When Cyberbullying Gets Real

Bianca Brooks and Sophie Varon on Wednesday, Nov. 13th

new Bullying Chart

Are you more likely to be bullied online or in person?

We asked that question in a poll. 64 people answered and what they said might surprise you. Despite the heavy media attention paid to cyberbullying as of late, according to a poll given to dozens young people across California, physical bullying remains a lot more common than cyberbullying.

Cyberbulling, however, is a major issue facing millennials. According to DoSomething.org, nearly 43% of kids have been bullied online and one in four has had it happen more than once. The most recent case to make headlines was Rebecca Sedwick’s. The 12-year-old killed herself after being bullied online and in person by people at her school.

where cyber bully chart

In collaboration with New America Media, Youth Radio teamed up with other young people around the country to discuss the complexity of cyberbullying along with possible solutions in a live chat.

Our survey results show that Facebook is the platform where people report seeing the most online bullying, but that’s not the platform that chat participants were most eager to blame. That honor went to Ask.fm, a site that has recently come under criticism. This social media site is linked to a person’s Facebook profile, and allows users to ask questions and open themselves up to anonymous responses. Some participants even suggested a campaign against the site to end the constant bullying. One participant wrote, “Only scary people use ask . It’s dumb. You’re basically looking for anonymous rude questions.”Many young people on the chat said that they had witnessed cyberbullying, but never had it happen to them. As the Atlantic reported, cyberbullies may be sparking conflict online, but their actions often result in physical harm.

It’s clear that it’s now much easier to bully with advent of social media, but what’s not so clear is how to solve the issue. Chat participants had mixed reactions on solutions, with some arguing that more monitoring from schools and parents is not the answer. Recently, a California school district hired a firm called Geo Listening to monitor students’ social media accounts. One chat participant stated, “That could make things worse, and it strips the freedoms and privacies of the users.”

Another participant suggested that schools work with youth organizations to conduct cyberbullying seminars that educate young people on the issue. Though many on the chat believed this was a good idea, some worried that it would turn into the typical bullying seminar, where the adults talk and students listen, and nothing really gets done.

One participant suggested that schools should utilize media to help solve the problem. It wasn’t until after seeing the movie Bully that the issue really meant anything to her. “I remember after seeing it a lot of my classmates were talking about how sad it was,” she said. She suggested the discussion should be led by young people, so they’re being “talked to, not talked at.”

“They saw that it’s really no joke and I remember one of my friends said ‘Now I feel bad for when I do people like that,’” she wrote.

Some participants suggested more legislation against bullies, and others suggested that more people report abuse to site administrators. Others insisted that discipline should be left to parents, who should monitor their kids’ social networks use more closely.

However, many chat participants advocated for students who are bullied to take more responsibility in the situation, and be pro-active finding solutions themselves. “If you feel like you’re being harassed, log out and tell someone,” said one participant. Participants agreed that the victims hold the real power when they inform an adult of the issue before it escalates. One participant wrote, “If you want to take your life back, the first step is logging out.”

Interestingly enough, while talking about victims of cyberbullying our debate inside the chat itself got a little heated (see left image). Luckily it did not result in insults, because participants, unlike bullies, could agree to disagree.

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Photo Credit: Phil Roeder / Flickr

Crowdsourcing Ideas For A Better School

on Monday, Aug. 12th

This story also appeared on NPR’s All Tech Considered blog.

In my previous life as a high school English teacher, I often felt disconnected from everyone making the decisions that affected how I did my job. A new curriculum handed down from the district. Tutorials to learn how to process student data. Elective classes swapped out for study halls. I just learned to roll with the punches.

But crowdsourcing tools are slowly working their way into the education policy world, designed to give teachers and district employees more say on big decisions that affect their school environment. (more…)

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Kahnoodle Reminds You To Appreciate Your Honey

on Tuesday, Oct. 30th

Zuhairah Scott Washington, 35, is combating relationship ruts with her mobile app, Kahnoodle.

The app targets couples who have been together for a while and are starting to take each other for granted. Washington said she wanted her app to utilize gamification “to actually help couples see each other anew and get excited about doing new things in their relationships.” (more…)

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Documentary Shows Teenage Politicians Growing Up Post 9/11

on Monday, Aug. 13th

The game of politics makes some people gag. But for others, it’s what they live for.

Meet DJ, Ben and Nick — the protagonists of the new documentary “Follow the Leader,” which just received a $27,000 boost on Kickstarter.

The film follows these young men from the age of 16 through their first year in college. At age 16, all three have political ambitions to be national leaders.

Director Jonathan Goodman Levitt calls it a “political coming of age story” — an accurate title since two of the boys go through a serious political transformation. The project was born out of Goodman-Levitt’s hypothesis that the 9/11 attacks drastically affected the political beliefs and mindset of an entire generation of young people. (more…)

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Election Quiz Matches People With Dream Candidates

on Friday, Jul. 20th

When I told Taylor Peck his election quiz website reminded me of a dating website, the political junkie and co-founder of www.isidewith.com said, “I’ll take that as a compliment — hopefully they’ve done as much work as we have to match you with someone else.” But instead of  romantic partners, isidewith.com matches users with compatible political candidates.

