Nancy Willard was this year's Keynote speaker for TIE. She's a recognized expert on some of the perils of the Internet as well as schools' responsibilities for trying to keeps students safe. I had already read much of what she talked about online, but it was good to hear some of them in person. I still think she doesn't do enough justice to the good aspects of these tools. While she talks about the amazing resources on the Internet and how they can be used academically, the overall impression for someone listening to her would be to run away fast. She also talked about using school equipment for "educational purposes only," but I'm not sure that's as easy to define as some people think it is. For example, she listed social networking sites and games as two areas that would not be defined as "educational," but there are many social networking sites and games that are educational (in my opinion), so I'm worried that that is too broad a brush.
Having said that, she did get me thinking again about the policies we have in place (or don't) in our school and district. With all the changeover at ESC, this is really an area where we may not be prepared as we should be. The Student Code of Conduct is one area that probably needs to be revised immediately to incorporate many of these issues, and she made a very good point about connecting the people involved with school safety with some of the tech people who understand some of these issues better.
She also talked about how she believes it will get a lot worse this fall, as students have all summer to "mainline" these social networking sites (which have just hit the mainstream in the last year or so), and then return to school and suffer withdrawals. I think we should be talking about this as well and be prepared to deal with the issues and help the students who need it. I think we're going to have a lot more students trying to access these sites from school computers and - of course - from their cell phones as well.
So, overall, it was a good reminder of things we need to be talking about and I need to make sure it's on the radar of all the staff at Arapahoe. It's such foreign territory for almost all of the adults in the building that I think it's going to be hard to know enough about the culture to deal with it effectively. And, like everything else with technology and the Internet, it keeps changing - so we can't simply write some policies and then say we're done. This is going to be an ongoing issue for educators from here on out.