Even though “good” and “bad” places exist, we allow our children to experience the world. But we do want to guide and protect them. The same, say educators, is true inside the world of the Internet.
This week, the Ottumwa school board adopted a new policy for Internet use in the district.
“We’re just updating our policy to be a little more specific with the expansion of the Internet [and its] use,” said Ottumwa Superintendent Davis Eidahl.
The new policy fits with The Children’s Internet Protection Act, a federal regulation that must be followed for districts that, like Ottumwa, receive certain government funding.
The policy says the district will monitor the online activities of students, put filters up that keep them out of sites deemed harmful to minors and will educate students about proper online behavior.
“These are things we’re already doing, but [this vote] will put it in board policy,” Eidahl told board members.
Board member Jeff Strunk voted in favor of adding the provisions, but first wanted to know if students are aware of consequences for breaking online rules.
Yes, Eidahl said, both students and parents are informed in writing of how the school district expects online computer users to behave.
Computers today touch many parts of the curriculum. Students can read books or do homework, while parents can see how students are doing in class.
“It gives us access to the world in real time,” said Jody Williams, principal of Wilson Elementary School.
In 2012, students at all Ottumwa schools use computers to enhance learning. Being able to communicate “in real time” can mean the difference between just reading about a culture and actually getting to “meet” other students using an online conference system.
“For example, a class may have pen pals in Japan; we could use the Internet to communicate how our worlds are alike and different,” Williams said.
But there are other, less scholastic aspects of teen life spilling over onto the Internet.
“There are some places in the world that are safer than others,” said Williams. “Those filters and policies help keep our Internet travelers safe; we don’t want anybody making a wrong turn.”