Jonathan Ayer November 15, 2008 EDTEC 448 Policy Brief The age of technological information brings with it many advantages and yet many disadvantages. Just as useful and full of educational possibilities the internet and technology can bring, so can it be a damaging, dangerous, and inaccessible medium. As a district that wishes to provide the best overall education for its students, it is forever seeking to enhance that experience through any viable means. The technology information age provides such an enhancement if it be implemented properly and effectively. To do so, the district must continue to address the issues regarding this enhancement in order to keep the students, faculty, administration, and community safe from its woes. For this purpose, the following issues will be addressed in this brief: Access, the Digital Divide, and Special Populations Copyright Accuracy and Validity of Information Privacy and Security For each of these issues, there are a number of concerns that can and should be addresses through policy. Therefore, please find below recommendations on how our district can feasibly keep up in policy with this useful and effective enhancement provided by technology information and the internet. Overview of the issues regarding Access, the Digital Divide, and Special Populations: The term "digital divide" was developed in the 1990's and originally referred to the difference between those people that had, at some point, had used a computer and the internet and those people that had never used said items. Now, more than ten years later, the term has come to refer more to the gap between those who have daily access to quality internet access and those who do not. Other issues are also now associated with the "divide", as stated below: "The term "digital divide" refers to the gap between individuals, households, businesses and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard to their opportunities to access information and communication technologies (ICTs) and their use of the Internet." (http://faculty.washington.edu/krumme/internet/divide.html) "Access" refers to whether or not an individual is able to use the internet and possibly that quality of that connection. Access is something that we, as educators, need to constantly keep in mind. Special populations include people from various racial, socioeconomic, age, gender and geographical groups. Main Issue: In this highly technological age, students must be given the skills needed to not only survive, but advance. It is the role of the educational system to prepare students for the digital age and insure that they are "computer literate" in informational technology. However, when designing curriculum to address this goal, the issues of the digital divide, access and special populations must be taken into account. Do all students have daily access to computers and the internet? Have teachers been properly trained to not only be proficient on computers themselves, but also to know how to integrate the technology into their classroom with great efficiency? For every assignment we give we need to consider whether we have access at school, whether the students have access at home, as well as whether having access to the internet or not affects the quality of the education at our school. "Evidence is also provided in previous studies that access to home computers improves educational outcomes among children. I find evidence suggesting that home computers increase school enrollment, high school graduation, and grades." (http://www.civilrights.org/issues/communication/digitaldivide.pdf) Recommendations: 1. Due to the rising demands of a fast growing technological world, it is recommended that each student in the district gain a fundamental competence in information technology literacy. This means that it should be the aim of the district to have all students be proficient at using technology and its resources before they graduate. This includes, but is not limited to, competency in using computers, online resources, and informational systems. To accomplish this, it is recommended that the following additions be made to the districts policy: a. Access ~ Students should be given ample opportunity to access computers and internet resources. Students should be given a required amount of time per week as well as a required amount of assignments to complete built into the curriculum to use informational technology as a resource. b. Training ~ With access, students must have the literacy of the informational technology to use it properly and effectively. To do so, students should be required, at the high school level, to take a Fundamentals in Informational Technology. In addition, they should be required to continue the demonstrate, use, and advance their knowledge through their opportunities built into the curriculum. c. Extension ~ To encourage continuance with their literacy, students should be given opportunity to advance their literacy of informational technology throughout the course of their classes in all facets of assignments. Also, to encourage use of this technology at home, the district should try and provide financial assistance or at least information to help gain access at home. They can help families find financing, grants, and even education in buying the most useful technology for their home and families. It is also recommended that the district offer after-school and evening opportunities for family members of students to learn the same fundamentals of informational technology. . Pros: 1. Students will have greater capabilities in completing technological based assignments from home or school.. 2. Students will be better prepared for the "real" world with a better informational technology literacy. 3. The curriculum will be enriched through effective use of technology in the classroom. Cons: 1. Added time in the school day for these opportunities may either mean an extension of the day or time taken away from instruction. 2. Larger costs for classes, technology, and time of teachers if needed. 3. Graduation rates may suffer if the divide cannot be successfully bridged in some students. 