|The Province of Alberta and all major school
districts have invested millions of dollars in order to make the advantages of the new
electronic tools available for our students. The Alberta Interim Program of Studies for
Technology Learner Outcomes specifies that students must develop the skills to use
computers, e-mail and the Internet for communication, inquiry, decision making and problem
solving. However, there exists a reasonable concern within our communities about student safety
on the Internet.
We need to know if
our children are Internet-savvy.
" Can they distinguish fact
Do they recognize online marketing techniques?
Do they understand why they must protect their personal privacy?
Can they handle inappropriate or illegal content?
Awareness - Knowing the Issues
This begs the question: "How can we make Email and Internet use safe for students?
"There can never be absolute guarantees on the Internet (even when
filters are used) because it is impossible to control something that is subject to daily
change. However, there are ways of managing the situation and reducing realistic
concerns. The solution rests in teaching students to become
aware, knowledgeable, responsible and cautious. It is essential that we teach our students
to be "Street safe" on the Internet. The Internet,
used well, is not only an excellent tool for research but also for teaching ethics and
responsibility. Instead of fearing and condemning the tools,
we should educate the learner to use the tool in an appropriate manner.
Jamie McKenzie, former Director of Libraries, Media and
Technology for Bellingham Public schools in Washington, is presently the editor of an
electronic technology newsletter which reaches 7000 technology leaders. A frequent keynote
speaker at technology conferences, and consultant for school districts, he is widely
recognized as a leading authority on the use of email and the Internet for students. His
web site From Now On contains many articles, which address questions
about the value of
using technology for education, and the need to teach students to think critically, and
act ethically and responsibly. A wealth of useful articles are available on
From Now On site Index.
In his article Waste Not Want Not Jamie
McKenzie, discusses the unfettered use of email for students and Acceptable Use Policies
to be used in conjunction with direct instruction on how to use these electronic tools
thoughtfully, responsibly, ethically and effectively.
Our District has an Acceptable Use Policy which must be
signed by all students, staff and parents. However, as Jamie McKenzie advises us, this
will not be sufficient in and of itself. It must be supported by clearly informing all
parties the rules for:
how e-mail and the Internet should be used ethically,
responsibly and safely;
and the consequences for breaking the rules.
This must be done before anyone is permitted access
to the Internet. Supervision should be vigilant and consequences must be
clearly defined and adhered to.
this time, students do not have individual e-mail accounts in our District
and we are recommending that teachers do not use free web mail alternatives
such as Hot Mail or Netscape Web mail. This is not to say that we do not
approve of, or support, teacher supervised student e-mail. On the contrary, each school may request two special school
e-mail accounts under the school name. One may be used as a mail-back
location for the school web page and the other can be used for teacher supervised
In both cases incoming e-mail must be managed by a teacher at the school,
who is responsible and accountable for being the local postmaster and
arranges for e-mail to be directed to respective teachers. Or a teacher may
choose to use his/her personal e-mail account and send and receive e-mail on
behalf of students. However, under no circumstances
should students be given access to the e-mail password! This way we
can monitor and ensure that e-mail is being used in an appropriate and
To Search Or Not To Search?
Search engines are not the most efficient way of helping
younger students to use the. Effective searching requires a great
deal of skill and time. Having
young students conduct internet searches can be both hazardous
and a highly inefficient use of time. The Technology Interim Program of Studies
not require that elementary students use search engines. On
the contrary, it requires Div.1 and 2 students to enter URLs supplied by the teacher so
their focus is appropriately directed and their time used productively. The use of
bookmarks or the Educational Links on the District Web site is another safe method of
directing students to appropriate information.
Div 3 & 4 students are required to know how to plan,
conduct and refine a search using a wide variety of electronic sources. However, nowhere
does it specify which directories or search engines should be used. Fortunately there is a
wide variety to choose from. Some are more appropriate for student use while others are
intended mainly for adult use.
For expediency, efficient and safety reasons, it is more
appropriate for students who are beginning searching to do so at reference sites. These
sites collect educational topics and safe links, classified by subject. Many of these
sites also contain a searchable database where assured safe searching can be taught and
practiced. The first 5 or 6 sites tend to produce faster results: