Internet Awareness for Educators and Parents

The Laguna Beach Unified School District has hired me to develop an Internet Awareness workshop for teachers and for parents. The Orange County Department of Education is sharing the cost, and the final products (agendas, handouts, and presentation slides) will be released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 license, so I’ll be sharing the results here.

Part of the concept behind this was to develop it in cooperation with the Laguna Beach Police Department, and that’s certainly been the most interesting part of the work… thus far. The LBUSD IT Director, Victor Guthrie, and I met with Captain Danell Adams and Detective Zach Martinez on Tuesday afternoon. They have been addressing this issue (and making presentations to parents) for some time now. Their department also conducted a high profile sting operation back in February and made a surprising 13 arrests in 11 hours. (These are arrests of men who came to meet what they thought was a 13 year old Laguna Beach girl, but which was in fact a team of officers.) Their experiences and insights (and they shared a lot of stories) were fascinating, but I think the most relevant points in terms of the discussion around these issues in the blogosphere were these:

– We (edubloggers) tend to make the argument that high profile cases are blown out of proportion in the press… that with over 90 million members in MySpace, of course there will be a few sick ones who fall for police stings (or, worse, actually commit crimes). I’m fond of quoting Wired Magazine’s statement that it is arguably safer to be a member of MySpace than to live in California (which has only 33 million residents and far more sex crimes per capita). However, there is another side to this (and it is among the things that we are not hearing). Captain Adams and Detective Martinez shared several stories that they cannot publicize because minors were involved… the public has no idea how many incidents (in this case real crimes) have actually been occurring in Laguna Beach. In one case, they couldn’t even press charges because the victim’s parents wanted nothing to do with the whole situation. Now, admittedly, Laguna Beach is a high profile community (especially on account of the MTV show) and it might thus attract more attention than other communities, but I think the point is valid: despite the seemingly blown out of proportion high profile cases, there are also many that never see the light of day. These things people fear are happening.

– Now, on the other hand, when we brought up DOPA, they were surprised to hear that it did not address criminals at all, and that it did not address educating students to be safe. These officers at least were not at all interested in blocking things in schools (though it would be unfair to say they opposed it); their primary concern was to teach kids how to be safe, which was something they very much would like teachers to take more responsibility for. They were also clear that they did not think blocking things at school (and even moving family computers into living rooms) would help… kids could still go to others’ houses and make unsafe decisions. (Note: As David Warlick has pointed out, there has been some more reasonable legislation passed already, including the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, CIPA, and COPPA.)

– They were also very concerned with online bullying and other crimes such as identity theft, which is more of a concern for teenagers than I would’ve thought. I’ve been telling people that kids can put their families at risk, but there are folks out there now mining MySpace and other sources for social security numbers and other sensitive information… and teens are falling prey to this.

There are several local law enforcement agencies working on this in Orange County, including the sheriff’s department, and none that I have interacted with are interested in fear mongering or scaring people – or even controlling people. They are interested in opening the eyes of students, parents, and teachers. I think this is still our first responsibility. I just want to do it in a way that leaves participants with the idea that these tools are popular for a reason and can also be extremely powerful in an educational setting.

If you are dealing with these issues, I encourage you to reach out to your local law enforcement agencies. They may be able to help, and the dialog may be enlightening.

Here is a (very!) rough outline, and a link to 1 page bit I’ve written on this already. I’ll share more here as I work on this. A draft is due on the 18th for a LBUSD board meeting on the 22nd. I welcome any feedback in the meantime. Personally, I’m concerned that parents won’t sit through the first 30 minutes while they are scared of the, well, scary stuff. But I can be engaging, right? :)

Note: Screenshots and live web demos will be used throughout. We want teachers and parents to know what this stuff looks like.

1 hour Presentation (90 minutes w/Q&A)

  • 15 Minutes: Technologies and Benefits (about 5 minutes each)
    • Introduction to the Read Write Web
    • Blogs, Wikis, Other Services
    • Social Networking (and IM)
  • 15 Minutes: Concerns (about 3 minutes each)
    • Inappropriate Content
    • Inappropriate Sharing
    • Intellectual Property
    • Fraud and Theft (including ID Theft)
    • Cyber Stalkers or Predators
  • 15 Minutes: Police Demonstration (including transition to next section)
  • 15 Minutes: Proactive Strategies
    • Move computer
    • Dialog (w/Talking Points… Prompting Questions)
    • Use the technologies (blogs, MySpace, etc.)
    • MySpace Accounts
  • 30 Minutes Q&A with Police and Me

Link to a 1 page overview of this topic. (Heavy on the text.)