You Mean We Gotta Teach That, Too?
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You Mean We Gotta Teach That, Too? book
In October 2008, the United States Congress passed the Broadband Data Improvement Act (Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, 2008). On the surface, with its broad name and stated focus of increasing the availability and deployment of broadband access throughout the nation, the Broadband Act does not sound like something having a direct and immediate impact on the classroom. However, Title II of the Broadband Act is the “Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act.” The Protecting Children Act does have a direct impact on school districts, schools, and classrooms around the country. The Protecting Children Act requires schools and districts, as part of their school board Internet use policies, to “educate minors about appropriate online behavior” (Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, 2008). The Act specifically speaks to education around social networking and chatrooms, and recognizing and addressing cyberbullying. When this information is presented to educators – from school board members to classroom teachers – it gets some pretty strong reactions! However, when educators further realize that this mandate is connected to E-rate compliance, jaws drop. This basically means that if schools don’t figure out a game plan to focus on this subject matter, they will miss out on funds they previously received to purchase their own telecommunications services and Internet access. Questions then fly: “You mean we gotta teach that now, too?”; “Who’s going to do it?”; “How are we going to squeeze it into our already packed school year?”; “How are we supposed to do this?”; “Got any training for my staff?”; “What do we have to work with?” And finally, referring to context-setting conversations I often have with my audience on the digital divide between adult “digital immigrants” and youth “digital natives,” a principal will usually say, “Remember, Mike, my staff pretty much falls into that ‘digital immigrant’ group we just talked about” (Prensky, 2001). The realization that a board policy has to be either written or revised is another challenge all by itself. Bottom line, in answer to the question, “You mean we gotta teach that now, too?” the answer is, “Yes, we gotta teach that, too.” During the last several years I worked with Seattle Public Schools, I had a unique position. My functions were split 50-50 between Prevention and Intervention and the district’s Department of Technology Services (DoTS). I was thus half on the Learning and Teaching and half on Operations sides of the house. Within the technology department, I managed a variety of technology grant programs. One I oversaw was the district’s Federal Title IID Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT or E2T2) program. Within Seattle Public Schools, these EETT dollars funded an Educational Technologists program. Fundamentally a professional development initiative, the dollars funded stipends for site-based certified teachers and librarians, known internally as the “ETs,” in each school. The ETs function as point people who participate in and help lead classroom-focused technology-infusion professional development efforts throughout the schools. Between Prevention-Intervention and DoTS, I thus had regular contact with administrators, bullying prevention
teams, counselors, librarians, and ET point people in every school. This was unique. It provided an intersection between Prevention-Intervention and technology training efforts at a time when cyberbullying – and indeed the larger picture of online safety – was becoming a recognized issue to be addressed.