2. Due to the rapid increase in informational technologies available to educators for use in the classroom, it is recommended that the district implement new standards of professional development and assistance in order to keep the curriculum up to speed in meeting the needs of this rapid growth and high stakes standards. To accomplish this, it is recommended that the following additions be made to the districts policy: a. Professional Development ~ Teachers and administrators should be given opportunity to continue the literacy of informational technologies and it is recommended that the district require of teachers that they attend a certain number of these opportunities. The district should either provide these opportunities in district wide in-service days or in the form of compensated time off to attend workshops and conferences to meet the needs of technology literacy required by the district. These requirements should reach to ALL faculty and administration so as not to promote gaps between teachers and various levels of teaching. b. Curriculum Development ~ The availability of new technologies should be most relevant in the required curriculum that is given to students by the teachers. The district should require that there be a district wide position made for a facilitator/liaison of technology to assist in adapting the current curriculums to meet the needs of competent informational technology literacy. In collaboration with teachers, departments, and administration, the curriculums should continually be evaluated and restructured in order to accommodate these new technologies being effectively implemented into the curriculum. Pros: 1. With teachers become more literate in informational technology, it will help students bridge the gap to be more fluent as well. 2. With proper implementation, professional development, and oversight, teachers will not only be literate, but will also be able to plan effective instruction to utilize the new technologies. 3. Oversight of teachers will help foster continued development and consistency among the district. Cons: 1. Depending on the district, there may be a need to add to the district budget for positions, tools, and training. 2. There may be some resentment among faculty for their invested time into this development when teachers already have a lot on their plates. 3. Lack of oversight of the oversight person(s) will leave the entire district without a clue. Strategies: It is recommended to the board that committees be developed to further explore the feasibility and necessity of each recommendation. They will need to discuss with administration how to employ new positions as well discuss job descriptions. They will need to explore funding options such as grant or expanded budgets. They will need to work with the union to include new requirements of teachers in the contract so as to keep the faculty on board and not to overstep the administrations boundaries. They will also need to meet with faculties and students to discuss best methods for implementing and gauging the new requirements set forth. References: Fairlie, Robert. Report for the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund. Retrieved October 9, 2008. Website: http://www.civilrights.org/issues/communication/digitaldivide.pdf Internet Access and the Digital Divide. Retrieved October 9, 2008 from the University of Washington. Website: http://faculty.washington.edu/krumme/internet/divide.html) Overview of the issues regarding Copyright: Copyright is defined as "the legal right granted to an author, a composer, a playwright, a publisher, or a distributor to exclusive publication, production, sale, or distribution of a literary, musical, dramatic, or artistic work." (http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/Teachers/copyrightlaw.html) Some pieces of work fall in the Public Domain, meaning that the public has a right to use some or all of the material. However, most pieces of work are copyrighted, and therefore the portion of the piece that may be used is determined by the Fair Use Rights. For video this means that a person my show 10% of the video or three minutes, whichever is smaller. For texts a person may use 10% or 1,000 words, whichever is less, and for music a person may use 10% or no more than thirty seconds of the work. There are also Fair Use rules for pictures, numerical data sets, etc. Copyright law can be a major issue in many schools and one that must be addressed. Main Issues: Where I teach in the Deptford Public School District in New Jersey, there are two concerns regarding copyright law in our schools: a.) from a student standpoint in terms of how we teach and enforce copyright laws and plagiarism, and b.) from a teacher standpoint in terms of how we copy, distribute, and fairly use the materials and information in our classrooms. On behalf of the students, there are student guidelines in their handbook in reference to the consequences of plagiarism. However, the responsibility of teaching the students proper techniques to avoid breaking copyright rules is unclear as to by whom specifically and when this should be taught. Whether this falls on the grade schools and middle schools or the high school, and whether it falls on such departments as English or Social Studies. As for the teachers, there are certainly no clearly stated or publicized materials to help teachers follow proper copyright law. Nor is there any form of policing or accountability in terms of what rules and laws they are breaking in the classroom. The following recommendations are based on the above outlined issues and pertain to my district. 1. The district will develop a clearly stated and outlined policy on student copyright infringement and plagiarism, as well as delineate district responsibilities and curriculum policies on when, how and who teaches it within the district. a. As a stipulation of this recommendation, it is advised that the board work closely with the district curriculum office as well as a district wide committee that helps develop said guidelines and implementation. b. Also, a system of warnings and clear cut consequences are developed and followed. These should be included as part of student records to help prevent repeat offenders. c. For those students who transfer to the district, they should be required to attend special meetings/seminars or trainings on the subject created by the district to help keep students and parents informed on the subject. d. The district should also keep the students and community informed through available information on the school website as well as occasional mailings. 