Virtual hijacking?

We had an interesting issue before we started the most recent Edublogs webinar “Teach to the Test?” in that we were “hijacked” by at least two and more likely three or more quite disruptive children (or at least they purported to be, and sounded like, children). One gave “her” age as “seven” and another gave hers as “ten”, at least one of them seemed to be using an alias and also logged in at one point as “KILLLER”. Luckily we identified and dealt with this largely before the session started and were also ready for any additional invasions during the session.

This sort of occurrence gives food for thought and raises some questions. For me my main thought was about how several children had got the link on this occasion when this has not happened in any of our sessions before. The link is posted in a variety of places (three events calendars) and is also Tweeted out (and often retweeted) several times just prior to the session. So perhaps it is surprising that this has not happened before rather than surprising that it happened at all. The voices were very “young sounding” and in my opinion the accents were North American. I have a concern that these quite young children apparently had sufficient access to enable them to join a live adult session with no supervision and that this could pose a risk to them in the future.

Would you recognise/identify non-appropriate participants? How would you deal with them and with behaviour that disrupted the session? It was something I was already very well aware of as a possiblity because some of my students are “Youth at Risk” and may have behavioural issues that manifest in face-to-face situations. So I had already thought of some strategies for identifying and managing potential problems of this type when thinking of transferring some of these students to an online context.

Thankfully Elluminate has some features that make it a bit easier to deal with issues of this kind (look out for a post on this soon). Moderator control over access to tools is very useful and as a moderator it is also possible to remove someone from a session, although unless you block access to all new participants you can’t stop them joining again. Blocking access to all is not an option for me because we have people joining throughout sessions. This might be something for Elluminate to consider – perhaps when someone at a particular IP address is removed then to not allow that IP address to rejoin for 2-3 hours.

Identifying that these participants were not really appropriate was probably relatively easy in this case because two of them were in the room very early and were talking at times. Also one had started video with the camera pointing at their body rather than their head. On hearing the voices I was alerted as they sounded very young. I removed video access and then spoke to them but did not get a proper response. They then started to draw on the whiteboard, my instant response was to remove their access to whiteboard tools and to say this was because we were loading the presentation. I had no wish to offend legitimate participants who were just experimenting because I am happy for people to do this. The immediate response was variations (in audio and text) around a theme of asking/demanding to be allowed to draw with one very rude response to the effect that “you must die!” (if you don’t let me draw). I then removed audio permission. At this point we were joined by Shelly Terrell who has Elluminate experience. I told her of the situation – we agreed that the children should be removed. I did this and then gave Shelly moderator status to help me deal with any further issues. She provided fantastic support for the rest of the session, when we again had these or other children joining.

As a further strategy for monitoring and identifying any children I was then a liittle more pro-active than usual in encouraging participants to tell us about themselves and what they did either in text or by audio.

We had one apparent child who remained quiet and to whom we gave the benefit of the doubt – ie we didn’t remove her because she was causing no issues. She chose to leave on the basis that the session was for “grown ups” and a bit weird so she would like to find one for “kids”.

This in itself raises another issue – should we be doing sessions that are aimed at including very young students, but in a planned way? I have run sessions where I moderate (from elsewhere) physical rooms of people who are all in Elluminate with only one microphone available to each room through a “room moderator” but where everyone has access to text chat, whiteboard, polling etc. Alternatively I have used Elluminate in group sessions where no-one has microphone because we are all in the same room but where we use the Elluminate features. I find these strategies are great ways to get whole group participation in a large session. In my opinion they would be an excellent way to introduce children to virtual classrooms, and if anyone would like to give it a go I am happy to be your distant moderator (if we can do it when my timezone is awake!)

Please comment as I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on any aspect of this post.

7 thoughts on “Virtual hijacking?

  1. Jo,

    What a crazy experience! It is amazing that it has not happened before since the link is open to anyone.

    You bring up a good point about using this tool with young children. These tools will no doubt be put into the hands of younger and younger people as education moves more online and outside of the school walls.

    • Thank you for the feedback Mary Beth

      Yes it was a bit weird! Initially I was surprised but on reflection I felt, like you, that the surprise was that it hadn’t happened before.

      I wrote the post because I was very aware that it might have been a very worrying experience for a moderator fairly new to Elluminate. So I thought posting about it might at least raise awareness of the possiblity and forewarned is forearmed!

  2. Hi Jo

    I think I joined the session last week after most of the problem had been taken care of. Although there was someone in the room for a while who was quiet and whose name I didn’t recognize. So perhaps that may have been a young person.

    Since we have three children, we intentionally position our computers in the most used room of the house and the room you must go through in order to get to any other room in the house. Therefore there is no “secret” activity going on in regards to our children using a computer in our house, and at least one other person can always see what you are doing on the computer. We have chosen to set things up this way because I think it is safest when children are using the computer.

    I don’t always lock computer access to my stuff, so it is possible at times for my kids to see my twitter account. That said, I have never seen any tweets in my profile except for the ones I have typed, so I don’t think any of the kids have ever played around with my account. But perhaps someone who follows you left the twitter account open and didn’t realize that a young person had clicked the link. I don’t know… just a thought.

    My kids have been in the room for part or all of the times that I have been in an Elluminate session that you were hosting (as I said, it’s pretty hard not to be in the computer room in our house). They are fascinated by the whole idea of an online class and talking to people around the world. And I think it is good for them to watch how we learn from each other and exchange ideas. I imagine that sooner or later they will be in a similar type class or exchange. So I think that kids do understand pretty quickly what is appropriate participation in a session! Therefore I am sure the young people last week that tried to “hijack” the session did not have adult approval or supervision!

    I don’t know if anyone else who tunes into these sessions has school age children, but if you did have a session where part of it was open to participation from young people, I know my kids would be very excited to try it out. I think that with adult supervision it is a good opportunity for them to learn.

    Since I have only been tuning in for a few weeks, I had not seen this problem occur before. But from what you are describing, it doesn’t sound like it happens too much. My guess is that for the most part you are going to see an adult audience with interest in education/computer learning issues tuning in.


    • Thank you Carolyn

      You have a great strategy in place with your children! I’m sure you are right and that the children in question didn’t have adult approval/supervision. I agree that it was most likely just one child clicking a link – and them possible passing to another. These were not all logged in on the same computer in the same room.

      I am always very aware that we may have an extra “audience” in our sessions. One participant joined from their classroom and so the whole class was listening. I have had the same with students joining sessions from home with their children in the room. when this has happened I often ask the parent if their child would like to say “Hello” to everyone – they love getting “Hello” back from around the world.

      It isn’t something that happens often – this is the first time for me – but I have thought about it before because of the openness of our link. I also wanted to alert others to the possibilioty because for a new moderator it could be quite challenging

      There are a lot of our regular participants with school age children and I would really like to do a “child friendly” session at some point. I think it could be great fun!

  3. I must say you showed a lot of patience and restraint with the children who were disrupting the session. A good working example of how useful some of those Elluminate features are.

  4. Agree you showed a lot of patience with these children who interrupted the session. This raises a concern where are these children’s parents, I personally do not leave the children alone on the internet at all.

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