Archive for April, 2005

Internet Filters, Bad – Zoning, Ok

Thursday, April 28th, 2005

Unfortunately, the course I am currently taking does not provide many opportunities for this kind of generative thinking. In truth, this is probably not as “research based” as my professor would like, but I am happy with this post. :)

Assume we all are in agreement that students must have Internet access in our schools. If you were the Technology Coordinator in a school, what policies would you enforce to ensure students have access to appropriate educational sites only. Cite appropriate research but for this exercise feel free to draw on any personal experience and report what worked, what didn’t.

I am going to take a controversial approach in my response to this prompt. I think that there should be no filtration of the internet in schools… especially in schools. If someone decides they want to filter the internet for themselves or their children in their own home, that is their own business (and by extension, if they want their student to have restricted access in school, I suppose we ought to help facilitate this, though I think precedence can be provided to argue that we shouldn’t), but schools are the last places that should be trying to limit the information available to a person.

Instead, I would focus on preventative measures, primarily education. “The students should complete [an] introductory class before they are given access,” suggests the Internet Guidelines Form of the Poynet School District. Though I don’t think the authors meant for this to replace filters, I think this is a great place to start. If students are educated about the need to show discretion and be careful when dealing with people online in the same way they are educated not to take candy from strangers, they would be better prepared to make good decisions online.

Also, exposure to the sorts of decisions they will be confronted with (such as when a pop-up with an advertisement or inappropriate content appears) and the ways in which they can chose to deal with it will better prepare them for those inevitable moments when they will be confronted with such things. After all, they will not be protected by school filters after they graduate… or after 3 o’clock for that matter.

I feel it is far more important, part of information literacy in fact, to educate students to make the choices that are right for them when given the freedom to do so. The amount of information online continues to grow, and access to it becomes more and more ubiquitous. These skills will become increasing important life skills, and students are done a disservice when they are not prepared to use the full power (and temptation) of the internet without filtering.

Now, that being said, a sort of compromise occurred to me while researching for this post. Bayer (2002) explains a concept of zoning which is not present online, but which helps people to avoid things they wish to avoid in physical space.

“In the real world aspects of our life are separated either in time or in space: … you may watch erotic films at home between 11 pm and 5 am, and unless you subscribe specifically to such a channel, you do not see sex and violence on TV in the afternoon. In shops there are signs what are not sold for minors, where they may not enter, and where you are not supposed to enter if you do not want to encounter shocking experience of seeing sexually explicit products. Before television programs you are warned if you are supposed to see something which may disturb you.” (Bayer, 2002)

Perhaps software that serves the same purpose might make an effective and flexible school filter. Imagine a normal school filter such as websense which scans for inappropriate content in web sites and which consults a list of sites deemed inappropriate by the administrator… but instead of blocking them outright, it first displays a page suggesting why the site is inappropriate. The student would then have the opportunity to hit the back button (or otherwise navigate away from the page) before embarrassing themselves or their teacher.

More importantly, if a page containing legitimate educational content were accidentally blocked, then students would have the option of proceeding anyway.

This warning page could even include a legal disclaimer and/or instructions to the student to check with a teacher before proceeding. Such a scenario would help facilitate teachable moments as opposed to punishments, and would serve as scaffolding to alert students that they have a decision to make before proceeding.

Perhaps as important, students would be able to make bad decisions… meaning that they could learn from the consequences, and that their good decisions would be meaningful rather than simply the only path possible.

Call me a radical, but I am interested in your perspectives on these ideas.

-Mark

References

Bayer, J. The lefal regulation of illegal and harmful content on the internet New York: Internet Policy Fellowships. Available: http://www.policy.hu/bayer/ResearchPaper1.rtf

Internet Guidelines From Poynette, WI: Poynet School District. Available http://www.poynette.k12.wi.us/psd/internet_guidelines_form.htm

An AUP Critique

Thursday, April 28th, 2005

After completing my last big paper, I was at a residency for Walden University for five days last week. I played “get ahead” and “catch up” at work before and after the residency, so I am only now beginning to write and post again. This was, of course, written for class.

Oh, and in the “and Life” category… it is raining outside my office windows, and I love that. It probably comes from growing up here in Southern California – where any kind of weather is a special occassion.

Post web site critique of an Acceptable Use Policy available on the web (use search engine to find one). Include website address, reason(s) why you selected this policy for critique, your comments, questions, and/or concerns about the AUP.

