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Sunday
Sep142014

Due diligence 

One of my favorite expressions is "You can't guard against the arbitrary." No matter how well-prepared, how carefully planned, or how rigorously considered, stuff happens. The flight is delayed, the power goes out, the hard drive crashes, the road is under construction, a person does something impossibly dumb. I believe those of us who work with technology may know how arbitrary life can be better than most.

No school will ever be able to keep students completely safe, either physically or online. Kids will fall off playground equipment and get hurt. Somebody will bring a balloon to a classroom that has a child with a latex allergy. Students will get into inappropriate websites. Kids will use social networks to bully others.

What mitigates liability that schools have in such cases is if they can show "due diligence" in working to prevent such occurrences. A school should be able to demonstrate that it has chosen playground equipment with a good safety rating and maintains it regularly and that it posts "No Latex signs at building entrances.

Due diligence also means that schools do their damnedest to teach kids to be safe and appropriate online. It means having an articulated curriculum that is taught to every child. I would add that an assessment of understanding of safe and appropriate use should also be considered due dilegence.

And no, over filtering cannot be considered due diligence.

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Saturday
Sep132014

BFTP: Anything you tweet may be held against you

This morning's local paper re-ran a story from the San Jose Mercury News about a teacher tweeting violent thoughts about students. Nasty, nasty. Let's all pause and review Guidelines for Educators Using Social and Educational Networking Sites. And some of us should also do a little introspection about whether teaching is a good career choice for us. Anyway, this post is now about 5 years old. The more things change...

From You have the right to remain silent..and tweetless, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, August 20, 2009:

"Any thing you say, tweet, blog or post can and will be used against you" in the court of public discourse -- and that includes potential legal challenges.

"People tend to use Twitter and Facebook as if they were engaged in casual conversation and think they don't create legal risk; they are wrong," said William McGeveran, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota Law School who focuses on digital issues. "They don't realize their statements are public, archived and searchable."

The rest of the article is worth reading and sharing with staff and students.

So for those of you plotting your next bank job, assassination, or extra-marital rendezvous, just use the phone like I do. [Just kidding, Mom.]

 

Original post August 21, 2009

Wednesday
Sep102014

Is air-conditioning the most effective educational technology?

As I've gotten older, I've found that getting out of bed, up from a chair, or off from any dead stop is increasingly difficult. Once in motion, I feel 20 years old again, but getting the momentum for forward movement is tough.

Does the same thing apply to getting started with "school" each year? Why do we stop in May or June and then seem to expend so much energy getting back in action in August and September? 

The historians tell us the school calendar was designed so kids could help on the farm during the summer. I suppose in the 19th century when 90% of the population farmed, this may have made sense. But today?

Summers off usually mean children left at home alone, skills regression, and food insecurity. Perhaps the best educational technology we can invest in is air conditioning for school buildings (classrooms as well as principals' offices) so that there is one less excuse for not having year-round school.

When I worked for the Saudi ARAMCO schools (back when Saddam Hussain was the good guy), we ran an interesting year-round calendar. Regular school was held for three months then we had a month-long "inter-session." The break would allow kids who fell behind to get extra help catching up and to offer activities like gaming, crafts, and special studies to all kids. Teachers and families got one month a year off - August, December or April. (If you have never vacationed in April, you'd be in for a happy surprise.) Anyway, year-round school works and should be the norm throughout the U.S.

May I air a pet peeve: Why does every other comic on the funny pages have to revolve around how much kids hate to go back to school? I'll bet an honest poll would show most kids are happy to be back in school. 

Just some random thoughts as the momentum gets going this fall. 

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