Last week the Department of Education released its plan to transform education through technology, which includes a unique opportunity for educator involvement. The plan, titled “Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology,” plays an important role in the administration’s goal for the U.S. to graduate all of its students as college- and career-ready and to lead the world in college completion by 2020. The plan lays out key goals in five areas: learning, assessment, teaching, infrastructure, and productivity.
Secretary Duncan stated, during an education forum last week hosted by the State Educational Technology Directors Association, “We have an unprecedented opportunity to reform our schools. With this technology plan, we have laid out a comprehensive vision for how teachers working with technology can transform student learning in classrooms across America. We must dramatically improve teaching and learning, personalize instruction and ensure that the educational environments we offer to all students keep pace with the 21st century.”
NASSP was glad to see that the plan also calls for educators’ input through its Online Communities of Practice project, which we hope NASSP members will consider joining. The project will establish nine online communities of practice open to all educators seeking to strengthen public education. Part of participants’ discussion will include resource- and idea-sharing around their immediate challenges of accessing and using technology, but the bulk of the discussion will focus on how to reach the model of connected teaching that the National Education Technology Plan promotes. The “connected teaching” model as described in the plan’s executive summary is when “classroom educators are fully connected to learning data and tools for using the data; to content, resources, and systems that empower them to create, manage, and asses engaging and relevant learning experiences; and directly to their students in support of learning both in and out of school. The same connections give them access to resources and expertise that improve their own instructional practices and guide them in becoming facilitators and collaborators in their students’ increasingly self-directed learning.”
The Department of Education notes that these communities will be connected so participants can share content and develop conversations and relationships across their varying roles and regions. The resources and work that develop among these communities will also be linked to other related communities and networks, providing an opportunity for those involved in NASSP’s online community that focuses on the use of technology in schools to engage in these conversations.
The project will occur over a three-year period from fall 2010 through fall 2013, and the first of these communities of practice will develop in mid-2011. Read the executive summary of the National Education Technology Plan, and contact the representatives below for any questions about participating in the online communities of practice.
American Institutes for Research
Bernadette Adams Yates
U.S. Department of Education
On May 22, the Senate passed the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act (S. 1965). As previously reported on the Principal’s Policy Blog, the bill would:
- Require schools receiving E-Rate funds to teach students about Internet safety and the dangers posed by social networking Web sites and chat rooms, and provide information on cyberbullying awareness and response;
- This bill would not require schools to block access to social networking Web sites and chat rooms as a precondition of receiving E-Rate funds;
- Direct the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in collaboration with nonprofits, state and local governments, private technology companies, and Internet service providers, to conduct a public awareness campaign on strategies to promote the safe use of the Internet by children;
- Require the FTC to submit an annual report to Congress on its promotion of Internet safety;
- Establish an Online Safety and Technology working group at the U.S. Commerce Department to review and evaluate industry efforts to promote online safety through parental control technology and blocking and filtering software. The working group will include representatives from the business community, public interest groups, and federal agencies.
- Require Internet service providers to report child pornography and significantly increases fines for failing to do so.
In a press release following passage of S. 1965, the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), said “Keeping children safe on the Internet must be a multi-layered approach to safety, both on and offline…The Internet is a valuable resource for children and this measure improves safety and addresses parental control without infringing on the First Amendment.”
The House of Representatives must approve an identical version of the bill before it goes to the president for his signature or veto. We’ll keep you updated as developments occur, so check back often!
Although NASSP has not taken a position on the bill, we have developed a position statement on Internet safety that provides guidance and recommendations for school leaders to assist them in their efforts to protect students while preparing them for the technologies they will encounter. To view this statement, please visit www.nassp.org.
According to a recent survey of students by the National School Boards Association (NSBA), more children than ever before are connecting to each other online through social networking websites and other services. The report found that, in total, 96% of students with Internet access reported blogging, text messaging, chatting, or visiting online communities such as Facebook and MySpace.
Twenty-one percent of students said they post comments to message boards every day; and 41% said they post comments at least once a week–up from only 17% in 2002.
Thirty percent of online students said they download and view videos uploaded by other users at least once a week; and 49% said they have uploaded photos or artwork themselves at some point.
Additionally, 30% of students have their own blogs, and one in four students (25%) has a personal webpage that they update at least weekly.
As students continue to interact online, some parents and administrators may be surprised by the topics of conversation. Fifty-nine percent of online students reported talking about “education-related topics, including college or college planning; learning outside of school; news; careers or jobs; politics, ideas, religion or morals; and schoolwork.”
Interestingly, one out of two (50%) reported talking specifically about schoolwork as they connected online.
In light of this increased interaction and connectivity, one might expect a high rate of unwanted online contact. However, the report said that “students and parents report fewer recent or recurrent problems, such as cyberstalking, cyberbullying and unwelcome personal encounters, than school fears and policies seem to imply.”
