learning.now: at the crossroads of Internet culture & education with host Andy Carvin

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Learning.now is a weblog that explores how new technology and Internet culture affect how educators teach and children learn. It will offer a continuing look at how new technology such as wikis, blogs, vlogs, RSS, podcasts, social networking sites, and the always-on culture of the Internet are impacting teacher and students' lives both inside and out of the classroom.
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March 30: Participate in Stop Cyberbullying Day

This Friday - March 30th - has been declared Stop Cyberbullying Day - by me. I’m hoping to get as many people, bloggers and nonbloggers alike, talking about cyberbullying, because it’s spinning out of control. Just ask blogger Kathy Sierra.

I had high hopes for this week - there was so much to talk about. From the COPA ruling a few days ago to the new wiki that’s trying to become a competitor to Wikipedia, there were plenty of things worth covering. But all of it will have to wait, because I think it’s more important to tell you about Kathy Sierra.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Kathy, she’s a well-respected programmer, blogger and educator who’s been involved in computer education and gaming software for over a decade. Just a couple of weeks ago, she presented one of the lead keynotes of the South By Southwest Interactive festival, along with Dan Rather. I don’t follow her blog on a daily basis, but pop by every now and then, particularly when other bloggers I respect mention her latest writings. And yesterday, several of them drew attention to a post ominously titled “Death threats against bloggers are NOT “protected speech” (why I cancelled my ETech presentations).”

Over the last few days, it turns out, there’s been an escalating cycle of cyberbullying directed against Kathy, some of it anonymous, some of it not, that suddenly cascaded into all-out threats against her. It’s certainly not uncommon for bloggers to get angry emails or be vilified on other bloggers - sadly, it happens to many of us from time to time - but Kathy’s attackers went beyond the pale of harsh criticism or ad hominem attacks. For example, someone took the time to adulterate a photo of Kathy, digitally adding a piece of red lingerie that’s being used to gag her. And that example, perhaps, is the only one I can describe in any detail without crossing a line of what should appear on this blog. Suffice it to say, the personal attacks can only be described as vicious and violent.

The threats against Kathy were so bad that she’s literally holed up at her home, having cancelled her upcoming speaking engagements because she’s too afraid to appear publicly. She’s received an outpouring of support from many bloggers - more than 500 comments on her blog so far - while on other sites, some writers have even fanned the flames against her.

The sad thing about all of this is that it took this long for so much of the blogosphere to be talking about cyberbullying. Apart from the education community, you don’t often hear bloggers condemning the practice. In fact, if you were to judge the Internet purely on the discourse that takes place on certain political blogs and social news sites, you might be excused if you drew the conclusion that we’re just a bunch of cruel barbarians.

Meanwhile, as Kathy’s troubles play out on A-list blogs around the world, I wonder how many students today will be cyberbullied. How many of them will receive a taunting text message? How many of them will have an embarrassing photo posted on a blog? How many of them will have a MySpace created about them solely to spread reputation-ruining rumors? And how many of us will have a conversation with our students telling them just how repugnant and unacceptable this behavior is?

I, for one, feel the need to do something. At first my thought was to protest the way blogger Robert Scoble has proposed. Robert and his wife have been subjected to their own online assaults recently, so in solidarity with Kathy’s decision to not speak publicly, he’s stated he’s not going to blog for the rest of the week. This may not seem like a big deal for most of us, but for a blogger like him, who posts multiple times a day and has a huge audience, people are going to notice.

But as one person commented on Robert’s blog, I’m now wondering if self-imposed silence is effective. Edublogger Wesley Fryer, for example, questions it as well:

I’m also not sure if a blogging fast is a constructive response. What IS a constructive response to this, other than talking about the importance of safe digital social networking, digital citizenship, respect for others, etc. in our own localities? I’m not sure.

Perhaps the most constructive response is to talk about it. To get everyone talking about it. We only seem to talk about cyberbullying in education circles or in the aftermath of a school shooting. But between the headlines, it happens every day, probably thousands of times a day. And it has to stop.

For starters, we need this to be a bigger conversation. That’s why I decided to unilaterally declare this Friday as Stop Cyberbullying Day. What does it mean? I leave that up to you. Generally, though, I think we should all set aside some time that day to address cyberbullying. Write a blog post pointing to online resources about cyberbullying. Post a podcast about personal experiences. Create your own public service announcement about the dangers of cyberbullying and post it on YouTube. Then tag it with the phrase stopcyberbullying. If you’re uploading it somewhere that lets you type in your own tags, be sure to include it. If you’re blogging and don’t have tagging built into your blog, you can embed it with the HTML code shown here so it will be picked up by search tools like Technorati. The more people we can get blogging about it, the better, because that will catch the attention of search tools and social media websites, spreading awareness further. It will also allow us to aggregate everyone’s posts so we can see who’s participating.

