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Thursday
Feb052009

If you don't tell your children you love them...

If you don't tell your children that you love them, they'll find someone online who will. - Moorhead police officer, Mike Detloff

Online predators are in the news again with 90,000 profiles of sex offenders being removed from MySpace. And because of the stories, the calls for blocking social networking sites in schools are being voiced again.

Thankfully Anne Collier at NetFamilyNews.org puts the issue into some sort of rational perspective in Sex offenders in social sites: Consider the facts:

  • Not all children are equally at risk of Net-related sexual exploitation (see "Enhancing Child Safety and Online Technologies" from the US's Internet Safety Technical Task Force, with a summary of all child-online-safety research to date).
  • A child's psychosocial makeup and family environment are better predictors of risk than the technology he or she uses (also from the ISTTF report).
  • The kids most at risk offline are those at risk online (see "Profile of a teen online victim" and the ISTTF report).
  • Sexual exploitation as a result of Internet activity (much less social networking) is statistically rare - "too low to calculate in the two national samples we conducted," the Crimes Against Children Research Center has told me.
  • The vast majority of teens - 91% - use social sites to keep in touch with friends they see frequently (mostly at school), not strangers ('07 Pew/Internet study).
  • The offenders in the vast majority of child sexual abuse cases are not strangers to their victims (multiple sources).
  • Despite the establishment of one or more public profiles of "teens" (fake profiles) on MySpace by the Pennsylvania attorney general's Child Predator Unit, "there has apparently not been one successful sting operation initiated on MySpace in the more than two years during which these sting profiles have been in existence" (see "Pennsylvania case study: Social networking risk in context").

Banning rather than teaching online safety strategies is the wrong approach. Period. Blocking access from schools pushes kids to using these sites in places that may have no adult monitoring at all. And while we do need to make sure all students are safe Internet users, are we going the extra mile with those kids who are most at risk? Those whose parents don't tell them that they love them?

Read and share Anne's full post. Get people asking smarter questions about the real Internet safety issues.

Wednesday
Feb042009

Lighten up...

How can we redouble our commitment to business-oriented schooling? If necessary, we can outsource some of the learning to students in Asia, who will memorize more facts for lower grades. And we can complete the process, already begun in spirit, of making universities’ education departments subsidiaries of their business schools. More generally, we must put an end to pointless talk about students’ “interest” in learning and instead focus on skills that will contribute to the bottom line. Again, we’re delighted to report that this shift is already underway, thanks to those who keep reminding us about the importance of 21st-century schooling. Alfie Kohn, "When “21st-Century Schooling” Just Isn’t Good Enough: A Modest Proposal"

So I’ve been wondering about how to incorporate play into research as a way of tapping into more creative serendipitous approaches. Carolyn Foote in "Play and Libraries" (See also link to Helene Blowers presentation on fun in libraries.)

Welcome to Doodle 4 Google, a competition where we invite K-12 students to play around with our homepage logo and see what new designs they come up with. This year we're inviting U.S. kids to join in the doodling fun, around the intriguing theme "What I Wish for the World."

Those of us of Scandanavian heritage and epecially those of us still living in places where it doesn't get above freezing for an entire month and expecially toward the end of that month and where the snow that fell on the driveway in December is there but in the form of ice and especially for those of us who suffer from that light deprevation thing and especially those of us who think that if they eat one more meal that is primarily white in color and lacking any seasoning other than salt tend to have a bit of gloomy outlook on things now and then. It's a character flaw we acknowledge and do our best to live with it and try not to make it a problem for others.

This self-awareness keeps us on the lookout for those things that may lift our drooping spirits, such as the resources cited at the beginning of this post. Kohn's bit of satire is a hoot and should be widely shared; we should all engage in Foote's quest for fun in our libraries; and every student to should be encouraged to compete in Google's contest.

Humor, fun, and irreverance are the best weapons of all closet subversives in education. Make a kid or another teacher chuckle today.

And improve school.

___________________

* Hi Doug!

Here is the link to Helene's post and fabulous Slideshare presentation!

http://www.librarybytes.com/2008/12/my-24th-final-for-year.html

I think you will love it!

Best,
Buffy :-)

Wednesday
Feb042009

Geezers online and implications for schools

 

Generations Online in 2009, published last week by Pew Internet and the American Life Project begins:

Contrary to the image of Generation Y as the “Net Generation,” internet users in their 20s do not dominate every aspect of online life. Generation X is the most likely group to bank, shop, and look for health information online. Boomers are just as likely as Generation Y to make travel reservations online. And even Silent Generation internet users are competitive when it comes to email (although teens might point out that this is proof that email is for old people).

While school leaders (rightly) focus on the importance of the Internet in students' lives and education, we ought to also seriously be considering what this report says about how we communicate with our parents and communities. And asking what exepectations we should have of all teachers of an online presence and use of digital communications.

Most of our parents fall smack into the Gen X category - that which has a disproportionately high percentage number of online users and is increasingly likely to look for information online.

As our parents become accustomed to using the Web to find travel, health, banking and other information, it is not unreasonable to assume they will be looking for information about schools as well. I see this breaking down in three big categories:

  • Parents will use the web to select schools for their children. A good web presence will be an important marketing tool.
  • The community will look to the school's website for information about school events, school schedules, staff contact information, policies and emergency notices. Community members will expect, even demand, an electronic means of giving feedback to the school.
  • Parents will insist on real-time information about their own children's progress through individualized portals that contain grades, attendance, work completion, curricular goals, etc. (See Teacher Web Pages that Build Parent Partnerships MultiMedia Schools, September 2000.)

In our district we've long provided a simple, fill-in-the-blank means for our teachers to make information accessible to parents. With no additional work, students' assignments and grades are directly ported from the student information system to a parent portal. Some teachers take full advantage of these tools; others do the absolute minimum. This report suggest principals should raise their minimum expectations of teachers' online communications.

Too often educators think of students as their "customers." Dangerous mistake. Children no more choose their  schools than they choose their physicians or shoe stores. Parents who wouldn't choose a bank that does not allow online account access won't choose a school that doesn't offer online gradebook access either.

What's the minimum amount of information all teachers should provide parents and minimum information all schools should provide their communities?

Oh, mini-rant: It really honks me off to go to a school district homepage that does not include a telephone number and location.