The following post was originally published at the JEA Digital Media site on Saturday, November 23, 2013 and removed because this post belongs elsewhere. I am not sure where the post belongs, but I agree that it does not belong on the JEA Digital Media site.
Unfortunately, some of my questions do not seem to belong anywhere, which was my point.
I expect digital silence. For one reason, many schools closed for Thanksgiving Break yesterday. Secondly, school districts encourage educators to remain offline. Thirdly, even when districts encourage online communication, teachers self censor. "To be safe" often means avoiding the digital highway. So, even though my intentional timing might not generate comments, this post will reveal an unintentionally created weakness in our digital communication network. The internet stays open when everyone leaves the building.
Before visiting San Antonio for last year's Fall JEA/NSPA National Convention, I wondered why Texans celebrated a one-sided battle from 1836.Texas is BIG. Dallas is Big D. The state capitol building in Austin is taller than the United States Capital. So why can't Texans forget The Alamo?
Remembering is easier.
Before there was digital silence, there was The Alamo. Texas children study the sunrise attack, the 13 Days of Glory, and Commander William B. Travis' final letter that asserts he would fight for "Victory or Death." Texans celebrate their eventual victory while remembering the isolated soldiers who died in a small mission compound waiting for help that never arrived.
Since visiting The Alamo, I have found it a useful metaphor. The Alamo has helped me understand everything from the Jerry Sandusky scandal to online harassment to distracted driving. In 2012 The Harrison Patriot-News won the 2012 Local Reporting Prize for coverage related to Penn State football and Jerry Sandusky. Sara Ganim, who was only 24, wrote most of the articles, including "At last, my family and I are believed." How many reporters heard the story before Sara? How many educators suspected unusual behavior at The Second Mile but chose "to be safe?" How many other young men remained silent waiting for Sara Ganim? What happened to the boys who grew up and those like them?
A year ago in San Antonio, I was a shadow of myself -- injured, isolated and confused. I am the shadow on the left (top.) I cannot identify the shadow on the right. I detected something familiar yet untrue about the person, especially after the convention ended. The next seven months I fell apart trying to save someone who may have been trying to destroy me. Alternatively, I may have unintentionally harmed someone who awkwardly tried to save me. Who knows? Really. Someone knows. They knew too much about me.
For the questions below, when I refer to "hacked" I mean that someone other than the teacher is intentionally sending messages from the teacher's account. I do not mean that someone sent a spam email blast with an obvious virus link. I mean that someone takes over the account and sends inappropriate messages or photos. I mean that someone talks disparagingly about other teachers and monitors online conversations. The hackers know details, but they forget something important, like what I drank, when to quit and that I will not... but without them, I would not have written this.
Or asked these questions?
1. If you believed that someone hacked another teacher's personal email TODAY, what would you do?
2. If you believed that a teacher in another state had his or her email hacked, how would you reach the teacher TODAY?
3. How would you document that you contacted the teacher's district or administrator?
4. If you suspected that one of your current or former students was researching teacher behavior and posing as a teacher, what would you do? How do you protect teachers from harassment?
5.Would you allow students to pose as teachers? If so, what restrictions should be placed on anyone posing as a teacher?
6. How do we protect teachers from a third party hacker who interferes with two teachers communicating between each other?
7. How do we verify the authenticity of a teacher listserv? How can we create a trusted online presence as individuals and as an organization?
Since yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination, I want to acknowledge that I have reserved my crazy conspiracy theory questions for a creative writing project. JEA is not the first organization where I have suggested something unusual. Journalism educators who suspect abuse have different reporting obligations than journalists who report abuse. How does this apply to a national organization in the digital age? Teaching would be so much easier, if the kids would just stay off the digital highway.
"The highway don't care if you're all alone...."
When Taylor Swift grows up, perhaps she will win a Pulitzer too. In the 2013 CMA Video of the Year "The Highway Don't Care," Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift, and Kieth Urban create a different type of love story. When Swift thinks of this Tim McGraw, he saves her life at the hospital after a distracted driving accident. McGraw cares about someone he has not met. She can't live without him. Is there a lesson for us?
How do you save a digital life?
We need a team and a football coach who will inspire us. We cannot monitor a network designed to transcend school districts and state boundaries. We need a really large team that supports young teachers, veteran teachers and isolated teachers that will not leave you alone during the holidays.