And if you don’t have a blog or don’t want to post anything online, you can still get involved. You can use some of the educational resources on sites like cyberbully.org or Nancy Willard’s website in your classroom that day, or with your kids at home. You could hunt down other resources and share them at your school, your church, your community group. You could even write a letter to the editor or to your political representatives and tell them what you think.

Of course, one day isn’t enough to change everything. And there are other days of the year where other people are fighting to raise awareness, like Safe Internet Day. But it’s a start. And perhaps we can use some of our energies that day to discuss what we can do to make online safety a topic that we deal with on a regular basis. So I’ve created an online social network called Stop Cyberbullying using a free tool called Ning. Anyone who joins can post resources and share ideas, including text and video. I’ll also use the site to aggregate a stream of what people are doing in support of Stop Cyberbullying Day, assuming people accept my challenge to take action on Friday.

So without further ado, I declare this Friday Stop Bullying Day. If we don’t take a stand, who will? -andy


Filed under : Blogging, People, Safety, Social Networking



This a very constructive way to deal with the issue with young people. Thank you so much.

Another resource is Lisa Stone’s piece on BlogHer

We need badges Andy!

We do need some stinkin’ badges! I have no art skills. Volunteers, anyone?

I have just been reading about Kathy’s experience this morning and I am shocked. I have been maliciously attacked by anonymous online bullies, but I’ve never been threatened with violence (that I know of).

Thanks for giving us something concrete to do about it. I will definitely be participating on Friday (if not before).

Thanks for posting this topic, Andy. I’m a blogger, a vlogger, and a parent—and I’m personally more concerned about my kids going through this one day than I am about myself. We’ll be making some posts and videos.

Hi Andy,

This is an horrific thing. What was said about Kathy was awful…and she’s not alone. Last year, Peggy Phillip, a Memphis based tv executive blogger, was forced to stop blogging due to the same sort of thing. Terry Heaton posted about it:


There is a dark underbelly out here, where “boys will be boys” and Jack-the-Lads are thought of as controllable. They’re not. Eventually, someone gets silenced. And that should not be the case.

I’m with you on this one!

I too will join you on Friday and have written tonight about it. Let us use Friday as a day to advance the topic of ubiquitous Internet safety and ethics education in all schools.

The enemy is the self-taught who think that getting links and being famous is more important than good old fashioned character and ethics. And if that is not the root of this, then the enemy is hatred and pure evil. Either way, it should be stopped and educators pave the way for the future.

I do not want to live in a future where kids learn how to behave on reality TV and via IM and teachers do not discuss the ethics of such things. We as educators have a lot of work to do! Thank you!

I’m totally in. I’ll be posting on cyberbullying on several blogs.

I’m in. Also, my graphic skills aren’t the best, but here are a few images that folks are welcome to use as they desire:


We have had several incidents of cyberbullying in our school community. We continually address the issue and have had some success with changing behavior. I will be sure to participate in Friday’s rally and intend to visit some of the sites suggested and discuss the issue in all my classes—grades 7-12!

Being a female blogger with a political opinion, I’ve received some fairly nasty emails - one of which was a death threat involving a pretty gross sexual act. I was amused that little ol’ me had inspired such spectacular hatred.

The worst, in my opinion, are the thinly veiled “I know where you live” ones. They are usually rambling, incoherent missives with just the right touch of cognitive dissonance. They make me cautious in ways that I’d prefer not to have to be.

All this being said, however, I will not stop blogging or let these cyber bullies have their way. These uncivilized, intellectual inferiors cannot be allowed to intimidate the educated, articulate, and knowledgable from sharing their opinions and information.

I think everyone should keep blogging and let these morons out themselves as the gaping, drooling, mouth-breathing vermin that they are.

(See how I can be insulting without threatening anyone’s life? It’s a gift).

