Don’t Blame Technology for Bad Decisions

April 15, 2009

As a technology professional one of the hardest parts of the job is balancing our students’ access to information and technology for educational purposes with the potential threats and temptations that pique our students’ curiosity. While we abide by our legal responsibility to filter the internet for inappropriate material as mandated by the Children’s Internet Protection Act we often struggle with the boundaries of our responsibility to filter information. Should we filter Facebook? YouTube? Flickr? GMail? Where do we draw the line? At what point do we begin to block access to materials that have legitimate educational value on the chance that they might offer access to some inappropriate materials? These are tough decisions and we grapple with them often.

As a school we have blocked access to sites such as MySpace due to the perceived threat of exposure to predators. We understand the need to limit our student’s exposure to external threats such as those posed by potential predators on MySpace, but now we face a new range of threats that are not easily blocked. These threats are internal; they come from inside our firewalls and content filtering. They can occur 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days year. The latest and greatest threat to our students is themselves.

Sexting is the “in” term. Thanks to some highly publicized cases in Barnstable and Holbrook, most people have a familiarity with the term. But for those that don’t, sexting is the sending of sexually explicit or inappropriate photos from a cell phone. Often the recipient of the photos will then forward them to other contacts creating a chain letter type spread of the pictures. What may have started as a personal and private communication between two people quickly can turn into a mass distribution of inappropriate materials. To make matters worse, if the subject of the photo is under the age of 18 years old the photos qualify as child pornography under current laws. That means anyone sending these photos can be charged with distribution of child pornography and anyone receiving them can be charged with possession. If convicted this could lead to our students and your children being labeled as a sex offenders for life.

Often our initial reaction to threats such as these is to blame the technology. That was the reaction many had with MySpace, block it or ban it. However in truth we must begin to deal with the crux of all of these problems, poor decision making. Deciding to meet with stranger you met online or forwarding explicit pictures of yourself is a personal decision that can not be blamed on a webpage or cell phone. Children today need to understand that these types of decisions can have drastic and far reaching effects. These are real life decisions that have real life consequences. Sexting has led to criminal charges and in some drastic cases suicide. Middle School students may be young and immature but if we are to entrust them with the responsibility of technology they must be expected to make proper decisions when using it.

Sexting in most cases is not a school issue, it is a home issue. The schools will be developing a technology safety plan to begin to educate all our students (K-12) on responsible use of technology. We will educate our students on proper use and safety but we can not do this alone. Your children are connected nearly every minute of every day. You control their access and a cell phone, in the right hands, is a wonderful device. Be aware of what they are doing and how they are using it. Take the time to discuss these issues and the potential consequences with your children. Help them understand that poor decisions may have a serious impact on their lives. Simply blaming the technology is too simple a response; it doesn’t address the fundamental issue of why a child would decide to engage in this behavior.

If you feel you would like to learn more about sexting or internet safety please visit the following web sites.

www.netsmartz.org

www.wiredsafety.com/

www.isafe.org

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From budgets in the red to schools in the green

February 13, 2009

The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis’. One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger-but recognize the opportunity.  John F. Kennedy

There is no need to waste many words describing the economic crisis we all find ourselves in.  Schools across the country are taking catastrophic losses of personnel and programs.  Bailouts and stimulus packages offer promises to soften the blows but most likely will only have minimal impact on schools next year.  There is no “golden parachute” for schools,  for us we must make hard choices and budget cuts that have more impact to students than they do to spreadsheets.  Programs and services will be cut, positions may be lost, resources will be scarce, but perhaps, once we accept that we can begin to search for opportunity.

A single strand of opportunity that we must grasp next year is conservation.  We have the tools and the resources available to us now to become a greener school district.   Technology offers us the ability to change the way our school uses resources.  We can easily become less dependent on paper, toner, postage, and copy machines by challenging ourselves to be more responsible consumers of these resources.  This requires changing our own personal habits and comfort zones.  The benefit in the end is worth the initial discomfort, not only are we moving towards being more ec0-friendly, but we will save more of our precious dollars.

Lets look at some ways we that our district can go green.

  1. Shut off computers when not in use – Easy to do but not done enough.  Simply turning off your computers, monitors, printers, dvd players, etc. when you go home at night is a great start.
  2. Submit assignments digitally – Have your students use an online dropbox such as drop.io or use Moodle to submit assignments as a file instead of on paper.
  3. Give tests and quizes online with Examview – If you textbook came with the Examview program consider using it to administer tests and quizes.  Not only will you use less paper but it will cut down on your correcting.
  4. Use and online classroom – Use Moodle to extend your classroom online.  Moodle is an online classroom application similiar to Blackboard.  Through Moodle you can provide your syllabi, provide important resources, use discussion boards, have classroom chat rooms, give quizes and assignments, and much, much more.  Imagine not having to make 500 copies of the periodic table this year simply because they can access it online when they need it.
  5. No more paper newsletters – Use e-mail and the school webpage to distribute school newsletters, announcements, reminders, fund raising materials, etc.  You should be able to reach the majority of your audience this way.  You’ll still need to provide paper for those with Internet access but it will mean a lot less printing and copying for your staff.

These are just some simple opportunites we should grasp in these tough times.  The forces causing our recession are beyond our control, we must play with the hand we are dealt.  But if we look hard enough and are willing to adapt that hand might hold fabulous cards.



An introduction is in order

January 26, 2007

Hello.

My name is Eric Bouvier and on January 22, 2007 I became the Director of Technology and Curriculum for the Auburn Public School District.

For the past eleven years I have served as the Director of Technology for the Sutton Public School District, in Sutton, Massachusetts. During my time there we experienced the technology explosion in education. Pockets of technology use expanded into district wide use with computers in every classroom and office. The network became an indispensable resource for not only our administration, but for all staff and students. E-mail revolutionized communication both internally and externally. The Internet arrived and changed the way we find and process knowledge forever. All these “events” have offered us a window for change in education, a chance to grow beyond our school walls and expand educational opportunities for our students.

While I enjoyed my time in Sutton I am very excited to be part of Auburn. I believe that this is very exciting time for educational technology. The web is changing from a read only resource to an application that offers exiting new ways to create, publish and collaborate. I welcome the opportunity to help Auburn effectively and efficiently integrate these new technologies.

This blog will be my attempt to increase communication with the community and keep you up date not only with what is going on inside the school, but also with other technology news as well.

Thanks


Hello world!

January 26, 2007

Welcome to the Auburn Public Schools in Auburn, Massachusetts.