Twenty percent of students reported having seen inappropriate pictures on social networking sites; 7% said they had been asked for personal information; 7% also reported having experienced cyberbullying; 3% reported repeated unwanted attempts by strangers to contact them online; and 0.08% of online student said they actually met in-person someone they met online without their parents’ permission.
Weighing the Pros with the Cons
No one can deny the potential dangers posed by social networking sites, yet the NSBA believes there may be a disconnect between school Internet policies and student practice. “School district leaders seem to believe that negative experiences with social networking are more common than students and parents report. For example…[52%] of districts…say that students providing personal information online has been ‘a significant problem’ in their schools, yet only 3 percent of student say they’ve ever given out their e-mail addresses, instant messaging screen names, or other personal information to strangers,” the report said.
Perhaps most importantly, the survey pointed out that social networking is not going to go away—it is only going to increase. And it’s not only students that are getting in on the act, 27% of school districts said that their schools participate in a structured teacher/principal online community.
NSBA recommends that schools should revisit their policies on the use of social networking Web sites. While danger exists, there is also great potential—both for increased student learning, and enhanced professional development and communication for school personnel. As school leaders seek to strike this balance between protecting children and enhancing education, NSBA encourages school leaders to explore social networking sites to acquaint themselves with their features and the world in which students interact. Doing so (it is hoped) will increase understanding and result in the development of intelligent school policies for social networking Web site usage.
NASSP recognizes that school leaders and policymakers often need guidance in the development of sound school Internet safety policies and has developed a position statement designed to address this issue.
In an effort to protect teens from sexual predators on social networking Web sites such as MySpace and Facebook, the House approved legislation last week that would effectively make school administrators responsible for policing the Internet.
The Deleting Online Predators Act (H.R. 5319) would require schools that receive E-rate grants to certify that they have a policy in place to monitor the online activities of minors; block access to material that is obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors; and prohibit access to social networking Web sites or chat rooms “through which minors may easily access or be presented with obscene or indecent material.” The House approved the measure, 410-15, on July 26.
Voicing his support for the E-rate program, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) stated, “I have seen the tremendous educational value which the Internet has brought to students throughout our district, and I recognize the importance of the E-rate in making that a reality. However, as with all technologies, the Internet is a double-edged sword, and Congress does have the responsibility to ensure that, to the extent that a federal program is involved, like the E-rate, it is doing all that it can to ensure that children are protected from online dangers. This bill represents another step in making sure that online experiences at school and the library are safe.”
Arguing that the bill would “delete legitimate Web content from schools and libraries,” Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) said that during committee hearings “there was not one mention of online child exploitation being a problem at schools or libraries. Perhaps this is because there is already a law on the books that requires schools and libraries who receive E-rate funding to monitor children’s Internet use and to employ technology blocking children or preventing children from viewing obscene and harmful content. Many schools and libraries already block Web sites such as MySpace. This legislation is largely redundant and raises many constitutional concerns.”
With a packed schedule this summer, the Senate is not expected to take up the legislation until September at the very earliest.
With the ever increasing popularity of social networking Web sites such as MySpace and Facebook, many are concerned that teens are making themselves vulnerable to Internet sexual predators. The issue has received intense scrutiny from Congress, and in May, legislation was introduced to add policing the Internet as one of the many responsibilities of school administrators.
The Deleting Online Predators Act (H.R. 5319) would require schools that receive E-rate grants to certify that they have a policy in place to monitor the online activities of minors; block access to material that is obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors; and prohibit access to social networking Web sites or chat rooms “through which minors may easily access or be presented with obscene or indecent material.”
At a subcommittee hearing on July 11, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Joe Barton (R-TX) said that schools “have an obligation to ensure that their subsidized communications services do not become a hunting ground for pedophiles. If social networking sites are not taking the necessary precautions to prevent the exploitation of children on their sites, then at the very least, Congress should prohibit the use of federally-mandated funds to access Internet sites that put children in harm’s way.”
Arguing that the bill would “place an added burden on schools,” Ted Davis, an information technology director for Fairfax County Public Schools, stated, “The proposed legislation, though an extension of similar provisions in effect today, does not lend itself to a technical solution. It would require that schools block commercial social networking sites that ‘may easily be’ misused to perpetrate inappropriate contact with students. Unlike current restrictions against obscene materials that can be objectively identified, this legislation would require schools to subjectively predict which sites may be misused. Identifying and evaluating such sites would not take advantage of the technical capabilities of filtering vendors and likely lead to blocking of legitimate instructional sites.” Mr. Davis urged Congress to encourage more collaboration between schools, law enforcement, and technology vendors, and to foster an “information campaign” for students and parents about the dangers of the Internet.