school violence

How I use Skype to prevent school violence

How peer mentoring through face-to-face and video technologies could better support school violence prevention than more traditional approaches.

21st century schools must include effective and high impact approaches to school violence prevention and student conflict resolution. Unfortunately, “school-wide” or “outside speaker” approaches to reducing student violence and conflict have largely proven to be ineffective.

Too often these “imported models” do not have a lasting impact on student conflict and violence prevention.  Students listen to the “guest speaker” and then go back to the old habits after lunch. Predictably, these “dose-effect” programs rarely exist long enough to be properly evaluated.

However, emerging interactive video technologies can support new and innovative approaches to the preventive and reflective side of school violence prevention and conflict resolution.

Peer Mentoring 2.0 and Prevention

Referred to as Peer Mentoring 2.0, this 21st Century model of peer mentoring functions at the preventive end of conflict and violence instead of engaging after a destructive episode has occurred.

Peer Mentoring 2.0 connects students from different grade levels within the same school or between different schools.  Peer mentoring 2.0 can be implemented in face-to-face classroom settings or virtually using video chatting computer programs such as Skype or FaceTime. The creative applications of these interactive video technologies provide immediate real-time access to credible and believable student mentors on a wide variety of subjects.

Schools too often create student competitions that only provoke conflict.  By removing these harmful competitions and inviting more realistic “cooperation and conversation,” students can become peer listeners and peer leaders with one another.

Age and grade division are also common in school. Peer Mentoring 2.0 bridges the natural and unfortunate gaps that may exist between students at different grade levels; this cross grade level commitment can dispel the fears of younger students in earlier grade levels, reduce their intimidation, and reduce their fear of asking for help.

The Peer Mentoring 2.0 Process

When implemented within an elementary-school environment, middle-school students can mentor incoming fifth-grade students and help dispel anxious beliefs and urban myths that typically exist upon entry. Implementation can also exist between differing grade-levels within the same school, or even between schools.  For example, upon entering a new middle school, 6th or 7th graders can meet 5th graders in participating classrooms face-to-face, or use Skype to discuss how to be successful within their new school environment.  Other examples include: 8th graders mentoring 7th graders; 9th graders mentoring 8th graders; 12th graders mentoring 9th graders, etc.).

Before the formal day of the mentoring, teachers should select students who represent the diversity of the whole school (i.e., every ability, background, race, gender etc.) to elicit their participation.

(Next page: Selecting topics and timing; 10 components to prevent school violence, including Skype)

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