Thursday, October 22, 2015

MEH Technology Meeting Report

Last night’s MEH Technology meeting confirmed that significant progress has been made on Internet safety and security issues, as had been discussed some during back-to-school night.  The presentation from the session can be found at www.fccs.org/meh, although the link wasn’t working this morning.

First, as Dr. Jones wrote earlier, filtering by grade level has been implemented.  For MEH, Dr. Jinks and Principal Harris decided how much to filter.  (Note, the Barracuda web filter allows filtering 85 categories of sites.)  Teachers can white-list sites to be allowed, that might otherwise be blocked, when necessary for educational purposes.  Google Safe Search has also been implemented for images, which should reduce the risk of students finding inappropriate content.

I suggested that the Digital Learning Team, which includes two parents, should review the filtering regime.  Dr. Jinks also said that they expect to review the whitelist and filtering every year to see if they were still appropriate, but that this would be the first year where that was done.  I’d suggest twice a year, with DLT review again, but once a year is a start.

Gaming has been cut back significantly.   Only games specifically allowed by teachers, or linked to in Schoology, should be played.  I did not get a sense of how strong the technical mechanisms to enforce this are, but Dr. Jinks and Mr. Harris indicated that there were far fewer problems this year.  In terms of other distractions, Schoology is now to be used for school purposes only, and access to music and music-video sites are not allowed.

Students are still allowed to install extensions and apps, but the extensions/apps must not be distracting.  I suggested that the allowed extensions and apps should be explicitly white-listed to avoid problems.

Much more effort has been devoted to educating students about safe and proper use.  Students must sign the acceptable use policy, and are told about the disciplinary regime (which has major and minor violations).  FCCPS is using the Common Sense Media digital citizenship curriculum, with some adjustments, this year, which includes information about cyberbullying. 


Last, with regard to incidents, such as access to inappropriate content, it seems the school follows a process, but that process isn’t written down.  Mr. Harris indicated that at a school like MEH, those things happen naturally.  In my experience, it is helpful to have a written procedure so, for example, that anytime there is a problem the current level of protection is reviewed to see if it should be improved in some way. 

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