insigtful appraisal of online discourse, polirization and internet free speech implications.

Christel, Mary. Lessons Plans for Creating Media-Rich Classroom. Ed. Mary Christel, Scott Sullivan. Urbana: National Council of Teachers of English, 2007. Provides practical ideas for incorporating media literacy in classrooms. It comes with a companion teacher's resources disk.

Dodge, Bernie. Webquest. August 9, 2007. http://www.webquest.org/index.php (accessed July 9 2008). This website provides a portal for information for understanding and making webquest to support student inquiry projects.

Domine, Vanessa. Doing Technology in the College Classroom: Media Literacy as Critical Pedagogy Useful Theory- Making Critical Education Practical ed. Rebecca Goldstein. New York. Peter Lang Publishing, 2006. Although targeted toward post secondary classrooms, this article provides insights for k-12 teachers using media technologies to develop critical thinking skills.

Donor Choose. http://www.donorschoose.org/homepage/main.html. Donor Choose matches teachers with donors interested in supporting school projects. Teachers could request support to purchase films or magazine subscriptions related to their inquiry projects.

Fabos, Betinna. Learning Through Critical Literacy: Why Google is Not Enough. Brave New Classrooms: Educational Democracy and the Internet eds. Joe Lockard and Mark Pegrum. New York. Peter Lang, 2007. This article provides interesting approach to helping teachers support students in critically evaluating search results and websites.

Hudson, David L. K-12 Student Expression Cyber Speech. May 12 2008. http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/speech/studentexpression/topic.aspx?topic=cyberspeech (accessed July 9 2008). Hudson a first amendment scholar contributes to this student expression first amendment website. He covers resources and background knowledge on free cyber speech rights.

International Reading Association & National Council of Teachers of English. ReadWrite Think: Student Materials: Venn Diagram. 16 Feb. 2007. http://www.readwritethink.org/materials/venn/index.html. NCTE web site offers valuables tools like this interactive Venn diagram. This link could be used to model for students how to use Venn diagram to compare and contrast different communication innovations.

Jake, David, Pennington Mark E., Knodle Howard. A. Using the Internet to Promote

Inquiry-Based Learning. 15 Feb 2007.

http://www.biopoint.com/inquiry/ibr.html. This e-paper describes a structured

approach to using the internet to support inquiry-based learning.

Just Read Now. Frayer Model: Graphic Organizer. 20 July 2008. http://www.justreadnow.com/strategies/frayer.htm. This link provides strategies and a template for using Frayer Model vocabulary squares.

KnowledgeWharton. MySpace, Face book and Other Social Networking Sites: Hot Today, Gone Tomorrow? 02 May 2006. http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=1463&CFID=71197628&CFTOKEN=37366430&jsessionid=9a3067192b3a13302515 (accessed June 25 2008) This e-zine article covers business and educational issues related to social networking sites.

Parker, Diane. Planning for Inquiry: It's not an oxymoron. Urbana: National Council of Teachers of English, 2007. This book provides tips and strategies for implementing inquiry at the lower and upper elementary grade levels.

PSSA Test Taking Strategies. Phila.k12.pa. http://www.phila.k12.pa.us/schools/creighton/PSSA%20tag.pdf . This link provides a graphic organizer to support students in responding to open ended questions.

Rosen, Larry D. Me MySpace and I : Parenting the Net Generation. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2007.This book provides interesting psychological and social insights for parents and teachers for undertanding how online social networking helps young people form their indenties.

Scholastic. Junior Scholastic Magazine 2008-2009 Editorial Highlights. http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/classmags/files/ed_cals/JR_cal.pdf . This publication is well suited to supplement your social studies curriculum. Each issue covers topical subjects like bullying, first amendment rights, popular culture studies, etc.

Southern Poverty Law Center.Teaching Tolerance. http://www.tolerance.org/teach/grants/index.jsp Teaching Tolerance provides resources and grants to help reduce prejudice and promote diveristy. Their Mix It grant promotes effective methods for removing social barriers in schools.

Sperry, Chris. The Search for Truth - Teaching media literacy, core content and essentials for healthy democracy. Threshold 8(Winter 2006): 8-11. This article provides strategies and perspectives of using media literacy in core subject matters such as social studies and language arts.

