When schools are looking to protect their students in their digital environments, administrators start with the laws that are in place that their teachers, schools and districts have to follow. CIPA, the Children’s Internet Protection Act, was put into place in 2000 to “address concerns about children’s access to obscene or harmful content over the Internet.” The funding that schools receive can hinge on whether or not they are meeting the criteria laid out by CIPA. It is as follows:
Access by minors to inappropriate matter on the Internet;
The safety and security of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms and other forms of direct electronic communications;
Unauthorized access, including so-called “hacking,” and other unlawful activities by minors online;
Unauthorized disclosure, use, and dissemination of personal information regarding minors; and
Measures restricting minors’ access to materials harmful to them.
In addition, there are qualifications that the Triple E framework provides to help educators decipher what their goals are with their technology. Question 3 asks the following:
Q3 Engagement: Does the
A school or district is able to interpret these guidelines as they best fit their student, staff, and funding needs, within their budget. As an educator who has worked at a wide variety of public, private, and charter institutions, I have been lucky enough to only come across a few schools who have taken the subsequent ‘barriers to access’ to the extreme. I would like to address the programs that are not set up to allow students to discover online content for themselves at the secondary level – whether its due to past incidents that created a specific fear, or a general sense of unease with digital citizenship conversations that should be embedded in our learning systems, I believe there is always a solution if enough minds can connect.
Question: Is it ethical to have student’s access to the entirety of the internet outside of the secondary classroom, but severely restrict their movement online at school?
Student and teacher accessibility to the internet is foundational for today’s classroom, with the project-based learning, student-led engagement space relying heavily on students to focus their research on a broad selection of topics, many of which are sourced online. Question 3 in the Triple E framework asks “Does the technology cause a shift in the behavior of the students, where they move from passive to active social learners (co-use)?” By opening up the scope of the internet, students have been able to find extraordinary amounts of information on virtually any topic, from anywhere that has internet connection. That was impossible only a few years ago, and it has dramatically changed the digital landscape. A teacher could not possibly vet every, single resource that comes across their student’s computers, nor should they be expected to. Those same students will find a way around any structures we put into place and share their newfound discoveries with their peers, completely invalidating the difficult work of trying to find a large enough span of resources to filter out to our students. This is a situation that is exacerbated by the massive influx of new online learners and teachers due to the pandemic and I would like to help school communities find a solution.
I think it is akin to the “human wisdom” mentioned in Prensky, for us to realize our limits, and recognize that students have unlimited access to the internet at some point in the day, so it is the role of the educator to train them how to appropriately filter the good from the bad online. A great resource to help with planning for Digital Citizenship is www.commonsensemedia.org, but I would like to focus this on the bigger structures of the system that teachers and principals work within.
How do we protect our students without hindering their learning in a Digital Era?
This is a difficult question, and one that is often taken up by districts or states at such a high level that the results are often disconnected from the realities of the school they are meant to help. Ethically speaking, shouldn’t those who are affected by mandates be the ones who create them?
In this article from The School Administrator magazine, the author takes on the task of reminding school leaders that if they are not comfortable making district-wide technology decisions for one reason or another, they should create a task force of school teachers from each level, technology experts and IT staff, parents, and administrators who can reason through the many angles and ensure that the many needs are met within the confines of the district’s values. The fact that the focus is on ensuring that a combination of stakeholders within a school district are taking the lead on the issue of cyber security and their subsequent firewalls, instead of entities outside of the community is ethically sound reasoning. By relegating the responsibility of the safety of the firewall to the district, they can work towards providing funding and supports that are specific to their community. The budget plays a large role in how well a district maintains their IT support and online controls, and they should not have to lose programs to accommodate for unreasonable technological demands unless they are requested by those who are directly responsible for implementing the technological changes – the teachers, technology leaders, administrators, and families.
There was a link broken in the article, so here is the list of questions that a superintendent should ask their Chief Technical Officer: https://www.cosn.org/sites/default/files/8QuestionsCS.pdf
What is a Solution for Schools when considering Technology protections?
Planning and preparing for the rapidly changing digital landscape is not the job for a single person. Rather, district and school leadership should prepare for the current landscape of the classroom with the future in mind. They can start with the framework below.
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Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). (2020, April 28). Federal Communications Commission. https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/childrens-internet-protection-act
LaFee, S. (2005, April). Cyber Security at the District Level. The School Administrator. https://aasa.org/SchoolAdministratorArticle.aspx?id=8606
Prensky, M. (2012). From digital natives to digital wisdom: Hopeful essays for 21st century learning. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Corwin.