Survey reveals disconnect in online safety education

Survey reveals disconnect in online safety education (eSchool News)

  • 81% of school administrators, including principals and superintendents, said they believe their districts are adequately preparing students in online safety, security, and ethics
  • 51% of teachers agree
  • 33% of teachers said they believe their school or district requires a cyber safety curriculum be taught in the classroom setting
  • 68% administrators said they believe the same thing


I think what this shows is that the devil is in the details. Blanket policies about teaching online safety, security, and ethics get lost by the time these policies get to the classroom level. Now stir in the fact that 36% of teachers in this survey say they have received zero hours of district-provided training in cyber security, cyber safety, and cyber ethics with an additional 40% receiving between one and three hours of training in their school districts. Add a dollop of confusion about laws, policies, and the ethics of situations that didn’t even exist a year or two ago. Sift in parents who believe all sorts of different things about what school should allow kids to do online, and bake in an oven of stress about standardized testing in core subjects with no time for “extras” like citizenship, digital or others.

In fact, last year, Julie Evans of Project Speak Up said that students reported to her that teachers who get training in Internet safety restrict Internet access even more out of fear and confusion.

This is a recipe for confusion and confusion leads to paralysis.

I think the answer is evolving towards shared decision-making at all levels (including students), accepting that this is a rapidly changing situation and can’t be “finished”, and moving towards including these lessons into larger programs that address ethics, safety, civics, and community norms of behavior. The more we ghettoize “cyber” safety and ethics, the more likely it is to be misunderstood and dropped for lack of time.


Citizenship is a verb

US K-12 students aren’t getting adequate instruction in “cyberethics, cybersafety, and cybersecurity,” according to a just-released study sponsored by the National Cybersecurity Alliance and Microsoft released today. The survey, of more than 1,000 teachers, 400 administrators, and 200 tech coordinators, found that – although over 90% of administrators, teachers, and tech coordinators support teaching these topics in school – only 35% of teachers and just over half of school administrators say the topics are required in their curriculum. A bit of pass-the-buck thinking turned up in the results too – 72% of teachers said parents bear most of the responsibility for teaching these topics  while 51% of administrators said teachers do.

via Connect Safely |How to teach Net safety, ethics & security? Blend them in! | NetFamilyNews.

Check out my quotes later in this article – I was thrilled to be interviewed by Ann Collier, one of my heroes in the effort to address Internet safety and ethics in a sane manner. We had a long conversation about digital citizenship and what it means. To me, citizenship is a verb, an act of participation in a community. To be a citizen means more than being told rules, it means having the rights and responsibilities of membership. So it’s simple. If we want students to be “21st century citizens” or “digital citizens” or ANY kind of citizen, we have to give them responsibility and include them in the actions of the community. This, of course, should be guided, gradual, and mentored, but it should not just be telling them the rules of a game they aren’t allowed to play.

Otherwise, it’s digital dictatorship, not digital citizenship.

NAIS and PETE and C

February and March are hotbeds of activity for state and national education and technology conferences. Next week I’ll be at both ends of the U.S. at two conferences of interest to educators interested in technology.

NAIS is the National Association of Independent Schools annual conference. Private schools have been on the forefront of the laptop movement both in the US and around the world. The 2010 conference is in San Francisco Feb 24-26,  and I’ll be there with the Constructivist Consortium. This is a group of small companies who promote constructivist use of software in schools for creativity and student-centered learning. Generation YES is one of the founding members and we’ll be at booth 239 – come by and say hello!

PETE&C is the Pennsylvania state technology conference held annually in Hershey, PA. Yes, that Hershey, and yes, it does smell like chocolate! Running Feb 24-27, this conference is all about technology and education. Pennsylvania’s education reform program, Classrooms for the Future (CFF) has created a strong network of educator-coaches who support innovative programs statewide. Building internal leadership like this is a terrific idea, and Pennsylvania is certainly reaping the benefits of investing in their own people.

At PETE&C, I’ll be doing a session on Feb 23 on student leadership and digital citizenship – if you are going to PETE&C I hope you’ll stop by.

Student leadership is a topic that might not on the surface seem to be technology related, but schools hoping to increase their authentic use of technology need to be thinking about. The guiding principle of putting power into student hands can be both concrete (actually handing them equipment) and abstract (giving them responsibility and agency over their learning). Both support each other, and schools that give students responsibility and guide them as they learn to use it gain so much. Students who believe that they have a stake in their own education will contribute to the effort to make education better for all. Schools that take this  empowerment to heart help create the citizens, learners, and leaders we need in the world.

So say hello in person or on Twitter! I love to meet friends new and old!