2. The district will develop a comprehensive program for teachers to keep them informed of the district's copyright policies and the current copyright laws and the impact they have in the classroom. These should be done by providing the following in this program: a. Mentoring ~ New teachers to the district should have copyright training on the district's policies as well as the legal implications of copyright laws and rules. b. In-service ~ Teachers should be provided, either as opening school year in-service or mid-year workshops, with proper training and use of the policies for copyright rules and laws. This does not need to be given every year for current and tenured teachers, but refresher seminars/workshops should be instituted on a regular basis (such as every 3-4 years). c. Publications ~ Teachers should be given and have access to the current and CLEARLY STATED policies regarding copyright rules in the district. Also, reminders of particular parts of the policies should be provided where applicable, such as in copy rooms, video/audio libraries, and at library checkouts. d. Accountability ~ Administration should be given direction to make copyright infringement an easily observable and applicable part of observations and consequences to put on teacher files so as to help police their violations of the rules and laws. Pros: 1. There would be more consistency through specific policy and collaboration. 2. Faculty will be more educated and cautious on recognizing and obeying copyright concerns. 3. Students will have a better sense of honesty and will be better prepared to avoid violations in college. Cons: 1. There may be disagreement and opposition regarding curriculum responsibilities on teaching copyright issues. 2. Many teachers will continue to purposely ignore the policies for sake of providing a better education not provided through curriculum, budgets, etc. 3. Many students will continue to purposely ignore and violate the policies thus making accountability a large concern for administration that is already arrested with so many disciplein problems. Overview of the issues regarding Accuracy and Validity: Accuracy and validity are defined as "freedom from mistake or error" and "well-grounded or justifiable: being at once relevant and meaningful", respectively. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary) Since the accuracy and validity of some websites is in question, students and teachers must learn to assess every site that they use for both academic and non-academic reasons. There are a number of excellent websites on the internet that explain exactly how to assess the accuracy and validity of such resources, however awareness and training may be necessary to insure that students and teachers take the time to complete such assessments. (Thanks to Jennifer Landry for this section) Main Issue: Where I teach in Deptford Public Schools of NJ, I see this issue as a concern in two ways. First, from a teacher's perspective, teachers themselves are often guilty themselves of providing inaccurate or invalid information because they did not check or verify their sources while conducting research for a lesson. But of bigger concern, is for teachers to recognize when students are having trouble with this and then also how to help them. Many teachers are not prepared themselves to properly teach students to address this problem. This leads into the second main issue, which is that students are too easily finding and using information from the internet without properly checking themselves on it. They then often use incomplete or misinformation in their work. They need to be properly trained and reminded how to avoid this dangerously ignorant concern. Recommendations: 1. Provide workshop and professional development training as part of an in-service program to train teachers in recognizing and preventing accuracy and validity issues on the internet. Teachers should be reoriented every few years in said manner so as to keep them current on the ever-changing face of information technology. It is recommended that teachers be trained in the resources and methods available to help prevent and catch this issue and then be given sufficient resources and opportunity to develop departmental guidelines and action for addressing the concern of accuracy and validity of information from the internet in their specific content areas. 2. Provide proper training, resources and reorientations for students throughout their schooling careers in order to help them police themselves on using accurate and valid information from the internet. Either as an assembly, within a specific school-wide common course, or even in previously proposed required technology literacy classes, students should be trained in properly checking for accuracy in and validity on the internet. It is also recommended that students routinely be given reorientations to this information either through library sessions or in their advisory time (like 15 minute homerooms at the start of each day). Students should be trained in these classes/sessions how to use proper judgment and etiquette when using, writing, and reading internet information via browsing, email, etc. Pros: 1. Keeping faculty current and educated will help tem keep the students equally current. 2. Students will be rehearsed in the methods and mans of keeping themselves accurate and valid in their internet use. 3. Students will benefit from proper training in their classes, for their future college careers, and for the job market. Cons: 1. Perpetual in-service training on this issue takes away from possible new or more valuable training. 2. Requiring a new course for students means extended graduation requirements and possible time away from other courses 3. New courses and trainings both require money in the district budget for resources and teachers Overview of issues regarding Privacy and Security: Over the past decade the internet as become an unending source of information, lines of communication, and much more. However, due to issues with privacy and security, the internet is not always a safe place for anyone, teachers and students included. Privacy is the ability to control the information made available to others. Security is the prevention of breeches of privacy or unauthorized access to computers or Internet sites. Privacy issues can include topics such as: keeping passwords secret, the privacy (or lack there of) of e-mail, internet cookies, and most importantly, deciding what personal information to share. Security issues include problems such as: determining how "hackable" a site is, knowing how secure personal information is and knowing who will have access to it, viruses, security systems of business websites (encryption), the safety of chat rooms on other online forms of communication, etc. The