Although the Internet has many useful resources, it also harbors materials that are unacceptable for schools and classrooms. In an effort to develop and maintain appropriate Internet use, a comprehensive school plan will encompass the components described below.
Acceptable Use Policies
School trustees and administrators should have policies that outline the purposes of school Internet use for both students and staff. The policy should describe services, define expectations, and clearly explain the rules of use. The California Technology Assistance Project (CTAP) has compiled a number of resources to support schools in developing and updating their Acceptable Use Policies. See their Sample Acceptable Use Policies for ideas.
Internet Filtering on School Computers
Schools and libraries that receive federal funds must filter Internet content to prevent access to objectionable content or material deemed harmful to students. This is accomplished by a device that monitors incoming Internet addresses and checks those addresses and/or keywords on incoming Web pages. If a page contains matches in addresses or keywords, the filter denies access to the end-user's computer.
Internet filters are generally successful in restricting content for school with primary-grade students, but they are less effective as students get older, become more skilled at developing workarounds that bypass the filtering system. This is especially true at middle and high schools where overcoming filtering software can become a game-like obsession for some students.
The bottom line is that there is no substitute for adult supervision. Educators and parents need to monitor student use of the Internet to ensure that it is used wisely and that students are safe.
A variety of material aimed at helping students understand the principles of Internet safety is available. The California Technology Assistance Project (CTAP) offers some great learning resources for students, parents, and teachers. Here are links to three of their resource pages: Identity Safety | Cyber Predators | Cyberbullying
CDE and the K-12 High Speed Network have also recommended some new resources for schools providing lessons on Cyberbullying and Internet Safety in support of the cybersafety requirement for E-Rate compliance. Lesson plans and curriculum resources for various grade levels are included: CyberSmart! Curriculum from Common Sense Media and ADL Curriculum Connections on Cyberbullying.
Digital lD: 21st Century Citizens is a wiki created by Gail Desler and Natalie Bernasconi that is designed to provide teachers and students with a toolkit of reliable information and resources for learning how to be responsible digital citizens. The site provides a collaborative platform so that teachers and students can contribute to this resource as they learn.
Professional Development for Educators
Technology evolves and develops rapidly. Educators can best support safety on the Internet by keeping current about technology and understanding its educational applications. Teachers need relevant ongoing training activities in the following areas:
- Hardware and Software, including how to use classroom technologies on a personal basis.
- Effective Practices for Managing School Technologies, including how to utilize technologies with students in different settings (i.e., individualized learning, small group, and whole class).
- Media Literacy, including how to assess the validity and perspectives of media resources.
- Information Literacy, including how to use the Internet in conjunction with books, magazines, encyclopedias, and other information resources, and how to sort, sift, weigh, and synthesize information from a variety of resources.
- Rick Phelan, Director, Technology for Learners