Archive | Safety and Security RSS feed for this section

Peak indifference to surveillance

Cory Doctorow said:

In the educational domain we see a lot of normalisation of designing computers so that their users can’t override them. For example, school-supplied laptops can be designed so that educators can monitor what their users are doing. . . . [Students] are completely helpless because their machines are designed to prevent them from doing anything.

We have this path of surveillance that starts with prisoners, then mental patients, refugees, students, benefits claimants, blue collar workers and then white collar workers. That’s the migration path for surveillance and students are really low in the curve. People who work in education are very close to the front lines of the legitimisation of surveillance and designing computers to control their users rather than being controlled by users.


It’s late 2015 and we’re still overblocking the Internet

It’s late 2015, we’re still overblocking the Internet, and the blame is on us as administrators…

Save the internet sign

I read a post recently that stressed yet again how access to the wide range of the Internet is an equity issue. Like library and textbook censorship, not only does blocking video services, social media, online interactive content, and other Web resources restrict students’ intellectual freedom, it also prohibits them from engaging in powerful conversations and learning opportunities (and, incidentally, also sends messages to your most technology-fluent educators that you’re outdated). One of my doctoral students’ dissertations at the University of Minnesota, for instance, found that overzealous school filtering prohibited student access to online content essential for satisfying state Social Studies and Health curricular standards. The equity concerns are most egregious for students who lack Internet access at home because school may be their primary option for learning what it means to be an empowered, active online citizen. 

There are numerous reasons why we overblock the Internet. Sometimes it’s simple confusion around what actually must be filtered. There are a lot myths out there and even our best technology support personnel may lack understandings of what must be blocked versus what does not. Other times it’s because our technology support folks are more interested in controlling bandwidth or the ‘integrity of the network’ rather than figuring out ways to empower students and staff. And many times it’s because of our own administrative fear, need for control, lack of knowledge, or unwillingness to educate ourselves and our communities. I have the good fortune to interact with schools all around the world. I hear time and time again from students and teachers that the primary reasons that they can’t access important content online are because of overly simplistic filtering software (hint: you have other options), technology coordinators’ prioritization of security over learning, and administrators’ fears and/or unwillingness to treat filtering concerns as educational, not technology, issues. Superintendents and principals should be actively leading ongoing conversations about what is filtered and why, particularly since we know that our most technology-successful schools are ones that filter less, not more. Administrator mindset and leadership are critical here. Given the necessity of the Internet in our lives and the need to teach students digital empowerment and citizenship, the emphasis should be on opening up rather than closing down.

Hopefully we all realize by now that our environment of mobile devices connected to the Internet constitutes the dominant information landscape of our time. Teaching students to be literate within that landscape is one of the primary tasks – and challenges – of our time. But we don’t get there by overblocking the Web. And we don’t get there by abrogating our responsibilities as instructional leaders.

I maintain a collection of Internet filtering and blocking resources that hopefully will be useful to you, including 27 Internet safety talking points for you and your community. Will you work to open up to your students the most powerful learning environment we humans have ever created?

Image credit: Save the Internet Net Neutrality protest, Steve Rhodes

Principles for school districts’ social media policies


My newest article is out. This one is about some general guidelines and principles for school districts to consider as they formulate their social media policies. A segment is below. You can read the full article online or in AASA’s School Administrator magazine.

Consider your tone. Districts everywhere are doing everything they can to put digital tools into the hands of students and staff because of the powerful learning opportunities that they enable. And then they usually create policy documents that hector and admonish youth and educators about all of the things they shouldn’t do. Tone is important. You don’t want to undermine your own efforts.

Consider what policies of empowerment and encouragement might look like versus districts’ typical lists of No’s and Can’ts and Don’ts, particularly if you want to encourage innovative, technology-using educators to work for you instead of someone else.

Don’t be agoraphobic. Humans are inherently social and we make meaning together. Connection to each other and the outside world often is educationally desirable. The learning power that can occur in environments that are “locked down” less tightly is vastly greater than those that filter or block outside experts, communities of interest, or other classrooms.

Happy reading!

We could surprise them and they could see that we are good kids


Katrina Schwartz said

Many students at [Los Angeles Unified School District’s Roosevelt High School] felt the news media had mischaracterized their school and its students as criminals for figuring out how to get around the iPad’s security features, often to access educational information.

“We were really caught up in how they kept calling Roosevelt ‘hackers,’” said Daniela Carrasco, a former student.

[Mariela] Bravo doesn’t understand why the district would give students iPads with so many limitations. Her peers were looking up homework help on YouTube – and yes, checking Facebook, too – but that’s part of life.

“They have to trust us more,” Bravo said. “We could surprise them and they could see that we are good kids.”

Students were frustrated that the district couldn’t see that negotiating distractions on the Internet is part of life now. “We should have been trusted with those websites,” Carrasco said. “Instead of blocking them, there should have been emphasis on how to use those websites for good.”


