Protecting Children While Instituting Change

 protected schoolAs technology advances it seems that school firewalls have become more restrictive in blocking sites and web-based tools.  The latest victim in my district is Google Hangout.  Although I had been using Google Hangout to connect and collaborate with educators only a few weeks ago, the Hangout connection with Google + (A social network) has deemed the free tool inappropriate and not accessible behind the firewall.  The statement that “children (and teachers) power down upon arrival to school”  rings true. 
Children most certainly need to be protected from inappropriate content,  as stated in Straight from the DOE: Dispelling Myths About Blocked Sites, the firewall is only one way.  Adults in charge must supervise the children in their charge to ensure safety as well as helping children to learn about what is and is not appropriate.  The Children’s Internet Protection Act includes language regarding protecting children from inappropriate content on the Internet, stating that:

“Schools and libraries subject to CIPA may not receive the discounts offered by the E-rate program unless they certify that they have an Internet safety policy that includes technology protection measures. The protection measures must block or filter Internet access to pictures that are: (a) obscene; (b) child pornography; or (c) harmful to minors (for computers that are accessed by minors). Before adopting this Internet safety policy, schools and libraries must provide reasonable notice and hold at least one public hearing or meeting to address the proposal.

Schools subject to CIPA have two additional certification requirements: 1) their Internet safety policies must include monitoring the online activities of minors; and 2) as required by the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, they must provide for educating minors about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms, and cyberbullying awareness and response.”

As educators, can we come up with solutions that will provide access to sites and tools that can help students, and the adults that work with them, to become global collaborators with access to information that is pertinent and meaningful to teaching and learning for college and career readiness?  This means the adults (and their supervisors) need to understand the tools and how to use them in order to effectively monitor and supervise.  The  acquisition of technology must include effective use once the technology is in place.  Ensuring a one-to-one ratio of devices to students will not likely make a difference if instructional strategies don’t change (implementing digital textbooks and electronic worksheets to replace paper textbooks and worksheets).  Collaborating with experts and other students (globally) to design solutions to problems, using digital tools to research, communicate, curate and create (as in a 3D sandbox genre game) are strategies  that some visionary school districts are using.  Solutions to helping our children live and work in a digital age will require change.

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