Street, Chris Tech Talk for Social Studies Teachers- Evaluating Online Resources: The Importance of Critical Reading Skills In Online Environment. The Social Studies (November/December 2005): 271-273. This article provides strategies for helping student develops the "habits of mind" needed to evaluate online resources.

Vaidhyanathan, Siva. The Anarchist in the Library: How the Clash Between Freedom and Control is Hacking the Real World and Crashing the System. New York: Basic Books, 2004. This book tackles the technological, political and social impact of the digitalization age. Viadhyanthan writing style is engaging, clear and concise.

Vaidhyanathan, Siva The Googlization of Everything September 25 2007. http://www.googlizationofeverything.com/2007/09/where_is_this_book_going.php (accessed May 9 2008). This online book in progress offers insights and perspective of Google's influence on publishing, research and public policy.

West, Cornell. Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism. New York Penguin Press, 2004. West explores democracy from a variety of perspectives- Tocqueville to Hip Hop. His insights on youth culture are timely.

Student's Web and Media Resources

Burke, James. Vocabulary Squares. Tools for Thought. Heinemann. 06 Jun 2008 http://englishseven.com/toolsforthought/VocabSquares.pdf>. This handout can be used to support students' academic vocabulary skills development.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The History of Inventions. 12 July 2008 http://www.cbc.ca/kids/general/the-lab/history-of-invention/default.html>. This site provides a digital timeline of major inventions throughout history along with brief description of the invention and its impact on society.

Cyber Smart. Great Moments In Communications. 12 July 2008 http://www.cybersmartcurriculum.org/lesson_plans/68_23a.asp>. This site provides activities sheets and handouts for making communication timelines.

First Amendment Center K-12 Student Expression. May 12 2008. http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/default.aspx . This site provides great resources, cases and information on first amendments rights.

Growing Up Online. Dirs., Rachel Dretzin , John Maggio. Frontline, 2007. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/teach/kidsonline/index.html>.This website accompanies the documentary film that explores the risks, realities, and misconceptions of teenage self-expression on the World Wide Web. Parental permission maybe required for younger viewers.

Ikeepsafe Coaliation. Ikeepsafe.org 12 July 2008 http://www.ikeepsafe.org>. This site is sponsored by corporate and internet safety advocates. The site is kid friendly and has useful video clips on internet safety.

International Reading Association & National Council of Teachers of English. ReadWrite Think: Student Materials: http://www.readwritethink.org/student_mat/index.asp NCTE web site offers a host of student resources such as timelines, and other interactive graphic organizers.

National Center for the Missing & Exploited Children. Net Smart Workshop: http://www.netsmartz.org . The netsmartz web site offers a host of student resources for child protection. The tone of the site is more cautionary.

Street Side Stories. 19 Jun 2008 www.streetside.org >. This site helps give elementary and middle school students a voice through digital story telling.

Center for Digital Stories. Center for Digital Story Telling. 19 Jun 2008 www.storycenter.org>.This site provides digital resources for teachers and students.

"Tag It A 3." PSSA Test Taking Strategies. School District of Philadelphia. 06 Jun 2008 http://www.phila.k12.pa.us/schools/creighton/PSSA%20tag.pdf>. This graphic organizer provides the process for responding to fiction and non-fiction text.

Appendix 1: Pennsylvania and School District of Philadelphia Curriculum Standards

Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening and Viewing Standards

Standard: Reading #1 - Apply effective reading strategies to comprehend, organize, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate texts to construct meaning.

Standard: Reading #3 - Read for a variety of purposes: to seek information; to apply knowledge; to enhance enjoyment; to engage in inquiry and research; to expand world views; to understand individuality, shared humanity, and the heritage of the people in our city as well as the contributions of a diversity of groups to American culture and other cultures throughout the world.

Standard: Writing #2 - Write for academic, personal, social, civic, and school-to-career purposes.

Standard: Writing #4 - Conduct and document inquiry-based research using oral, print, and communications systems.

Standard: Viewing -View media, technology, and live performances for a variety of purposes including gathering information, making informed judgments, processing information, and for enjoyment.

