October 3, 2007
As far as education professionals go, I’m fairly liberal in my thoughts about the uses of technology in our schools, specifically access to the web. On more than one occasion, I’ve talked about opening access so that our students can explore, create and learn from sources other than us. I’ve believed that opening access should come with a lot of discussion and education about the appropriate uses of the incredible wealth of information available that comes with a wealth of nonsense as well. If we don’t talk to our kids and teach them how to discern what is reputable and reliable, who will? If we don’t talk about Internet safety with them and social networking, will their parents be knowledgeable enough to get the job done?
And then I land on a student website that so obviously invites a problem, I’m left seriously concerned about his health and safety. A website where student creativity and expression includes way too much personal (really personal) information, including the student’s first and last name. A website with provocative pictures and details about the kid that leave little to the imagination. Information that’s accessible to everyone, friends, family, and predators.
As a school administrator, my first concern is to work with the parents to communicate the problem and to offer whatever assistance we can give. I find myself communicating a problem that I’m not sure the parents understand, with implications that are far reaching. How do we do more to educate our parents and students about the danger of this sort of personal exploitation while encouraging teachers and students to utilize all that is good about the web? In my experience, the response is often that adults conclude the web is a bad thing all together, because if its misuse in a case like this one.
As an adult learner, I have no problem discriminating, considering the source, looking at the possible bias. I have no problem avoiding the million and one websites out there that focus on nonsense. I don’t think blocking access to the web at school is going to teach our kids how to do those things. I’m certain that opening it up completely to students who are still developing their good sense and judgment isn’t the answer either.
Good parents pay attention to what their kids are doing on-line, just like they pay attention to every other aspect of their lives. Good schools need to pay attention too and as far as I can see, the lines are getting blurrier and blurrier as to who holds the responsibility for teaching safe on-line behavior. Neither of us, the parents or the school, can assume the other is getting the job done.