In response to the devastating string of recent LGBT teen suicides, a group of students and advisers in one USC College Writing 340 course have created a service project for victims of cyberbullying. The class, taught by Mark Marino, assistant professor of writing in the College, focuses on writing in 21st-century contexts, including blogs, enriched by new media technology. Appropriately, their coinciding service project called “@Wall Watch” serves not only as a rewarding endeavor, but also as a practical application for their lessons.
Integrating contemporary media from all angles, @Wall Watch crosses many platforms smoothly: from a Facebook page (hence the ‘wall’ in @Wall Watch) and home domain, to YouTube channel and Twitter account, @Wall Watch has its bases covered. The main @Wall Watch homepage, wallwatch.sosclassroom.org, uses blogging software and provides helpful and comforting resources in an organized and accessible way, aggregating tools, tweets, videos, links, posts, and more as reference tools and consolation for victims of cyberbullying.
The members of @Wall Watch have also petitioned Facebook directly and requested that the site allow the flagging of comments and status messages that may be considered offensive or insensitive. Marino and the students are now in contact with a Facebook employee regarding the issue, but in the meantime, user-friendly privacy tutorials and tagging instructions can be found on the group’s homepage, along with many other LGBT bullying and general cyberbullying resources.
What sets @Wall Watch apart from similar projects is that — beyond their immediate conceptual goals — the project aims for user-friendliness and accessibility so victims of cyberbullying quickly find a safe, tolerant haven where they feel supported and cared for. Online discussions are encouraged and resources are abundant. On Facebook, victims and their friends are encouraged to tag the community page when they detect ill feeling and a tutorial on how to do so is available on the project’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. @Wall Watch administrators can then see the offense, and all offensive tags can be aggregated together to increase awareness and spread the word.
In developing the project, the class consulted experts in emerging media forms as well as the study of bullying as a social phenomenon. Most recently, the class received feedback from an internationally recognized scholar on bullying, Ron Avi Astor, who is Richard M. and Ann L. Thor Professor of Urban Social Development and holds joint appointments in the USC School of Social Work and the USC Rossier School of Education. Scholars in social media from University of California, San Diego and University of Texas, Dallas greatly influenced the shape of the project by contributing interdisciplinary and intercollegiate perspectives.
Additionally, students from the project presented a lesson plan on bullying, both on and offline, to New Los Angeles Charter School, a middle school located in the mid-Wilshire area. The outreach was made possible by the class' collaboration with the education nonprofit CORE Educational Services. Visits such as these have not only benefited the children, but have also prompted thoughtful discussions between Marino and the students, creating an extremely comfortable and nurturing classroom environment like the one they strive to establish in the social media landscape.
While the semester is coming to a close, the students involved are all very passionate about the project and hope to see it continue in the future, whether another class takes it over or the current members continue on with it. All class members feel strongly about the issue and truly hope to make a difference beyond working towards a good grade in a college class.
Read an article about @Wall Watch on DML Central: dmlcentral.net/blog/liz-losh/student-led-curriculum-demanding-digital-compelling