Thank you for “creating” this day. I will highlight the issue of cyberbullying on my blog. I believe that we educators must teach students not to act in mean, malicious ways online. We must teach kids to respect the medium of the Internet. This is our responsibility. We also must inform parents of the dangers of cyberbullying. That is my job as a school principal.
- Dave Sherman

Zelda, don’t you think hurling insults back at them only worsens the situation? You’re egging them to keep being nasty to you. I’m not saying you have to shower them with love an effection, but stooping to their level (or towards their level) might not solve anything. And shouldn’t we be setting a better standard? Particularly in the context of education, which this blog is all about, we need to see ourselves as role models of online discourse. I enjoy occasional snarkiness as much as anyone else, but when I do it, it’s intended as criticism rather than a personal attack. Once you start hurling ad hominem attacks, it’s hard to maintain the moral high ground.

You are, as usual, wonderful. This is a great idea - at least it will bring this issue further into the public. If we don’t exert community pressure, we negate all that the blogosphere is supposed to be when it’s great - a community of thinkers and writers and talkers sharing ideas and adventures. The more of us involved, the harder it is for the bad guys. I’m in.

Was there any rational aspect to these attacks? Did the attachers have some disagreement with the issues on the blog?

Good question - and I’m not sure if I have a good answer. My understanding is that some bloggers have a beef with Kathy on certain subjects. She’s a successful blogger and consultant, and it’s common for bloggers who compete in that space to be critical of each other’s work. I believe that’s what got this started. It might also boil down to them simply not liking her, but who knows. -andy

Doc Searls relays a message on his blog from one of the people accused of attacking Kathy. The person in question swears it wasn’t him and insists someone was posing as him online, which is certainly a reasonable possibility. Doc believes him. Read more.

Andy—this is a great idea and as part of the effort, the techchicks will be blogging and podcasting about cyberbullying this week. How horrible that we can’t use the opportunities and tools that Web 2.0 affords us to expand and extend our learning, without the worries of bullies who hide behind their cyberspace rhetoric. I also agree with Wes about blog-fasting. What will that do except to give the bullies more “silence” to fill. We all need to raise our voices to bring attention to this issue. I think this is just one more example of the “new” literacies that children need to learn, before we corrupt the online collaborative world more than we already have. Thanks for bringing this to light, Andy.

Andy, thanks for blogging about this. I’ve suspended my personal blog in support of Kathy; even with the recent revelations on Doc’s blog, there is still someone out there cyberbullying.

I have another contribution to the badge collection and can resize and offer in other formats if anyone so desires: 80 px stop cyberbullying badge.

Andy, now that you’ve built a rapport with Dan Rather… perhaps you can contact him and bring in the media!?

Is it not possible to bring in the authorities and press charges? I can’t imagine that Internet bullies are un-trackable.

Educators cannot do this alone — nor should this effort solely be their responsibility. Parents must be the first to teach, model and promote fairness and proper etiquette in life.

i agree that it needs to be stopped

I will be getting the word out about Friday’s Stop Cyberbullying Day.

Here is a cyberbullying video created last semester by undergraduate students in an educational technology class I teach. As requested I have tagged it cyberbullying.


ya i want ot take them down!!!

I don’t know if you should do it this Friday.It’s Ceasar Chavez Day just so you know…not to be rude, but it might make some people forget one or the other and both are important!

Andy, an excellent idea. I believe silence will encourage the bullies. We need to stand up together and say this is not acceptable behavior. I will be blogging on this subject in support of your idea.

Andy - just finished my post for this but will wait to post it until Friday. Great idea.
Learning is Messy!

I agree w/ Carolyn. Silence condones the behavior. At our school, we have created internet safety programs with a viewpoint of helping the victim protect themselves, but we need to address the bully aspect and will join you in addressing it this Friday.

I suppose considering the size of the virtual community, which for the most part has been left without bounds in the name of free speech has gone to far. The many bloggers have struck a nerve by using their intelligence to win their repective blog discussions, and just as it happens in the real world when these bullies can’t have their way intelligently, they become a cry babies and begin their attacks verbally at first and then threats and violence next. It took the hanging noose and the colt 45 revolver to tame the west, I don’t know what the answer is in the cbyer world. Because of the structure you can block the bully but then they come back as someone else. Perphaps cbyer lynch mobs that counter attack the bully, there are ways of tracing this back to the ISP and even the computer that it was sent on. If the cyber world is serious then we should demand legislation that will open the doors to track down and prosecute the bullies and they begin to threaten with physical harm and fake myspace pages meant to harm innocent people. Maybe even a “Cyber Dog the Bounty Hunter” to track these villians down and bring them to justice. Just think a computer world Dirty Harry could be a little 80 year old woman in nursing home somewhere keeping the bloggers of the world safe. What a cool thought!

