Monday, March 17, 2008

Teaching internet responsibility/safety.....HOW?

I find it difficult sometimes to come up with answers and solutions to problems that are re-occurring and are in the "grey"areas. Such as Internet usage, items viewed on Internet, using online tools, etc. It is difficult to control all students within the school as far as the content that they view on a computer, since we do not have person to sit on the server computer and view what everyone is doing at all times.

We have content filters and Internet use policies put in place for a reason, but if students can get around them - and believe me they can and do get around them - what is a suitable consequence for doing so? Or for another example, what if a student is going onto a blocked website, during a spare? Or students are doing it behind our backs and we hear about it second hand from other teachers or students?

These are very real issues that we face in schools today. I know that we are supposed to be teaching them Internet safety and responsibility, but it is difficult to instill these ideals into our students since they can go home and do almost anything they like on their home computers. (Not all, but I am giving a generalization. It is wonderful if parents are involved in what their kids are doing on the Internet, but that percentage is quite low.) If we are to be the rulers of the Internet usage in our schools then we need a united front, across the grades, across the schools and division.

I believe that we need to have some monitoring going on. It has reached a point (at least here in my school), that students who have spares are using the Internet tools such as Youtube, Google Video, etc. as a means of entertainment, by looking up people getting hurt, getting in fights, or other inappropriate items that are not school appropriate. Who is monitoring them in the library if they are on a spare and are doing those things? The librarian cannot be held responsible for being a supervisor if there are other students in there, or if she is busy. What if these students on spare look up these things and a younger elementary student sees this inappropriate content?? I think students need to understand that Youtube and other items are to be used as educational tools, for research or multimedia, not to be used for inappropriate items. They should only be used under direct teacher supervision, where the residing teacher can monitor the way that students are using it, tell/show them how to use it and guide them to use it properly. Maybe students on spares need a new venue instead of the library, maybe they need a study hall where the computers are off limits unless there is a teacher in the room....maybe that won't work either....

Maybe we need to involve the students in a dialogue about these issues and concerns. They need to realize that items that may (or may not) be acceptable at home, are not necessarily acceptable in school, and that we need to discuss why there is a difference. Maybe bracing them for the 'real' world and situations that they could get themselves in in say a workplace and inappropriate things being viewed; how would that affect their work? would help them to understand the severity of the situation and get them to take it seriously. Right now, I think the student body is thinking of us as dictators who have power and are using it to make them unhappy, but obviously this is the real idea and we need to discuss these things with them, show them the reasoning, so that there is a mutual understanding between the staff and the students.

Teachers need to show a united front on this issue. We tend to get played against each other when it comes to this type of thing. If it is not in the handbook, or it is not a concrete policy, then we have mixed messages and the students pick up on that really quickly. If we can be consistent in our consequences and reasoning, then we put forth a united picture of a staff who all know what is going on. This is extremely important so that students see us as a team and not as the few "mean" teachers who kick them off all the time. We really do need to teach them some responsibility, safety, etiquette, and respect for others in this Internet superhighway. Talks must be had, and ideas must be shared. A consistent staff team is what will make this work, and it needs to be done soon.

Any thoughts? haha. I know I did not cover it all, I could not cover it all in one post, but I will try to get back to this and get more of the grit out of this type of confrontation. Maybe we can find some real answers that will work.....worth a shot!

As a side note, I just want to say that this post comes from a few different conversations that I have had with teachers in my school. We have been confronting this issue for the past week and are planning a meeting to come up with some ways to combat this issue and resolve it properly. Some ideas and notes are not just my thinking and are a combination of the both staff and myself. A lot of my options/ideas/solutions come from the many discussions we have had as a tech. committee and it just makes me want to say how much the dialogue sessions that we do have at our meetings is doing some good. It gives us a chance to see what everyone else has tried and how we can possibly use it in our own schools....thanks.