development of policies that protect teachers, administrators, staff, students, and parents, is an essential first step to implementing and advancing the use of the internet in education. (Thanks to Jennifer Landry for overview) Main Issue: Privacy and security are two very important issues for everyone involved at Deptford Public Schools including faculty, staff, students, and parents. Currently, Deptford schools do have internet and computer measures in place. Between filtering programs, anti-virus, and administrator access, it is fairly secure from threats of outside dangers. It does help prevent students ad staff from accessing inappropriate or dangerous sites as well as securing our network in many ways. However, as is the case with many technology issues, it is not a perfect system. Teaches cannot easily update or install needed and new software without going through a process. Teachers are even blocked form sites that may prove useful in the classroom. And yet students manage to find ways to skirt the filtering, too. Despite these exceptions among others, there is still the danger of students or staff providing or retrieving personal information that can be dangerous for others to have. Be it pictures on the school site, login information provided, passwords being broken, or worse, there are certainly many privacy and security threats still remaining. The following recommendations are meant to battle these issues. The implementation of an effective policy could serve to both increase the privacy and security of the internet for Deptford users, as well as enhance the user friendliness of the internet for teachers. Recommendations: 1. Technologies ~ One of the biggest measures that can be taken against privacy and security concerns in the district is through technological software and hardware. It is recommended that: a. the district policy incorporate mandated updating and evaluations to assure that the latest and most effective resources available to the district are being used. b. the district create a frequent random testing rule where not only are the technologies tested, but those using the technologies are randomly observed and monitored in their activity. 2. Accountability ~ An important part of keeping any policy regarding privacy and security useful and important is making parties responsible and accountable. It is recommended that the district: a. Stringent and reasonable acceptable use policies be developed and implemented. It is recommended that to develop (or revise) an effective and proper appropriate use policy, that the board create a committee of students, parents, teachers, administrators, and legal help in order to help make the guidelines as clear, specific, and full as can be. It is also recommended that this part of the policy be continually evaluated and updated as new concerns arise and challenge the policy. Among the central issues of this part of the policy, it should address all aspects of internal and external security and privacy. b. clearly created guidelines for discipline should be developed and implemented regarding the appropriate use policy. All students, parents, and staff should sign off on these guidelines. i. A legal counsel should be consulted to clarify the reach of the school's discipline. In making the guidelines for discipline, it is important that the district work closely with law enforcement in order to properly hold everyone accountable. 3. Training and Education ~ The most important recommendations to the board regarding privacy and security policy are regarding the sharing of this information with anyone it affects in the district. Therefore, it is recommended that the district: a. Incorporate training for all students at the beginning of the year. As the students increase in age and through the grades, the training should change and involve more serious and detailed issues regarding privacy and security as the students get more involved in the risks as they get older. In addition, in depth training should be included in the previously recommended computer and internet literacy course required by all high school freshman. i. It is also recommended to the board that students be required to pass a competency quiz on the privacy and security concerns before being allowed to access and use the school's computers and internet access. b. Provide reorientation and training to all faculty and administrations every three years in order to help them promote prevention of problems in privacy and security among the students. It should also include education on how the staff themselves can avoid privacy and security threats in school when using the internet or computers. c. Offer the community training sessions in addressing privacy and security at home for their students. It is essential that parents/guardians and other community members be able to recognize the dangers and concerns on this issue so that they may help protect the youth of the community Pros: 1. Obvious benefits of a safer internet environment not only at school but also in the community at large. 2. The district stays current and up to date in very facet of technology that is affordable to it. 3. Keeps students and faculty from engaging in inappropriate activities, increasing production and learning. Cons: 1. Providing extra training and education on prevention costs time, money, and resources from district. 2. The actual language and determination of appropriate use will be debated and likely not agreed upon. It allows for frequent interpretation of the rules and promotes uneasiness among staff and students possibly preventing them from acceptable educational uses. 3. Costs of technology, especially new technology, is almost always expensive and fast changing. It may place a financial burden on the district to keep up. Conclusion Currently, the district does already employ some of the policies regarding the above issues. However, it is imperative that to continue enhancing the education of our students, the district constantly and consistently reevaluate its policies in order to find good practices and foster future success. The world around us will continue to find new ways to use and abuse informational technology such as the internet. Protecting and providing for our students as well as preparing them for the world we live in is the ultimate objective of any good district. And good policy is an opportunity for the district to ensure it maintains an edge in this manner.
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