Profanity has always been a tool of the ignorant. So has terrorism. Call it “Extreme Bullying.” Ignore the ignorant, be vigilant about all bullying, keep blogging. If you don’t have the guts to stand up behind what you say (bullys never do), then it’s probably not necessary to say it. By “fasting”, or more accurately Cowaring, from your blog you send a message that you don’t have any guts. By ignoring the ignorant, you continue educating those who wish to be intelligent, and that sends a message of strength. All threats should be investigated quietly, or covertly and dealt with in the court of law. This goes for defamation and slander as well. Let us people decide whether your blog is useful. And disregard the ignorant until they go away

Andy, It’s great see movement in the area about cyberbullying. This is definitely an issue that schools and law enforcement are dealing with on a daily basis. The statistics are under reported; in a study by the University of New Hampshire, it states that 1 in 11 kids has been harassed online. This may not seem like a lot - but if you consider there are at least 30 million kids online, that’s almost 10 million kids being bullied online. We will definitely recognize March 30th as “Stop Cyberbullying Day” and pass the word.

Also, you can order the Airdogs game from webwisekids.org. It’s a game for High School kids addressing Cyberbullying and piracy.

I want to thank you guys for what you are doing. Bullying of anykind needs to stop. I hope that you succeed in what you are doing. Good Luck!

You asked for a banner and I pieced one together.

See the banner and the code here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rjames/439136155/

See it displayed here: http://waterbugblog.blogspot.com/

The banner links to he ALA site posted above. You can replace the URL with any other URL that suits you.

Great Idea!!
For the past two years spear-heading online safety not only in my school, but entire region.
I am the Regional Office of Educations Internet Safety Coordinator and cyber bullying is my “pet project”. Am presently writing an anti-cyber bullying policy for my school district, so this is PERFECT!!! To say I am passionate about Internet Safety is an understatement!!
I’ll post this on my Internet Safety resource blog for educators and parents and tell all the kids tomorrow at school as well!!

As an active member of the appreciative inquiry community, I’m putting my energy around generative approaches. I’ve contacted my New York state assemblywoman and urged her to vote on our pending cyberbullying bill, and then posted information to the New York Metro and International AI groups.

I believe that those who become a stronger voice, communicating in authentic and issue-oriented terms, respectful of individual rights and accountable to the whole, will tip the balance in the long run.

I applaud your idea, Andy, and I would go even further. The Internet is the home of a multi-billion-dollar pornography industry. Many of the images are testimony to the hatred of women that permeates our culture. Cyberbullying is one expression of that. Where is the movement to stop the hate speech that is pornography?


I’m a pediatrician and mom - my daughter who is now 12 was cyberbullied via email by a friend less than happy with her. Thanks for getting the word out!!

Dr. Gwenn

lets get em!!!!!

Cyber Bullying: Projected Angst

Cyber bullying is just another extension of ‘basic’ bullying. As a secondary school teacher, bullying is in many ways, albeit unfortunate, an institutionalized method of induction for grade nine students (niners). The entire high school, sanctioned by previous generations of ‘niner bullying’, with the exception of grade nine students can coerce, beat, and theaten and taunt grade nine students. The ‘insecure’ bullying student can take this a step further and demand email address and continue ‘the game’ beyond a shove in the halls.
If bullying is going to stop, it has to include a systematic and consistent set of rules implemented and enforced by the principals and admin types.
No child should suffer the wrath of another student’s insecurities or ‘projectedness’ from their own environment to any student.

Frank Greco

I’ve blogged about it and posted one of Scott McLeod’s graphics in my sidebar (with due credit) ;-)

Great post! I’ve decided to do my part in raising awareness by talking about this incident on my blog as well.

I’m behind this initiative, especially because of the compassion you use to discuss it. I had already blogged about this issue yesterday and today. Then Elisa let me know about this, so I added links to you.

Thanks for the intelligent discussion.

I hope I am able to raise awareness and contribute as positively as this.

I just posted a write-up and also included an interview with iSafe. Thanks for taking a leadership role, one that is constructive.

Aloha Andy, my post for Stop Cyberbullying Day is here:

I applaud your efforts, and agree that quieting a voice (like Robert Scoble’s) which can be an effective, positive and proactive force for improving this unfortunate situation is not what we should do.

I have had some people bring this to my attention. I am very sympathic to the woman being attacked, and to all other adults who are being harassed online.

I’d like to call a few things to your attention though. “Cyberbullying” is harassment that occurs with a minor on both sides. Just as you would not call a physical assualt of one adult against another a “bullying” and adult related attack is not “cyberbullying.” It is cyberharassment or cyberstalking. It is also legally actionable in all but one state (by my last count).
It is also now criminalized federally, as long as the attacks are sent anonymously.

