Being Digitally Duped and Making Snowflakes… An Enlightening Class with Carol Todd

I was unfortunately working when I heard that Carol Todd was speaking to our ECMP 355 class this week.  As I followed the different tweets while at work, I knew that I was missing something important.  I had watched the fifth estate documentary on The “Sextortion of Amanda Todd” last year and new that this class was going to be very informative for future educators. I watched the recorded version of the class a couple days later and I had some interesting things happen as I watched the video:

  1. I got to feel digitally duped for the first time by believing false information that was posted in response to one of our assignments.  I did not know what had transpired from Gillian’s post until watching the video and feel like an idiot that I believed what Mr. Rose or Inspector,RCMP had said regarding information that the police had made about Amanda’s case.
    Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 11.19.06 PM this was my response.
  2. I was forced to fumble my way through explaining to my 7 year old daughter who Amanda and Carol Todd were, as she was over my shoulder while I was watching the recording.

Carol relayed a story during her talk about a Facebook message from a young adult, calling her names for no reason other than to spit hate at someone who had gone through a tragic incident.  Carol’s handling of the story says a lot about how we as teachers need to help students who use hurtful tactics in their lives.  The students who, as Carol describes, are using these tactics as  “verbs” and not nouns.  I do not even want to call it bullying at this point because, I am eye rolling at the over use of the term also.  She handled this harassment by asking questions.  The questions she asked evoked critical thinking in the young man that caused for a change in how he was operating, both online and off.

I mentioned how I felt digitally duped for the first time because I did not agree with a response to Gillian’s post.  Without thinking I just typed a response taking Mr. Rose’s comments as fact without reading the fine print.  My response to Raquel’s post were wrong because I did not analyze all the facts and where they were coming from.  This is important for a couple of reasons for me as a future teacher.  Firstly, if I want students to be critical thinkers I have to make sure that I am too.  I cannot skim through a response and take it as fact on important issues without being critical of where the information has come from.  Secondly, if you screw up, take ownership for those actions and roll model what an apology needs to look like.  I am sorry Raquel/Gillian/Carol for not taking the time to critically analyze the responses made by Mr. Rose.  My lack of analysis in this situation I hope was not offensive to any of you but either way I feel an apology is necessary.

I should have asked questions in my response rather than just make statements.  The fact that I did not left little room for further discussion.  If I would have used Carol’s method from her story of the Facebook troll and asked questions like, Do we know what the role of the RCMP or Police is suppose to be in online harassment? or what precedents have been set in other cases? At least that evokes discussion and research rather than blurting something out on a keyboard, dropping the mic and walking away from it.

My second point dealt with explaining who Carol was to my 7 year old.  I think it ties into what our guest speaker was talking about on multiple levels.  Maddy is already making cheesy fake Youtube videos, playing Minecraft and pushing for as much technology time as she can in a day, so it was perfect timing that she could hangout with me while I watched different segments of the recording.  I explained to her that Carol was a very special person that was sharing a story about her daughter to our class so that we could become better teachers.  I won’t bore you with the different levels of the conversation, but she was able to come away understanding that pictures on the internet last forever and that people can be jerks on the internet just as much as they can be in person.  I was stuck in one of those awkward parenting moments of not knowing how much or how little to share regarding Amanda, so I treaded lightly around the subject of her death and went back to the part in the recording where Carol was talking about Amanda being her snowflake.  I used the story to explain to Maddy that now that she knows about Amanda’s story and how important that it is to be safe on the internet that she can be a snowflake too.

another snowflake.

My discussion with my daughter got me thinking of how important it is going to be to find that balance of communication between teachers, parents and students.  I was left wondering why in grade 2 she is not learning much about digital identity or safety.  Maybe she is and has forgotten. Maybe she will be learning about it later. It could be a lot of things.  But I am sitting here typing and thinking as a future teacher, should I be emailing her teacher and asking whether or not she is going to be talking about internet safety to the class.  Do I want to be that parent?  Is it a big deal?  Should I ignore it? Should I assume that she is going to or that she has?  With everything that Carol spoke about regarding what the legacy of Amanda needs to be, I think that I have to say something.  I know what I am teaching my kids, whether or not I am doing a good job is up for debate, but I have no idea what other parents are doing.  The gap needs to be filled by teachers because it is the only consistent place where all kids can receive the same message.  Not looking forward to the backlash of being that parent, but I’ve rocked the boat on far less significant things.

I consider myself very fortunate to have watched this and have been able to gain a deeper understanding from Carol about what we will need to do as teachers to keep the legacy of Amanda’s tragic story alive.  It has already transformed one young student into a snowflake.  If we as educators accurately convey the wisdom Carol has shared with us, many more snowflakes will crystallize.





6 thoughts on “Being Digitally Duped and Making Snowflakes… An Enlightening Class with Carol Todd

  1. Gillian Maher

    Wicked post Andrew, lots of really great points. No apology is necessary on my end rather, I felt the need to apologize to YOU all… because like many of us, I fell into the trap of skimming and not critically thinking. This whole experience has been thoroughly enlightening. It’s a really great turn of phrase that “digitally duped”… I have been battling residual “dupe-ocity” feelings this week. I’m really glad that you took that opportunity to discuss a few finer details with your daughter and I really value your insight as a parent. It’s definitely difficult to put yourself in that other role when you are not a parent but this post gives me a lot of great insight– so thank-you. Regardless of this duping, what a neat outcome! I’m super excited that we as a class got to experience a first had account of online trolling and I think it will resonate with us for quite a while… along with Carol’s phenomenal lecture! Thanks again for the insights, much appreciated.


  2. Larissa Mack

    Andrew, this is such an insightful post. It is too bad that you missed out on her presentation but so glad you managed to find out what you missed. I enjoy the phrase “digitally duped” that you have coined. I think many of us learned a lesson, so not just you. I am also very glad that you took the opportunity to speak with your daughter about this! I know that these conversations can be very challenging, so good work. Thanks for your insight Andrew!


  3. Robert Blenkin

    Very interesting read! I love the fact that you are able to bring a parents viewpoint to the discussion. I really like that you were able to even skip around in the video and play it for your daughter in order to direct the conversation. I have a quick question, I am not a parent so if I was teaching your daughter how would you expect/prefer me to start the whole “the internet can be scary so be mindful of what you put out there” speech? I feel it is important for teachers to be doing it like you say to fill the gap but is there a preferred method? Or is it still so new that parents do not know what to expect just expect something?


    1. Andrew Gerrand Post author

      I think that the most important thing to do is use real life examples that are age appropriate for the students you teach. I think that you can use Amanda’s story and take it in a direction for younger grades but would need to 1)make sure that parents are aware you are discussing sensitive topics 2) use language that is going to make sense but is also going to motivate them to want to listen. If you tiptoe around tough subjects you get the “eye roll” like Carol said about the term bullying.
      As a parent I am going to let the teacher teach unless something drastic comes up. I want my kids teachers to keep it real and not pull punches on sensitive topics.


  4. mckillopryan14

    Once again, thank you for another post that provides both the perspective of a pre-service teacher and a parent. I can only speak for myself, but as a young male with no children, I sometimes find it difficult to understand or relate to the feelings of parents. Your posts allow me to unpack some of these deeper level and critical issues. I agree that teachers need to teach about digital citizenship and help students to become digitally literate to fill the gap between home and school. However, I also think it is equally important that parents are brought into these conversations and understand that the education needs to continue at home. Of course, this will not happen in every home, but at least if parents are aware, it is a start.



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