Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Forgotten Students

Over the past two weeks I've had the unfortunate experience of having to deal with an issue regarding internet security. Two of my students have had their email accounts broken into and abusive emails have been sent to other members of the class. Despite a thorough investigation we are no closer to finding the persons responsible and, with less than a week to go before the end of the school year, I doubt we will discover the culprit before we break.

I have found this whole incident extremely frustrating. I desperately want to know who is behind it all so that (1) they have to deal with the consequences of their inappropriate actions and (2) to help them through this obviously difficult time in their life. It is such a fine balance, though. I would never accuse anyone of anything without suitable evidence and this is the case here. There is not enough proof to confidently point the finger at any one person. Although I believe we have truly done all we can at school, if the culprit gets away with it all there is more reason for them to repeat their behaviour in the future. I really hope we can somehow find out who is involved.

Today I sent an email to all of the parents in my class, informing them of what had happened. Part of the email reminded parents about responsible and respectful use of the internet at home. Their children are growing up in an age that is, in a technological sense, vastly different to that of their parents and teachers. We are often reminded to help guide and support them through these new links of collaboration. But what about the adults? Who is teaching us? Sure, we're more capable of rational decisions at our age. Our years of experience in 'life skills' have enabled us to assess new situations and tools more effectively than, say, a nine year old.

Our school asks that parents, their children and the teachers of their children sign an I.T. agreement at the beginning of the year. This outlines what the school defines as proper use of technology at home and at school and describes expected behaviours when using these technologies. I find this a useful document to refer back to when 'reminding' someone about appropriate behaviour when using technology. But I don't discuss it with the parents. I don't provide a forum where parents can discuss what they understand about appropriate uses of I.T. For some it may mean allowing their children to have a personal computer in their room. For others it may mean fully supervised use of the computer. It is important to remember that a lot of these technologies are new for the parents, as well as the students, and that sometimes they need to be guided and supported just as much as their children.

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