Last week at Northern State University where I work, Darrell Scott came to present about Rachel's Challenge. His daughter, Rachel Scott was the first person killed in 1999 at Columbine High School when two boys opened fire on her as she ate lunch outside. Darrell's speech to congress later that year was not about the need for gun control, which was a surprise to many. His speech was about the need for kindness and compassion.
Rachel was one of those people who deliberately reached out to those who were different from her, new to school, lonely, or picked on. Darrell remembers his daughters legacy by encouraging others to share the type of kindness and compassion that Rachel shared. This is the only way that violence in schools can really be stopped. Rachel's challenge is to create a positive culture change in schools with kindness and compassion. Studies have shown that this program, when taught in schools, has been quite successful in helping improve faculty-student relationships and reduce negative behaviors such as bullying, and alcohol and drug use.
Of course, I am interested in how things relate to educational technology as I work to prepare my own students to deal with technology issues in the classroom. I don't know everything about what happens online between middle and high school students, but there are a few things I do know. I know that social media sites have been used as a weapon to belittle, make fun of, and hurt those who are different. I know that youth (and immature adults) say things online that they would never say in person. I know that I lose a lot of faith in humanity every time I read the comments on YouTube videos. However, I also know that social media can be used for very positive, kind, and compassionate communication, and also for high-quality learning.
Online, people often feel like they are more anonymous, and can say and do what they want without the same consequences as a face to face interaction. But this is not true, there are real consequences. Just as Darrell Scott advocated kindness and compassion instead of gun control, I think we need to specifically advocate kindness and compassion online, not the wholesale blocking of specific social media websites. Social media sites have great potential to support learning, so let's keep the sites open, but teach our students to use kindness and compassion. It just might save somebody's life!
Perhaps you have some experience teaching students to use kindness in social media, how have you taught this in your class?