Social Studies Standards

Culture - Demonstrate an understanding of culture and how culture affects the individual and society.

Time, Continuity, and Change - Analyze historical events, conditions, trends and issues to understand the way human beings view themselves, their institutions, and others, now and over time, to enable them to make informed choices and decisions.

Individuals, Groups and Institutions - Demonstrate an understanding of the role of individuals, groups, and institutions and how their actions and interactions exert powerful influences on society.

Appendix 2: Internet Safety Webquest Evaluation Graphic Organizer

Visit and explore all the websites listed on the first column and complete the Webquest graphic organizer.

URL Address
Title of website or Website Name.
Type of Site

Check off
Author/ Sponsor Site Intended Audience

Check off
Construction Technique- (media design) Check all that apply Persuasion Technique. (how is the information communicated) Check all that apply
1.
www.ikeepsafe.org


Title:_______

Website Name
_______
com__
org __
edu __
gov __
~ __
  Kids __
Parents __
Teachers __
Combination __
Animation __
Lots of
graphics __
Lots of
Text__
Lots of
statistics __
Uses fear
tactics __
Focus on positive use of Internet __
Foucus on negative use of Internet __
Provides balanced positive and negative use of Internet __
2.
www.netsmartz.org


Title:_______

Website Name
_______
com__
org __
edu __
gov __
~ __
  Kids __
Parents __
Teachers __
Combination __
Animation __
Lots of
graphics __
Lots of
Text__
Lots of
statistics __
Uses fear
tactics __
Focus on positive use of Internet __
Foucus on negative use of Internet __
Provides balanced positive and negative use of Internet __
3.
www.fbi.gov/ kids/k5th/ safety2.htm


Title:_______

Website Name
_______
com__
org __
edu __
gov __
~ __
  Kids __
Parents __
Teachers __
Combination __
Animation __
Lots of
graphics __
Lots of
Text__
Lots of
statistics __
Uses fear
tactics __
Focus on positive use of Internet __
Foucus on negative use of Internet __
Provides balanced positive and negative use of Internet __
4.
www.ccmostwanted.com


Title:_______

Website Name
_______
com__
org __
edu __
gov __
~ __
  Kids __
Parents __
Teachers __
Combination __
Animation __
Lots of
graphics __
Lots of
Text__
Lots of
statistics __
Uses fear
tactics __
Focus on positive use of Internet __
Foucus on negative use of Internet __
Provides balanced positive and negative use of Internet __
5.
www.ou.edu/ oupd/kidsafe


Title:_______

Website Name
_______
com__
org __
edu __
gov __
~ __
  Kids __
Parents __
Teachers __
Combination __
Animation __
Lots of
graphics __
Lots of
Text__
Lots of
statistics __
Uses fear
tactics __
Focus on positive use of Internet __
Foucus on negative use of Internet __
Provides balanced positive and negative use of Internet __

Which websites would you recommend to a friend? Please list the websites

Which websites would you recommend to a parent or teacher? Please list the websites

Which web site did you find most useful and why did you find that website most useful?

Notes

1. (Ardizzone 49-53)

2. (Domine 133-135)

3. (West 173-175)

4. (Sperry 8-11)

5. (Fabos170-171)

6. (Fabos172-173)

7. (Hudson 2008)

8. (Hudson 2008)

9. (Dretzin and Maggio 2008)

10. (Knowleddgewharton 2008)

11. (Case 2007)

12. (Dretzin and Maggio 2008)

13. (Hudson 2008)

14. (Street 271-273)

15. (Ikeepsake.org 2008)

16. ( Burke)

17. (Ibid)

18. (Ibid)

19. (Justreadnow.com 2008)

20. (readwritethink.org 2008)

21. (phila.k12.pa.us 2008)

22. (Jake et al. 15 March 2007)

23. (Dodge 9 August 2007)

24. (Parker 55-66)

25. (Christel, 225-231)

26. (Ibid, 228)


Comments (0)

Be the first person to comment

When you are finished viewing curriculum units on this Web site, please take a few minutes to provide feedback and help us understand how these units, which were created by public school teachers, are useful to others.
THANK YOU — your feedback is very important to us! Give Feedback