The N-MUSD AUP

For the purposes of this assignment, I have returned to the Newport-Mesa Unified School District Acceptable Use Policy. On the first page it states the following:

“This document consists of three parts:
1. Network Access Ethics — a less formal discussion of ethics for students
2. Acceptable Use Policy — formal rules & penalties
3. Consent and Waiver — for student and parents to sign-off that they are aware of the students’ restrictions regarding network access; and releasing the District of responsibility for students who choose to break those restrictions.”

The first section on ethics is the longest at six pages long, but this is not reproduced for students and parents. I find this to be educationally sound, pragmatic, and positive in focus. Unfortunately this is not reproduced for students or parents. They must seek it online and download the pdf you have just now.

The actual acceptable use policy is another two pages, and is also not reproduced for students. Ironically, given it’s title, this section does not focus on acceptable use, but tries to point out all manners of unacceptable use. I think this is a tactic destined to fail, as it invites students to find loopholes in the policy, and it can become quickly outdated. (See the handheld AUP below for my attempt at something that focuses more on acceptable use flexibility in the policy.)

Finally, the two page consent and waiver is a sort of mishmash of material that appears in the previous pages, and new material. There are a few positive points, but this too focuses on inappropriate use.
This form (usually printed back to back) is a part of the annual registration process; the N-MUSD still requires an affirmative signature in order to grant access. If the waiver is not returned, then it is presumed that the parents are not granting the student access.

When I worked there, tech coordinators campaigned each year to reverse the policy so that a positive response was presumed and students would not be denied access unless their parents returned a form saying so. This is often what would happen in practice… because these were completed on paper only and in many schools, only the tech coordinator would file them, so no administrative or support staff had access. Tech coordinators are not well paid enough (or at all interested in) policing the policy, so generally, unless a parent (or more likely, a guardian) contacted the school and said that they don’t want the student to have access, students would receive access.

Once my site moved to unique and secure logins for each student, it was easy enough to use the AUP as a sort of permission slip for receiving an account. This was all but impossible during the mass registration at the beginning of the year, though. Finally, I settled on setting up a special account in the student information system so that a student helper could see and change the AUP field without seeing or changing anything else about a student… so that they could go through the 1200 AUPs and make sure each one was entered in the SIS. Then I could look up whether or not a student had an AUP… and could query for no’s so I could deactivate their accounts.

The strange thing was that there was no way for the parent to indicate that they did NOT want their student to have access to the internet… there is no yes or no check box, only a signature line granting students access. So, we would often get back sheets with NO ACCESS scribbled all over to be sure we understood the parent was signing that they did not want their student to have access.

The Handheld AUP

When we set out to implement our handheld grant two years ago, we realized we needed an amendment to the network AUP to cover handhelds. As I set about writing it, I pulled out some of the positive phrases of the ethics document and tried to focus on acceptable use. I tried to make it brief and digestible, yet complete. I also tried to allow for some flexibility in the interpretation and enforcement of the policy in order to avoid students exploiting loopholes, and in order to avoid inane enforcement of the letter of the law in the face of obvious educational benefits. Given that students will always find a way around specific rules, I greatly prefer policies that capture the spirit of improving education.

I think this policy would have been perfectly useful with only this sentence, and it is what I focused on when presenting this to students as part of their orientation: All of the

“Students are expected to use a handheld computer for intellectual and scholarly pursuits.”

All of the words you see highlighted in the handheld AUP offered opportunities for vocabulary lessons and discussions. These were the other elements I focused on during my orientation sessions.

Some teachers (and many students) understood the spirit of this policy are were thankful for their freedom. Unfortunately some teachers wanted a more strict policy (such as “no games” – ah, but what if the games are educational, oh, and do you really want to police that at lunch and after school?), and they wanted consequences spelled out by first offense, first major offense etc. My feeling is that such policies are not for the students’ benefit, but are more a crutch for teachers who don’t want to make judgment calls on the fly about a technology they are uncomfortable with.

I imagine some of you will have though provoking reactions to this philosophy, and I look forward to any comments on either of these policies, but particularly on the one I wrote.

-Mark

Gateway to Educational Materials – Welcome to GEM

Wednesday, April 27th, 2005

Gateway to Educational Materials – Welcome to GEM

Another online resource for teachers.

Macworld: Mac 911: Importing Safari bookmarks

Tuesday, April 26th, 2005

Macworld: Mac 911: Importing Safari bookmarks

Cool. Was wondering how to do this.

