Thoughts on Recent Internet Safety Parent Ed

Thoughts on Recent Internet Safety Parent Ed
Posted on 06/05/2015
What are parents' worst fears regarding children and the Internet? How much are those fears justified? This topic is broad and disturbing and an impossible subject for a single parent education session. A small group of Tobin parents did, however, take a small step towards understanding internet usage by students during their school day, on May 27th. The morning session was led by Sarah Rosenberg, Instructional Technology Specialist, with assistance from Ian Kenney, School Adjustment Counselor and Kevin Keegan, Technical Services Manager for the school district. Fred Fantini, Cambridge School Committee member, was also present.   

Sarah Rosenberg reviewed her current role, which includes making the district's acceptable use policy for computer and internet usage, understandable to students from third grade on up. Ms. Rosenberg explained that beginning in third grade, students in all Cambridge public schools receive technology instruction and their own Google account for use in research, assignments, and communication and collaboration with peers and teachers. A change that occurred this school year was the introduction of iPads to all K-2 classrooms as well, with teachers in control of how and when these iPads are used. Examples of iPad use for these lower grades include apps used for interventions, but the extent and type of iPad use in Kindergarten, first-, and second-grade classrooms is not determined by the district at this time. Support, information, and guidance for these K-2 teachers is available through the schools' instructional technology specialists, but currently teachers are not mandated to undergo particular training.  

At Tobin there are at least 75 iPads for student and teacher use. Google "Safesearch" has, this spring, been installed on each of these devices.

Mr. Keegan, who supervises a staff of 10 technicians and is responsible for some 100 servers, explained that all schools' access to the Internet is channeled through servers located at the high school. The CPSD netowrk uses an inline filter, "Sophos," which continually reviews sites for appropriate content and blocks them. Information Technology staff uses Sophos to block particular web sites identified by urls (uniform resource locators), but this system for screening content is not one hundred percent effective, according to Keegan, for example, Google Images are not affected by the filter. Entire categories blocked by the district in the schools include Violence, Weapons, Gambling, and others.  

Only in fourth and fifth grade at Tobin does the technology curriculum begin to enable children how to evaluate web sites for authenticity and reliability. Ms. Rosenberg and Mr. Keegan had a number of suggestions and resources for parents who wish to either implement filters at home or monitor children's technology use in school, including accessing children's CPS Google Accounts, and utilizing "Open DNS, a free web filter. Additional resources will be made available to parents.

Mr. Fantini proposed that the Cambridge Public School's television stations might be used to provide programming for parents, in a streaming format, on media literacy, internet safety, and school policies and curriculum on technology use. 

A number of parents raised concerns about recent incidents at Tobin and added concerns to the table, and next year's parent education will no doubt include additional coverage of this topic.

Parent resources (posted in last week's Tobin Weekly):