Anonymous attacks can be now handled by the FBI, which makes it easier to track them across state lines.

Count us in on your campaign to stop cyberharassment for all ages, but having handled thousands of cases of cyberstalking and harassment through wiredsafety.org’s cyberstalking and harassment team and helpline, it’s important that we take this as seriously as it should be taken. “Bullying” is too often (sadly) brushed off as “kids will be kids.”

Often different motives and methods and different legal ramifications.

so let’s call this:
stop cyberharassment. and look for enough advance time to plan a cohesive and collaborative cyberbullying campaign as well.

so, now that you have unilaterally made this a stop cyberbullying day (note our brand stopcyberbullying.org :-)), let’s find all the right players to make this a meaningful and serious awareness push to stop cyberharassment of all kinds and all ages.

Let me know how we can help.

And, although I do not know Karen, we’re happy to offer any help we can.

it is frightening.

Our tagline on our cyberbullying work is:
“Stop Cyberbullying! Take it Seriously!)

our new videos are up on youtube along with animations and a webisode.

feel free to use them, and us, in any way we can help.

Parry Aftab
Exec Director
(home of stopcyberbullying.org)

Hi Andy,

We at Symantec (the makers of Norton software) completely support your efforts! We’ve made a podcast and blog entry on the topic of cyberbullying, as well as an educational article on the topic, all of which will be live on our site by end of today.

I’ve spent the last few weeks discussing cyberbullying with the media, working with supermodel Rachel Hunter, whose own daughter was victimized by a cyberbully/stalker.

The latest study from the National Crime Prevention Council indicates that 43% of teens in the US have had experience with cyberbullying in the last year. This is a growing trend, growing in the wrong direction.

For more information, please visit our site at norton.com/parentresource.

Best wishes,
Marian Merritt
Internet Safety Advocate
Symantec Corporation

On large “community” sites such as Digg.com, the harasser and the victim can be of any age, and in most cases, nobody will know either way.

A fish rots from the head, and a site becomes a cesspool because its owners and admins either want it that way for reasons of their own, or they just don’t care.


I’m a Filipina single mom and a blogger. I’ve never really thought about the impact of cyberbullying to one’s personal life until I read about Kathy’s story. Aware of the fact that blogosphere, or internet for that matter, transcends geographical boundaries, I applaud your efforts, and everybody participating in this campaign, in increasing the people’s awareness and putting to a stop to cyberbullying. If it happened there, it may be happening in other countries as well. As the saying goes, great things start in small beginnings. You have my support!

I gave a talk to an impressive and powerful group of educators in Arizona on Stop Cyberbullying Day. Hope that helped a little.


Andy, thanks so much for putting this together. I’ve been speaking out against cyberbullying for some time on a blog of my own. It’s incredible how widespread this sort of behavior is and it’s only overshadowed by the damage it causes.

If there’s one thing that could have a major impact on reducing online attacks it would be parents getting involved with their children’s online activities. Some may thing that it’s an invasion of privacy, but my response to that is, “Who is parenting whom?” Sure kids are entitled to some privacy, but that doesn’t mean the parent should totally remove themselves from interacting with them to find out where they’ve been online and off.

Keep up the good work!

i think people who are getting bullied on the internet, should just stop using that site.

HEY ANDY!!! I fell as if this is an excellent idea because lots of kids are not looking for internet. SO, KEEP the good work!

Bullys are problems everywhere. I find that even I can be mean sometimes. But this website can help anyone.

Cyberbullies are an increasingly occuring problem. As internet communication abilities progress, kids who could never bully in reality find that they can be ”hardcore with the keyboard”. This response, however, is just as dangerous. Physical bullying is troubling (and probably more painful on the outside), but cyberbullying is just as bad. Not only this, but cyberbullying can follow you throughout the years. Some rumors are never forgotten. Ways to prevent against cyberbullying are to keep your internet connections to a minimum. Watch what you say too, you don’t want to create any internet enimies either. Although, I’d really get a kick out of society if ”Cyberwars” came next.

-Erin Singer
(8th grade)

I don’t mean to be pessimistic, but I’ve been part of the online cyber community for a while; I know what kind of groups are targeted as ones to be bullied. This whole anti-cyberbullying thing is quite ironic, as the organization itself would be a prime target of online abuse. There’s nothing easier than a bunch of sissies banding together.

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