Courting Success: A Small High School Funding Proposal (For Class)

Sunday, April 17th, 2005

Ok, this is too long to post here as text, so I will simply provide a link. It turns out this was a bit too ambitious a topic given the intended scope and deadlines involved, so I apologize that the quality of it has suffered. Still, I learned a lot about the logistical limitations of my ideas for high school redesign by following them through like this. Also, at least I’m learning what will probably be the most important lesson going into my dissertation… my goal is to get it done, not save the world. I can save the world later, they say.

Courting Success

Enjoy if you’re interested. As always, I welcome comments.

-Mark

Content Management Systems for Education

Thursday, April 14th, 2005

I am working on a paper due at the end of the week, and there are no discussion requirements in class this week, so I haven’t been generating any writing for school (or for work) that would be worth posting here.

However, at work, I am finally turning to the task of selecting an interim Content Management System for our department web site (to hold us over until the county IT department completes their official one).

Any suggestions?

I will also post the results of my own research here… Probably Monday night or so.

-Mark

Buzzworthy: Cookie Monster caves

Monday, April 11th, 2005

Buzzworthy: Cookie Monster caves

Arrrrrrrrggggggggg!

1 to 1 Computing… or Pods?

Sunday, April 10th, 2005

Written in response to a classmate’s criticism of my funding proposal abstract…

With this body of research do you think a computer for every student is the best way to go? Would it be better to fund computer pods where small groups of students can collaboratively work together?

Chris,

This is a thoughtful (and research based) critique of the abstract I posted. I had high hopes for writing a better response by the end of the week, but this will have to do.

I couldn’t find either of your references in full text online, so I will have to work off of the quotes you’ve provided me (though if you could provide me with an electronic copy of the references, I would definitely appreciate it).

“Researchers and educators are now discovering that a bank of four to six computers in a classroom is one of the most pedagogically sound ways to create connections between curriculum and technology” (Whitehead, Jensen, & Boschee, 2003, p. 4)

I won’t dispute the fact that a pod of computers in the classroom is one of the most pedagogically sound ways to create connections between curriculum and technology. In fact, there is very little question in my mind that pods in a classroom have very many pedagogical advantages, provided teachers are using them in pedagogically sound ways… such as using them for centers, for group work, or even as inquiry stations for use when questions come up during class… as opposed to being used for internet surfing for students who finish early or word-processing for students who haven’t quite finished their essay at home. (Even pods can be misused… or ignored.)

Most of the research I have encountered on the topic of whether 1 to 1 or pods is better focuses on 1 to 1 in computer labs versus pods in classrooms. This seems to be one way in which the resource you have quoted has been used. I am with Papert and others (Including you, I suspect) who think that computer labs represent the sterilization of computers in schools… that, according to a popular metaphor, a very resistant organism (the traditional school) produced a sort of immune response relegating computers to labs so that they do not invade and infect classrooms with change. I will not dispute the research that says pods are more advantageous than computer labs. (Unfortunately, many teachers want every student to do the same thing at the same time, and prefer taking students to the lab… where they are most likely to simply work alone on word processing, online research, or maybe preparing a presentation.)

However, I think it is a very different thing to talk about 1 to 1 mobile computing that is with students 24/7! This extends the learning environment outside of the classroom. Students have the power to have all of their most powerful learning resources with them all of the time. I wish I had the references on hand, but the original EETT application that N-MUSD did before implementing handhelds for 1000 middle school students cited research that showed 1 to 1 (and 24/7) computer access resulted in higher homework completion rates and better writing. (Many technical and logistical issues plagued the N-MUSD project, but I believe Fullerton school district in Orange County is seeing positive results with their 1 to 1 laptop project.) I also think this scenario addresses the criticisms of your second quote.

The research indicates that an individual computer station can deter a child’s performance because they lose the benefit of working in small groups (“Computer pods,” 1998).

If used in pedagogically sound ways (and this is why I am writing a plan that starts small), a 1 to 1 student to wirelessly networked computer ratio can serve to connect students (and their teachers) in powerful ways. Students can collaborate using shared resources online (particularly the growing number of read/write web applications), can be constantly connected via Instant Messaging (which, like Walden’s discussion forums, and UCI’s synchronous online classes, would allow students to participate in many conversations without interrupting others in the class), can each play a role in creating meaningful multi-media projects (which never the less require a good deal of team work – consider the number of people it takes to write, film, and edit a good movie… or group skit), and – of course – they could participate in multiplayer online games and simulations. In fact, it is exciting that Second Life and Never Winter Nights are now available for OS X, so students can have the multi-media tools of iLife and access to open ended gaming and simulation environments on the same machine. (Hmmm… didn’t build the licenses for these into my budget yet, though. Grr.)