Peck and co-founder Nick Boutelier created an online quiz that takes five minutes to complete, and after asking only 20 questions, spits out a “political profile” that tells you how well you match up with different political candidates. The site is quickly approaching one million quiz-takers, and averages over 100,000 unique views a day, since emerging from beta phase in April 2012.


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on Wednesday, Jul. 18th

Youth might not be going to the polls in vast numbers, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care about making change in their communities, and in the national issues that affect their lives.

According to a recent study by the MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics, youth are actively expressing their opinions on social and political issues through blogs and other social media. (more…)

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Stageit.com: Musicians Take A Lesson From CamGirls

on Thursday, May. 31st

Attention starving musicians: a new way to perform and collect quick paychecks is available online.

Stageit is an online concert venue for musicians. Artists offer webcam performances to their fans that usually last 20 – 30 minutes and cost around $5 per ticket. The performance is not archived, so if you miss out, it’s your loss. While there’s no audio coming from the fan side, fans are able to chat questions and make requests via chat.

Evan Lowenstein, founder and CEO of Stageit.com, said it’s kind of like a hang-sesh with your favorite artist. “We’re a compliment to live touring….These are little bits, like a day in the artist’s life to share with their fans. From a fan’s perspective, we allow you to see three concerts in a night in an hour and a half…. To not have to deal with parking, dinner, or a babysitter – it’s a different experience,” he said in an interview with TurnstyleNews.

Stageit is not to be confused with a Ustream look-alike. Ustream is a free live video streaming site that uses an ad-based model, so the viewer is not paying the broadcaster for any content. Instead, Stageit tries to foster the relationship between the artist and the fan. “Their interest is to get as many eyeballs as possible. As an artist you might say, that’s a really good thing, but they’re getting money from Chevy. They’re not getting funding from the fans,” said Lowenstein. On Stageit, fans directly support and pay the artists they watch.

Stageit launched in March of 2011, and business is growing rapidly. In February of this year, they had 4,000 artists offering concerts, and now they have around 10,000. Artists include Jason Mraz, Jimmy Buffet, and Trey Songz, as well as several lesser-known and independent artists. And anyone can sign up. But if you’re one of the top-selling artists, or you’re already a big-name musician, you’ll appear on the Main Stage or the home page.

Jack Conte is a musician with the group Pomplamoose, an “Indie Rock Pop” duo that is known for their re-harmonizations of pop songs, and their video songs on YouTube — some of which have over 9 million views. Pamplamoose played their first concert on the Stageit Main Stage last week.

“[Stageit] comes very naturally to us, it feels like an extension of what we do, except live,” said Conte. “We asked during the stream for everybody to type in where they’re watching from.  It was unreal. We had every continent represented and a lot of countries I didn’t know existed,” he laughed.

The first time an artist plays a concert on Stageit, according to Lowenstein, is priceless. “Every artist that does it kind of makes the same joke, ‘Hey, I’m not wearing any pants!’ It’s a different vibe for the artist, it’s a hybrid between sitting still in a recording studio in front of a microphone and performing live where people are actually watching you,” he said.

Conte said Pomplamoose had tried to stream concerts using other platforms.  “There are a lot of websites and start-ups that are devoted to helping musicians mobilize their fan base, but few of them offer legitimate revenue streams,” said Conte. “[With Stageit] you take musicians and have them do what they do best, and out the other end of the machine comes money. That’s such a wonderful idea for a website. It helps artists make a living,” he added.

Conte said that Pomplamoose hopes to offer a monthly concert on Stageit, since their first one went so well. In the future, Stageit will include a “Side Stage” feature with more options for connecting fans to each other and to the performing artist.

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Forget Med School, Become A Plumber Says Thiel

on Monday, May. 21st

Peter Thiel, prominent venture capitalist and founder of PayPal, recently claimed on 60 Minutes that plumbers make more money than doctors. So why bother with higher education? It’s expensive, and you can get an equally well-paying job without it, goes the rationale.

Turnstyle previously reported on the Peter Thiel Foundation’s gifts of $100,000 grants to young people under the age of 20, to drop out of college and pursue their entrepreneurial endeavors.

But is it really true that plumbers can out-earn doctors?

Vivek Wadhwa, writing in the Washington Post, offered a critique of Thiel’s message. Wadhwa checked in with the economist who made that claim in 2011, Laurence Kotlikoff. While progressive taxes, opportunity costs and Social Security work in a plumber’s favor, Kotlifoff’s calculations actually presupposed several things to arrive at these conclusions:

…That the doctors went to elite institutions for undergraduate and graduate degrees and then worked in a lower-paying medical specialty such as pediatrics or general practice. And he assumed the doctors financed their entire education without scholarships or other assistance. The calculations also did not take into account the far greater likelihood that a plumber could be unemployed or injured on the job, either of which could prove catastrophic to his or her earning power.

Thiel also makes the argument that the cost of college leaves students with debt that seriously depletes their earnings after graduating.

