#ThingsIHate:You: A study of problematic social media discourse and how we as leaders can teach to mitigate the harmful practices and effects on today’s children




Samaras, Stephanie Ann

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Over the span of the last 16 years of my teaching career I have taught elementary, secondary and adult learners in both traditional classroom environments, alternative school settings and distributed learning platforms. Regardless of the grade, subject or environment I have been an advocate of digital technology in education, and enthusiastically welcomed George Siemens’ predicted paradigm shift to connectedness enabled through its uses (as cited in Wikipedia, 2013). However, over the past decade this ability to connect through technology has also lead to an increase in cyber-bullying coupled with inherent risks associated with online environments making the connection between cyber-bullying and social media an important area of study. This study began because of a legal case study I was presented with during a graduate course at the University of Victoria concerning issues related to teachers and the law. The case study is based on a high profile YouTube cyber-bullying incident in Canada. Using concepts such as neoliberalism and the promotion of technology as a 21st century tool for schooling, I reviewed Government of Canada and British Columbian research as well as international research regarding the advantages and disadvantages of the use of technology by humans and in education. These documents provided an overview of debates around the benefits for using the Internet, and contrasted this with risks connected to loss of privacy and possible bullying online (cyber-bullying). My methodology for the study is grounded in qualitative research in which I used three different focus groups from which to gather data. The first group included graduate students from the University of Victoria enrolled in Leadership Studies. The second group consisted of members from a Social Justice Committee. The final group represented a team of teachers, administrators and support staff at a Secondary School on a coastal School District in British Columbia. Each focus group observed a video posted on YouTube and the discourse that was left below the posting of the video. Participants were asked to reflect individually, discuss as a group and record their thoughts and feelings for the purposes of the study and as a means to suggest ways to mitigate change. Their comments and suggestions for ways to mitigate change supported research I found and at times pointed towards directions I had yet to consider. Similar to me, the act of viewing and participating in the case study left an impact as to how best to mitigate change through the use of case studies and discussions that helped develop compassion and awareness for cyber-bullying victims. The study concludes with a review of current technology and health and career curriculum as it pertains to issues involving cyber-bullying and promoting socially responsible behaviour on the Internet available to schools in British Columbia, along with information regarding new initiatives including the E.R.A.S.E. bullying website.



Social Media, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Cyberbullying, Education, Discourse, Focus Group, Connectivism, Teacher Naivety, Developing Empathy in Students, Social Justice, Social Networking, Technology