Tag Archives: safety

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and learning opportunities (and, incidentally, also sends messages to your most technology-fluent educators that you’re outdated).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


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.”

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

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

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!

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.

School technology is neutered into uselessness


Tim Cushing said:

Few entities approach new advances in technology with more foreboding than school administrations. What could be used as portals to a nearly-infinite supply of information via the Internet is often neutered into uselessness by schools’ acceptable use policies (AUPs). 

via https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140919/12311228582/technology-improves-internet-expands-school-acceptable-use-policies-still-lock-students-out-benefits.shtml

We can do better than this


Some random technology-related incidents that I have seen and heard about during the first few weeks of school here in Iowa…

1. Big Brother

Nothing says ‘students, get excited about our new 1:1 initiative!’ like frequent, numerous, vehement reminders from administrators during the rollout that WE ARE WATCHING YOU and that WE CAN SEE EVERYTHING ON YOUR SCREENS AT ALL TIMES.

2. More sign-offs than buying a house

Nothing says ‘students, get excited about your new laptop!’ like both students and parents having to initial each and every one of the items below AND having to sign their name twice for the overall list.

  1. I understand that I am responsible for my use of the district technologies and the use of the tools is for academic and educational purposes.
  2. I will practice digital citizenship by using information and technology responsibly, legally, and ethically.
  3. I understand the use of the Internet and technology is a privilege and not a right; there are consequences for not adhering to the Acceptable Use Policy.
  4. I will honor property rights and copyrights with information and technology.
  5. I will keep my intellectual property safe by saving in specified locations, using and safeguarding passwords, and using my own account at all times.
  6. I will practice personal safety by safeguarding identities while online or offline.
  7. I will not participate in any form of cyber-bullying or harassment.
  8. I will use technology in a respectful manner, sharing equipment and resources.
  9. I will only use district-approved technology, tools, resources, and applications while on [the district’s] campuses.
  10. I understand that users must use the district wireless access points; no personal or other access points should be used while on [district] campuses.
  11. I understand that personally-owned devices are not allowed on district networks nor used for online access.
  12. I will not attempt to use any software, utilities, applications, or other means to access Internet sites or content blocked by filters.
  13. I will not capture video, audio, or pictures without the consent of all persons being recorded, their knowledge of the media’s intended use, as well as the approval of a staff member.
  14. I will report any problems with the equipment, resources, or network to a teacher or administrator in a timely manner.
  15. I understand that the district’s technology resources are the property of the district. I have no expectation of privacy with respect to any materials therein, and all use of district technology resources may be monitored without notice.
  16. I understand that I may be responsible for any damage or loss I cause to district technology resources.
  17. I have read the acceptable use policy, which [sic] are incorporated by reference herein, and agree to the stated conditions in this form as well as in the entire policy and regulations. I also agree to abide by any school technology handbook which may be applicable.
  18. I understand that I am responsible for taking care of my laptop and accessories, including proper cleaning, avoiding hot and cold temperatures, and storing the laptop in the district-provided case.
  19. I will not leave my laptop unattended unless it is locked in a secure place. I (or parents) may be fully responsible for the cost of replacement should my laptop become lost or stolen.
  20. I understand that I (or parents) may be fully responsible for the cost of repair or replacement due to damages that occur to the laptop issued to me or damages I am responsible for on another person’s laptop.
  21. I will bring the laptop to school every day and to the best of my abilities have it fully charged.
  22. I will use the laptop for educational purposes and in accordance with the handbook and other applicable [district] policies, including, but not limited to, policy [ZZZ]. I will use academically-appropriate sounds, music, video, photos, games, and applications.
  23. I will not attempt to use any software, utilities, applications, or other means to access Internet sites or content blocked by filters. [duplicate!]
  24. I will only use the laptop’s recording capabilities for academic purposes, with consent of the participants, their knowledge of the media’s intended use, and staff approval.
  25. I will report any problems with my laptop to a member of the technology staff in a timely manner. The only technology support for the [district] laptops are [sic] through the [district] technology department, not a store or technology service.
  26. I understand that the district owns the laptop and has the right to collect and inspect the laptop at any time. I have no expectation of privacy in the laptop on [sic] any materials and/or content contained therein.
  27. While off campus, I will abide by [district’s] policies and agreement with respect to the use of the laptop, including but not limited to the 21st century learning handbook and board policy [ZZZ].
  28. I will only use public or personally-owned access points and not privately-owned points without the owner’s permission.
  29. I will turn in the laptop and accessories on or before the designated day and location, or prior to my leaving the [district].
  30. We have read the [district] 21st century learning handbook and policy [ZZZ] (acceptable use), which are incorporated by reference herein, and agree to the stated conditions. Questions or accommodations regarding the device would be directed to your building principals.

3. RTF or WTF?

Nothing says ‘students, get excited about your faculty’s technology knowledge!’ like your community college professor sending you a bunch of .RTF files to start the course.

4. Nope, and nope

Parent: “The kids all have laptops. Can we use this free online graphing calculator program instead of having to shell out $100+ for a separate graphing calculator?” School: Nope.

Student: “We all have laptops. I know you cited some random study that I will retain more if I handwrite my notes but I’m an A+ student even when I type my notes. Plus there are many things that I can do with digital notes that I can’t when they’re handwritten. Can I use my laptop for notetaking?” Teacher: Nope.

I think we can do better than this. How about you? What would you add from your own first few weeks of school?

Image credit: Warning – this computer is monitored!, David King

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