Back to School: Teaching proper conduct in today’s digital world
TAHOE-TRUCKEE, Calif. — Students these days have more educational tools at their fingertips than just pencils, paper and textbooks — electronic devices are everywhere, and with that comes responsibility.
Within the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, students have access to computers, iPads, cameras and online resources such as Google Apps for Education, which includes email, spreadsheets and collaboration tools, district officials said.
This school year the number of students who will have access to a personal Chromebook will expand to include sixth- and seventh-graders, said Edward Hilton, director of technology and information services for the district, as part of TTUSD’s 1-to-1 device program.
“A school exists for preparing our students for college and career and the world they are going into, or really I should say the world that they are in now,” he said. “We are doing our students a disservice if we’re not integrating technology into their everyday life. … Any job is going to have technology as part of what they do, so we need have that part of what we do in education.”
While technology offers students the ability to collaborate with others, learn about the world beyond their own community and share their creations, it also comes with its own set of challenges.
“Whatever you do (online), you are always leaving this footprint behind,” Hilton explained. “So when we’re online what kind of footprint are we leaving? Are we leaving something that is positive?”
To help ensure a positive digital footprint, TTUSD is teaching students about what’s known as “digital citizenship” — the norms of appropriate and responsible technology use.
“It’s just like citizenship in a community or a society,” said Rebecca Maas, teacher technology specialist for the district. “It’s how you interact with people and the kind of impression that you give them, and the understanding (that) there are certain norms and rules that you have to follow.”
Such behavior is outlined in the district’s technology policy, which includes being polite, using appropriate language and not revealing personal information online.
The policy, which covers all student technology use at TTUSD, states that threatening another person, unlawful activities, personal financial gain, and inappropriate sexual or other offensive content are unacceptable.
“The use of the electronic information system is a privilege for students in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, not a right,” states the policy. “Inappropriate use will result in cancellation of … privileges and school disciplinary action.”
To ensure proper use, TTUSD monitors students’ use of the Internet, and a district network filter is in place, Hilton said, barring access to inappropriate content and websites.
In the event that blocked content is needed for educational purposes, a request can be submitted by a student or teacher. If approved, the content will be accessible for a limited time.
With students only spending a portion of their day in school, it’s important for digital use to also be addressed at home, he said.
“It’s really important for parents to partner (with the district) and have those conversations with their kids about what’s appropriate for (the) family,” Hilton said. “What’s appropriate for us to do online? What’s appropriate tools to use, accounts to create?”
For instance, the social media website Facebook has an age restriction of 13 years or older in order to sign up.
While students and TTUSD educators have access to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in school, content is filtered by the district’s network, Hilton said.
Meanwhile, TTUSD devices taken home are not subject to filtering, as explained in the district’s “Student Device User Agreement and Parent Permission Form.”
In the agreement terms for home use, it states: “(As the parent or legal guardian) I understand that some materials on the Internet may be objectionable, and I accept responsibility for guidance of Internet use, setting and conveying the school’s standards, procedures and rules when selecting, sharing, or exploring information and media.”
Maas added that it’s OK for parents and guardians to set their own boundaries regarding technology use such as screen time limitations and not allowing devices in bedrooms for monitoring purposes.
“Like any tool (technology) can be very powerful, but it can also have challenges and things that we need to be aware of and concerned about,” Hilton said. “(But) the positives far outweigh the challenges, and make it really worthwhile.”