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The Digital Classroom 

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 from opinion?
Do they recognize online marketing techniques?
Do they understand why they must protect their personal privacy?
Can they handle inappropriate or illegal content?

Web 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.

Student  Email

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 the 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.

At 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 student email. 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 educational manner.

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 does 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:

Search Engines for  Jr. High Students

Another useful approach for teaching searching strategies is to use those search engines that are specifically designed for youngsters. Here are several examples:

Search Strategies for Adults

The Interim Program of Studies for Technology requires that Senior High students learn how to search and refine a search. It is also necessary for teachers to be skillful in searching in order to supply students with appropriate URLs or bookmarks. Everyone who uses the Internet will have an opinion about which is the best search engine. Opinions vary considerably, as different people prefer different methods. However, some search engines are more efficient for finding certain materials.

Search Techniques

The following sites focus on 

  1. learning about the differences between Directories and Search Engines
  2. learning which search engine is most useful for a specific search
  3. how search techniques vary from one engine to another:

Search Engines for Adults

Search Directories
Search by Category
Meta-Search Engines:

Searches multiple search engines simultaneously - Faster, simpler to use. Requires only one search syntax, so you don't have to learn different queries for each engine.

Search Engines:


To summarize:
  1. We recommend that schools use the school email box for student email, and that a teacher on staff will distribute the email within the school.
  2. Teachers should model and monitor how email is used for educational purposes.
  3. Elementary students are not required to use search engines. They should be working from bookmarks or supplied URLs.
  4. Junior High students do need to learn how to search but it is safer and more time efficient to teach them these skills using reference sites or "child-safe" search engines.
  5. Senior High students are required to be able to search, and refine a search to limit the number of hits.
  6. We must take the time to teach students how to use these tools in an ethical, responsible and safe manner and reinforce this direct instruction with the AUP.


  1. The computer, email and the Internet are merely tools, and tools can either be used skillfully and wisely or used badly.  All tools can be dangerous if used inappropriately. 
  2. Also, using search engines should be used as a last resort for both teachers and students in Elementary school, because it is not only the most time-consuming alternative but it also offers the greatest hazards. 
  3. Used well the Internet will be a safe and exciting tool that has the power to bring the world into the classroom.


  1. Media Awareness
  2. Web Awareness


Other Related Articles

  1. Protecting Our Children From the Internet, Jamie McKenzie, FNO, The Educational Technology Journal   Vol. 4, No 10 June, 1995 
  2. Filtering the Web  Jamie McKenzie, FN : The Educational Technology Journal  Vol. 5, No 6, March/April, 1996
  3. Waste Not Want Not  Jamie McKenzie, FNO : The Educational Technology Journal Vol. 8,  No 5, January, 99 
  4. Child Safety on the Internet - By Child Find Canada
  5. Consumer Product Safety Commission
  6. Internet  Safety

Since April 26th, 2004


P Theroux, Teacher,
 Alberta, Canada

Updated 11/16/2011


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Site Map

These web pages were assembled for teachers.  There are well over 100 pages on this site and all have a similar format. All pages that vary in appearance from  this page are linking off site to the work of others.

Every effort is made to validate the educational substance of these sites.  Please remember that the dynamic nature of the Internet requires each of us to use caution when presenting web sites to students.