However, I recently interviewed Lauren Asher, director of the Project on Student Debt, who said less than one percent of college students graduate with more than $100,000 of debt, and a third graduate with no debt at all. According to Asher, a four-year college education is still the best investment a young person can make, even if they have to take out some federal loans. Wadhwa agrees, saying college is one big R&D lab to help you figure out how to navigate life afterwards.

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Diagnosing Yourself With Dr. Google? Get A Second Opinion

on Friday, May. 11th

Women are twice as likely to consult Google for a health diagnosis as opposed to a real doctor — but apparently one in four women end up misdiagnosing themselves from the information they get on the Internet.

Citing a recent study in Britain, an article in Week Magazine explains that women are consulting “Dr. Google” about their health symptoms. Perhaps women are simply plugging their symptoms into a Google search engine to see what pops up. But it’s possible that women are actually going to the following site: http://fffff.at/dr-google/ for E-diagnoses.

It looks just like the Google homepage with a couple of differences.

To try and figure out how this works, we typed in “sore throat” to the above site and received a diagnosis for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) — a “progressive, FATAL, neurodegenerative disease,” often called Lou Gherig’s disease.

When we typed in “Headache” — the diagnosis was Alzheimer’s Disease.

Thankfully, clicking on “Second Opinions” directs you to WebMD and a list of other resources where one can research the stated symptoms. Yet it’s not so surprising that people looking to play doctor often miss the mark.

According to experts in the article, women are using the Internet over live doctors because the information is free and immediate. Women also tend to be embarrassed about talking about their symptoms, according to the article.

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Kickboard For Teachers Encourages Data Collection In the Classroom

on Thursday, May. 10th

“Be data driven, not data drowning,” is the slogan for Kickboard for Teachers — an educational software, designed to help teachers and administrators collect data regarding their students’ academic and behavioral performance in one place.

Data is the name of the game in American education today — in fact, Jennifer Medbery, the creator of Kickboard, was named a “Champion of Change” by the White House. She is a former high school math teacher and Teach for America corps member. Many of the people on the Kickboard team are former teachers as well. The software was introduced in 2009, and is currently in a closed beta phase for individual teachers.

The software allows teachers to record academic and behavior-related data in one place, and share it with other teachers and administrators who have a stake in student performance. Teachers and school leaders can keep track of good and bad behaviors like being tardy, not wearing a uniform, answering a difficult question and turning in homework. It functions as an online gradebook as well.

But the data go a level deeper than grades, according to Stew Stout, the Marketing Outreach Manager for Kickboard, also a former teacher.

“One of the things I always struggled with as a teacher was, ‘What does a grade mean?’ So if I’m looking at a test and a student got a 75 or an 80, that doesn’t really tell me a lot. But in Kickboard we take the data one level deeper. Every question that a student answers that’s been recorded in Kickboard is based on a skill or a standard that a teacher is teaching… When you put that level of granularity you can really plan effectively. My students did well on this standard, and didn’t do well on this one. I’m going to prioritize what they didn’t do well on,” said Stout.

Kickboard claims that it can improve school culture, which seems like a trickier thing to prove. Stout says because Kickboard data allows all teachers to keep track of the same behaviors, school leaders can ideally identify and address the behaviors that happen most frequently.

“Maybe this student is acting out in three classes, but doing really well in one class. You can’t see that trend unless you have data. … School leaders can plan really purposeful professional development. ‘In this class I’m really seeing a lot of students talking out. In this other class I’m not. I’m going to connect these two teachers so they can help each other,’” said Stout.

Because Kickboard lets teachers update data in real time, and the data is attached to a particular student — not a classroom or teacher — school leaders and counselors using Kickboard can monitor student behavior around the school during the school day. If a student is having a particularly bad day, and three teachers in a row record concerning behavior for that student in their classrooms, a counselor who sees this on Kickboard could pull this student out of class and intervene. “You can intervene before a trend becomes a problem,” said Stout.

The software raises some interesting questions. Is there such thing as collecting too much data? Is a classroom still a classroom if teachers are more concerned with recording each student’s behavior than engaging with the students?

“If people are entering information, and they’re not doing anything with it, then the information is worthless. But if the data has value and it’s being used, then I think that’s great,” said Stout.

According to Stout, each teacher uses the tool differently. Kindergarten teachers that Stout has worked with do not enter behavior information until the end of the day, since their hands are full all the time. Some high school teachers who use Kickboard have iPad holsters attached to their hips, and are constantly recording behaviors. One school records over 120 specific behaviors that teachers can monitor in Kickboard.

For new teachers, or for teachers starting work at a new school, Kickboard is the equivalent of having the school handbook at your fingertips. “When a teacher signs into kickboard for the first time, the discipline logic is set up, all the consequences are there, all the behaviors are there and those behaviors that a teacher is recording — those are the same from class to class,” said Stout.

But Stout says they’re not pushing any one particular management system. “When a school signs up, they’re not choosing from a menu of behaviors they want to record, or a menu of consequences they could assign, or a menu of incentives they could give. Instead we’re giving them a tool, a framework that they can use to execute their vision,” he said.

So far, Kickboard is not sharing any quantitative results about how the program has affected student performance.

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