Tag Archives: safety

The surveillance of our youth

Big BrotherLike many school districts, the Southeast Polk School District in Pleasant Hill, Iowa monitors the Web usage of its students on district-provided computers for inappropriate activity. And like some school districts, Southeast Polk also uses a monitoring service that sends weekly emails to parents summarizing their students’ Internet search history. This raises some difficult issues because we know that young people need space away from the heavy thumb of adults for healthy identity formation and the development of self. 

Why do teenagers go to the mall, or congregate at the park, or cruise the strip, or gravitate toward the online spaces where adults aren’t? Because they need spaces that are separate from us. Should we monitor every single book or online resource that our children read? Should we use biometric school lunch checkout systems so that we can see exactly what our children eat for lunch each day? Should we dig through our children’s belongings and rooms every morning after they leave for school to see if they’re doing something that they shouldn’t? Should we install RFID and GPS tags into our children’s clothing and backpacks so that we can track them in real time? Should we slap lifelogging cameras on our kids and review them every evening? Should we install keystroke logging software or monitor everything that youth search for on the Internet? Which of these makes you uncomfortable and which doesn’t?

We can think of numerous reasons why students might search the Internet for things that they don’t want their parents to know about, just like they talk daily about things that they don’t want their parents to know about. For instance, perhaps there is a gay boy who’s struggling to make sense of things but is not ready to come out to his family yet. Or a teenage girl with liberal politics in an ultraconservative family. Or a young couple that is pregnant and searching for information and options before they tell their parents. Or a teen who’s in a spat with a peer but doesn’t want clueless adults stepping in and creating more drama. Or any teen or tween with normal adolescent concerns who just needs some information, resources, or nonlocal empathy and connection. Do these students deserve some space? Do they deserve a presumption of privacy? Or should they immediately and automatically be outed by school software?

danah boyd asks some important questions about youth privacy, including Who has the right to monitor youth? and Which actors continue to assert power over youth? She also notes that:

Just because teens’ content is publicly accessible does not mean that it is intended for universal audiences nor does it mean that the onlooker understands what they see. . . . How do we leverage the visibility of online content to see and hear youth in a healthy way? How do we use the technologies that we have to protect them rather than focusing on punishing them? . . . How do we create eyes on the digital street? How do we do so in a way that’s not creepy?

Similarly, First Monday notes:

The right to privacy is stipulated in Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [and] Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as numerous international and regional human rights treaties and conventions [and has been found to be a protected Constitutional right by the U.S. Supreme Court]. The right to privacy essentially protects the integrity of the individual and his or her home, family, and correspondence. A common denominator for the different areas of privacy is access control: thus control over what others know about us; control over private decisions and actions; and control over a physical space. The right to privacy builds on the presumption that a zone of autonomy around the individual is central to individual freedom and self-determination.

Should school districts be complicit in the hypersurveillance of our young people? What messages do we send our students when we monitor their every action and send out weekly reports? Are we creating digital social graphs for our children and then placing them in the hands of commercial vendors? Are we intentionally instituting oppositional and distrustful stances against our own students? Are we fostering the creation of graduates who will shrug at the infringement of their civil liberties as adults because their families and educators have done so for years?

I wonder if there’s an opt out for families that don’t want to Big Brother or helicopter parent their children…

See also

Image credit: Big Brother is watching you, Photon

BloomBoard collection: Rethinking AUPs

BloomBoard invited me to be part of its February blogging campaign and to create a collection over at its site. I tried to pull together a few resources related to acceptable use policies (AUPs):

The blogger that follows me in BloomBoard’s campaign is Shannon Holden over at NewTeacherHelp. You also can check out others’ contributions at the BloomBoard blog. Hope these resources are helpful to you!

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.

via http://www.online-educa.com/OEB_Newsportal/cory-doctorow-surveillance-privacy

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

AASA

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

Criminal

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.”

via http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/06/01/how-students-uncovered-lingering-hurt-from-lausd-ipad-rollout

More nuanced responses from the students than the district…

Image credit: criminals crew_07, Phiesta’s way

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. 

AND

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.

AND

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!

Our technology messages are important

Important message

When we take away technology access because of student behavior concerns, we send the message that digital devices and the Internet are optional, ‘nice to have’ components of schooling rather than core elements of modern-day learning and teaching.

When we ban teachers from using social media – but not other forms of interaction – to communicate with students in or out of school, we send the message that we are unable to distinguish between behaviors and the mediums in which they occur.

When we decline to devote adequate time or support for technology-related professional learning and implementation, we send the message that low-level or nonexistent usage is just fine.

When we require educators to go hat in hand to IT personnel to get an educational resource unblocked, we send the message that we distrust them so they must be monitored.

When we wag our fingers at students about inappropriate digital behaviors without concurrently and equally highlighting the benefits of being connected and online, we send the message that we are afraid of or don’t understand the technologies that are transforming everything around us.

When we make blanket technology policies that punish the vast majority for the actions of a few, we send the messages of inconsistency and unfairness.

When we ignore the power of online and social media tools for communication with parents and other stakeholders, we send the message of outdatedness.

When we fail to implement hiring, induction, observation, coaching, and evaluation structures that emphasize meaningful technology integration, we send the message that it really isn’t that important to what we do in our classrooms.

When we treat students as passive recipients of teacher-directed integration rather than tapping into their technology-related interests, knowledge, and skills, we send the message that they don’t have anything to contribute to their own learning experiences. And that control is more important than empowerment.

When we continue to place students in primarily analog learning spaces and ignore that essentially all knowledge work these days is done digitally, we send the message of irrelevance to our students, parents, and communities.

Are these the messages that we intend to send with our technology decision-making (or lack thereof)? Often not, but what counts is the perceptions of the recipients of our decisions. 

What technology messages is your school system sending? (and what would you add to this list?)

Image credit: Important message, Patrick Denker

I read blocked blogs

I read blocked blogs

It’s Banned Books Week. I oppose censorship and support students’ and educators’ freedom to read. Do you?

Does that extend to all of those blogs and other web sites that your schools are filtering and blocking categorically?

FREADOM. Celebrate the right to read.