Category Archives: Intolerance

Trolls & Trolling: How Do We Empower Others?


This post is for Curt Schilling. You are my #digcit hero and an all-star dad. I want to share your story with other educators, students, administrators and parents on a digital citizenship (#digcit) chat on Twitter on 3/11/15 between 7-8PM ET and I hope you’ll join us.

In 2011, I co-founded the #digcit chat with one of my graduate students. The chat was a direct result of the digital citizenship course I created and taught at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, CT. Every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month, the #digcit chat connects educators, students, administrators and parents from around the world.

I teach digital citizenship and digital literacy courses at both the undergraduate and graduate level.  Just recently, both my undergraduate and graduate students completed a #creepU assignment. It was a similar assignment to what you did to find the men responsible from sending the inappropriate tweets about your daughter. The students picked a school and examined public student accounts which lead them to multiple social media tools (which were all public). The #creepU assignment was a teachable moment and by no means was meant to shame the school or the students. Last month, we hosted a #creepU chat on Twitter to share our results and urge other teachers to assign the same assignment. Here’s the #digcit agenda from that chat and the archive from the actual chat. The big take-away from the assignment was that digital citizenship is a 24/7 conversation and must be taught in K-12 schools.

How do we help our students realize that your daughter could be their sister, cousin, neighbor? friend? Our students need to be mindful of the choices they make both on and offline and learn to humanize the person next to them, as well as across the screen. I believe it starts with teaching empathy and providing students opportunities to not just read and write about it, but to do it. We need to teach our students how to think and act simultaneously through a local, global and digital lens.

Next Wednesday, I’m going to host a #digcit chat on “Trolls & Trolling” and discuss the seriousness of it, how to prepare our students to handle it (and our teachers to teach it) and best practices on how to find and confront the troll(s). I hope that you will be able to join me and perhaps co-moderate the chat.

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PS: I’m a diehard Red Sox fan too and the only official team jersey I own has your name on it! I’ll be extra proud when I wear it again to Fenway because you have now empowered a global audience to stand up to cyberbullies and trolls! Props to you #38!

Dinosaurs and Tiaras: Facing Intolerance


I love that my graduate students have challenged, tackled and addressed controversial issues this semester.  Our focus on digital citizenship has addressed issues of intolerance week after week.  I find myself challenging my beliefs and asking questions that I never even thought of when I first started teaching.

My transformation started this fall when the freshmen from Rutgers, Tyler Clementi took his own life. I took it personally. I did not know Tyler, but his suicide made me determined to focus on a solution. Tyler Clementi could be my son, your son. He was a brother, grandson, nephew, cousin, friend, neighbor, and most importantly, a human being. This perspective launched me into uncharted territory. I am the mother of a son. What if this was my son? What can I do to make sure this doesn’t happen again? How can I make a difference?

The world responded and It Gets Better Project had people across the world stepping up and pledging to speak up against intolerance.  Celebrities posted their own stories and words of encouragement.  As our semester is coming to a close, I’m still concerned that I haven’t done enough.  Why do children and teens have to wait for it to get better?  Why can’t we make it better now?

Recently, the controversy around the J.Crew designer and her five year old son wearing neon pink nail polish hit the news.  Everyone seemed to have an opinion.  It made me dig deep.  My four year old is all about dinosaurs, but what would I do if he was interested in tiaras?  I kept coming back to the same questions: why would it matter?  Children need the opportunity to play and explore different roles – that’s what growing up is all about.  In middle school, adolescents try on new personas daily.  We support young adolescents as they figure out who they are socially, emotionally, physically, intellectual and morally.  Why are we not doing this in all phases of a child’s development?  What do we need to do as a society to change how we view others and accept individual differences?  Doesn’t everyone want to celebrate what makes us unique?  I certainly do!  I’m not waiting, I pledge to make a difference now.

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