More nuanced responses from the students than the district…

Image credit: criminals crew_07, Phiesta’s way

Worlds Day 1: Sock Monkeys

Hey guys! So today has been crazy and it is currently only 11:11 (make a wish!) I’m sitting upstairs in Union Station, away from the pit area so that I can blog. We can’t have wifi or hot spots in the pit area OR the arena because it will interfere with the robots and the game. We haven’t started playing matches yet, but we did have judging this morning! So, in the FTC judging happens at different times at every competition. This year is happened at 9:30 AM….bright and early. In judging we have the whole team, our engineering notebook, our robot, and anything extra that we think we might need to show to judges. The judging room is usually 2-4 people, our coach and obviously…us! Every team has a different idea or strategy that they use to talk to judges. Public speaking can sometimes be really nerve wrecking so we practice before we go in and make sure the team knows what they are saying. It is cool to see how the team becomes more confident and bold with speaking as the season goes on. For the World Championship we chose to set up our blogging like this:

1. Everyone will walk in and shake the judges hand while lining up saying “hello” or “how are you?”

2. We will the the judges stickers, buttons and key chains.

3. Logan Gross (one of the main speakers/a senior on the team) will be a key speaker along with me (Molly…who is also a senior) He will help transition from one topic to the next and I will help with forgotten or missing information.

4. As we step forward to speak, we will introduce ourselves.

5. After we all talk about what we have done/presented everything to the judges, we will ask if they have any questions (assuming there is time left..)

We only have 20 minutes to tell them about 9 months of progress, so sometimes it can get kind of tricky and we have to choose the more important topic. And today…for the FIRST time this season, we were able to finish judging AND answer questions from the judges which is a huge accomplishment considering we have a team of 17. Now that judging is over, the robot has to go to judging. She has to pass hardware/software inspections and she has to be able to fit in a 18×18 inch box. Only 4 or 5 of the team members go to robot inspections though. It is usually our main programmer, and our drive team. While they are doing that the rest of the Sock Monkeys have time to take pictures, scout, have some free time, or sit in the pit area. I usually sit in the pit area, but right now I am blogging. 😛 The people who sit in the pit area always smile, and say “Hi” to as many people as possible. A lot of other teams will come and scout us out, asking about our robots abilities, strengths, and weakness’s. We will have a lunch break from 12:30-1:30 and then we will continue on our day. Today isn’t very exciting because we haven’t started matches yet. We have gotten to meet the South Korean’s, the Australians, the Middle Easterners, and the Canadians though! Everyone else has been from the United States so far.

I’ll post tonight again with all of the pictures, etc!

Tactical defense training for school leaders

I just received this invite in my email from the folks at School Growth. Who has thoughts on this?!

Tactical defense training for school leaders

Power of the press without concurrent accountability

Peggy Drexler said:

The problem with social media, and our dependence on it, is that it allows people to present and receive whatever angle they want, biased or not, fair or not. It’s the “power of the press” without the objectivity or accountability demanded of the actual press. And it has enabled a dangerous vigilantism that makes those who use that power no different from the ones they are supposedly rallying against. Think about it.


I think that second sentence is a pretty powerful one. Worth talking about with our students…

Refusing to let children practice agriculture because it might weaken their hunting skills

Doug Johnson said:

If at the end of the last ice age the natives of Minnesota had refused to let their children practice agriculture because it might weaken their hunting skills (although the animals were moving north and it was easier staying fed growing corn), would they have been doing them a service? As information becomes ubiquitous, learning becomes self-motivated, and post-literacy becomes the norm, are we doing our students a service by keeping them from using the tools of the technologic climate change that is on us now?


The challenges of digital leadership

National Association of Independent Schools logo

I wrote an article for the National Association of Independent Schools on the challenges of digital leadership. Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite!

Schools often purchase software, computer devices, and technology-based learning systems because they are effective marketing tools for recruitment, or because they want to keep pace with the digital investments of rival institutions, or simply because they fear appearing outdated. None of these have to do with learning, of course, and inevitably are insufficient to smooth over the challenges that arise as digital tools enter classroom spaces. 


Too often, when navigating faculty or parental resistance, school leaders and technology staff make reassurances that things will not have to change much in the classroom or that slow baby steps are OK. Unfortunately, this results in a different problem, which is that schools have now invested significant money, time, and energy into digital technologies but are using them sparingly and seeing little impact. In such schools, replicative uses of technology are quite common, but transformative uses that leverage the unique affordances of technology are quite rare.


As school leaders, in order to achieve the types of successes that we hope for with technology, we will have to overbalance for our staff and parents the side of the scale that contains fears and concerns with countervailing, emotionally resonant stories, images, visions, and examples of empowered students and teachers doing amazing things. That’s fairly hard to do if we’re technology-hesitant or unknowledgeable about the educative value of technology ourselves, which is why so many successful digital leaders preach over and over again the necessity of personal engagement and modeling.

Happy reading!

Avoiding worst-case technology scenarios through mindfulness

Mike Crowley said:

There can be no question but that technology can provide the potential for isolation, for synthetic relationships, for a sedentary lifestyle, an anxiety-ridden social existence, a failure to focus, concentrate, and engage. But surely this is a worst-case scenario conception of technology without balance, without thoughtful schools, informed, engaged parents? An education system that emphasises the need to be cultured as well as educated, well-read as well as literate, articulate as well as able to skim, physically healthy as well as mentally engaged … surely an individual in this context will only benefit from the interactive tools of contemporary technology to allow them to create, design, persuade and engage? Yes, perhaps our brains will be rewired in the process, but isn’t that what the brain has always done throughout history? 


Switch to our mobile site