At any rate, know that the issues you brought up did not fall on deaf ears, but that the vision I have for this project will address these concerns directly… and in a spectacular fashion, I hope.

Again, I had hoped to locate more specific resources before writing this, and if I find more I will put them in the appropriate forum. But, I also doubt I will find many formally published studies that would address all that is currently possible with 1 to 1 networked computing . Things are changing (for the better) very rapidly. Still, I suppose it will fall to me to find these resources in the coming months. :)

-Mark

PS – I have a funny feeling I won’t be able to call a small group of computers in a classroom a “pod” anymore. People will presume I am taking about an iPod.

The Learning Circuits Blog

Sunday, April 10th, 2005

The Learning Circuits Blog

Clark Aldrich’s blog. Good reading.

Educational Technology Incubators

Sunday, April 10th, 2005

Today I was exposed to the idea of an “educational technology incubator” for the first time. It came up in this post by two of my classmates (who are also working on a funding proposal for class):

Our proposal entails a plan to develop an Educational Technology Incubator to support the mission and goals of The John Leland Center for Theological Studies. As The Center seeks to prepare ministers for a 21st century environment, there is recognition that technology will be an integral part of most people’s lives. As part of Leland’s mission of “bringing together scholars, practitioners, and students to equip leaders for the emerging church.” the Incubator will serve to school in three important areas:



  1. Instructional Support


    • Provide technical resources and support to Leland instructors to assist them in utilizing technologies to enhance the effectiveness of traditional classroom instruction.

    • To translate traditional face-to-face courses for delivery in an online environment.


  2. Outreach to Local Churches


    • To provide churches with the resources and expertise they need to make use of technology in support of their own Christian Education initiatives.

    • Develop and implement strategies to allow local churches to tap into the academic and professional expertise provided by Leland faculty.


  3. Research and Development


    • Research and experimentation on the application of technological solutions to issues of spiritual development.



Even now technology is fast becoming a ubiquitous presence throughout society. It is the purpose of this project to harness the benefits of technology to address issues of spiritual development, ministerial preparation, and evangelism and outreach. This project will benefit theological educators throughout the academic world by providing a working model of technology integration in the context of theological education.

We will be approaching the Lilly Endowment for funding of this project.

References:

Byer, G. C. J., Clark, J., Mahfood, S., & Welch, L. J. (2002). Generative neo-cyberculture in the modern seminary. Teaching Theology and Religion, 5(2), 113-117.

Litchfield, R. G. (1999). Webs of connection using technology in theological education. Teaching Theology and Religion, 2(2), 103-109.

Soukup, P. A., Buckley, F. J., & Robinson, D. C. (2001). The influence of information technologies on theology. Theological Studies 62(2), 366-378.


Respectfully Submitted,

Susan R. Moore

Wyll Irvin

The following response to their post proved educational for me:

Susan Moore & Wyll Irvin, I must say that I am going into educational technology overload with all of the new information I have learned this week. I had no idea what an educational incubator was. The only incubators I know about is the one used for hatching eggs on the farm and the other is a neonatal incubator to keep newborns warm, when they have trouble with heat regulation. So, I searched for information to help me understand this concept as it realted to education. I stumbled upon two sites. You might have this one already and if so please disregard. The following is a site related on the how to evaluate incubators for effectiveness and this site is http://www.knowledgeplex.org/news/74068.html
The following provides a link to some notes made by Yuan in 2001 at a conference on Incubators. http://ree.stanford.edu/reee/2001/E_session.pdf,page 3, gives a detailed description, in outline format, of what an education incubator is. Yuan (2001) also listed that to measure success use “educational value”, “relationship to the commuinity” and “inspiring alumni”. I would interpret your proposal as supporting “relationship to the community”. Thank you for such a great learning experience. Mary Ann

Reference
Yuan, J. (2001). To incubate or not incubate (Session by Babson, M. R. at REEE roundtable conference, Stanford Technology Ventures Program. As retrieved April 10, 2005 from http://ree.stanford.edu/reee/2001/E_session.pdf

In class, I am hoping that Susan and Wyll will provide additional background information on the subject, but in the meantime, if anyone else out here cares to comment on the subject, I’d be interested.

-Mark