The topics we seem to be covering in this course are always so timely for me.  Perhaps it’s because the lens I’m using to think about my world is changing, and my attention is now on, more than ever before, technology and the implications in a learning context.  The timeliness of the topic “cybersafety” presented itself to me last week when my son came home from school  complaining that due to “district restrictions” his use of Google apps has been curtailed, at the start of his grade 7 year, because our district has not yet developed the capacity to give him a “district supported” Gmail account and therefore he is not permitted to use Google apps as a part of his learning until this has happened.  Reasonably so, he is enraged and indignant because he learned last year how to use Google apps using his own Gmail account at school, and is now being told that he can’t use strategies and techniques that he likes, to further his learning.  He’s been told that for “security” reasons, until the district is equipped and ready to dole-out Gmail accounts, he must continue to use school-based, locked-down and safe programs to show his learning.  What an interesting time we live in!  As a technology based teacher in our district, I know that we do have the capacity to give our students this option (I have been told that there are some “trial” classes using it and teachers too because I have one from the district) and as a parent am sorry that my son cannot continue to grow his skills because of safety concerns.  I think that this issue is one of district safety concern – worry that potential use of outside the server (Is this the correct use of the district protective umbrella?) use of Gmail may negatively affect the school system, however I can honestly report that I am clueless how it all works and how it is all managed.  I do know that there are students (and teachers) who are ignoring the “rules” and allowing their students to use their home Gmail accounts to access the apps and that perhaps my son’s teacher, who is following the “rules”, might better serve his students by ignoring them too.  Again – learning opportunities are certainly being missed for my son and I think that certain policies are negatively influencing his  learning.

In terms of understanding the risks and need to keep my children (and students) safe in the online world (outside of district imposed structures) I must honestly say that my naive and open nature leave many at risk of potential harm, and that professionally, and personally,  I need to explore this issue carefully and closely to learn what steps I should be taking as a professional and parent to teach children how to stay safe with online/internet use.  As social media, and Web 2.0 take hold of our culture, the risks, and implications associated with a networked, online social world where my children will be connected, and exposed, requires thoughtful and guided learning and is paramount for both me and the children under my influence.  The amount of attention already drawn over the past few years to online bullying and its serious implications should be reason enough to engage deeply in this unit of study and force us, as teachers to be critical, careful and open with our students as technology quickly evolves and the way we are affected changes.  My learning has just taken a much more serious turn.  More reading is required.  Stay tuned.

2 Comments on 6.1 – Cybersafety

  1. aober says:

    Hi Nicole,

    Thank you for sharing your experience with your son. I had originally posted that it was possible to create change by having a technology safety plan, but I am grateful for your very real depiction of how far behind technological advances in K-12 education can be. That is disappointing to hear especially knowing the capability that Google apps can give students in the classroom, and teachers shouldn’t have to be ignoring the rules to create engaging lessons.

    What do you think the next steps might be in mitigating the district’s perception of the risk outweighing the benefit? Is this something that Google can be helping to bridge the gap with K-12 schools by providing a school-specific account only accessed at school?

    • Nic says:

      Hi Andrea,
      Our district has since hosted the Google Apps for Education conference and my son’s teacher returned to him with good news. He’s now “allowed” to use his non-district email to work with Google Apps, and hopes that soon his class will have a “trial” with gmail. I had an interesting exchange with one of our tech support people this week though – he got quite agitated when he learned that our secretary has a “generic” gmail account – one with our school name, followed by the school gmail account. His concern was the “security” of her address and told us that if indeed she has this name on her account, he will delete it shortly for security reasons. Clearly I have no idea about how the whole system works, however I did not his reaction and likely subsequent actions of deleting her generic account. It is certainly an interesting time in public education and security/safety practice. I think I need to learn more…

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