Student Information Online

I share with you and e-mail I sent out to the staff at my school today. Yes, I know that most of what I write would not fly in your school/district. But then again, we are a private international school…things just work differently here, and that’s a good thing! I strongly believe that international education will change and adapt faster than any public system. What slows us down is the larger educational system (colleges, SAT, IB, AP, etc).But I do believe we are the front runners for change because at times we’re allowed to out run ourselves.

Question: What is the school’s policy on using student names and pictures on the Internet?

Out of CTRL

Answer:
A question that has been coming up more and more as we put more and more information online is what is the school’s policy. I will do my best to keep this short.

The school does not have a policy at this time about what and how we handle student information on the web. The “unwritten rule” use to be that we did not put students names with pictures on the web. Last year the communication department started putting Parent Talk online in the form of a PDF and Google at the same time release an update that allowed it to search PDF documents. So at the highest levels within SAS we have been discussing this very issue. Where do we draw the line?

As more and more research comes out on just how NOT dangerous the Internet is we’ll have to look at how we protect our students.

New York Times: How Dangerous Is the Internet for Children?

APA: Internet Predator Stereotypes Debunked in New Study
For example, in spite of public concern, the authors found that adolescents’ use of popular social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook do not appear to increase their risk of being victimized by online predators. Rather, it is risky online interactions such as talking online about sex to unknown people that increases vulnerability, according to the researchers.

What we do know is that there are a couple little things we can do that will keep students safe and at the same time allow them to be acknowledged on the Internet (which is what they want, what they demand in their digital world).

1. Do not post personal information
Students and teachers should not post personal information on the Internet. Street address, Passport (SSN#) Number or information, phone number, cell number, date of birth (although this is tough as many websites require you put your birth date in. a.k.a. facebook).

2. Do not use last names
Using just first names allows students to be recognized for their work but still allows them to remain some what protected. If we expect students to site information they find on the Internet for validation purposes then we must also allow them to be sited on information they create/produce. Using a students first name allows the student to have a sense of ownership for their work. They might not put their name on a paper, but you better believe they’ll put it on the Internet so others know who they are.

3. Pictures with permission
There is a form in the student/parent handbook at the beginning of the year that allows parents to opt out of the school using student pictures and work on the Internet. We use an opt out form giving us inherent rights to use pictures and work in both online and traditional publications. Most schools use opt out forms and find that very few parents sign and return the form (even less Internationally…grandparents love seeing their grand kids!)

How do you know if you have students with this form? You don’t…at the moment. This is a communication piece that we are working on for next year and that the Communication and Marketing department will be organizing for distribution next year. In the mean time we suggest that you ask students if it’s OK to take their picture. Once again modeling what we want to teach our students that having permission before hand can save you time and heartache (or your job and friendships).

New Acceptable Use Policy
This year we have been working on a new Acceptable Use Policy that will go into affect next year. At this time a select group of 11th graders are helping me to revise and talk about the new AUP. We want to make sure we have student buy in and next year’s 12th graders will be our leaders in helping us all understand how this new network is affecting communication on a global level.

I hope this helps clarify any questions you might have had on the topic. If you have any questions or comments please do not hesitate to stop by my office, send me an e-mail, or grab me in the hallway for a chat. It’s a new wired world out there and we’re feeling our way through it together.

Cheers,

Jeff Utecht

[tags]sas, cyber safety[/tags]

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5 Comments

  1. Jeff,

    Our school struggles with the same issue. We’ve adopted a similar policy of not posting last names or names with pictures. Then we realized our athletic teams list a roster with numbers. All anyone has to do is look at the roster and then the pic with jersey numbers to see who is who. Some teachers argue that because some students choose to participate in public venue events like interscholastic clubs and athletics that they have voluntarily chosen to share their identity and the non-name with pic does not apply to them. An interesting thought.

    Thanks for the post
    Charlie

  2. Wonderful – will send students that way!
    I have a group of students who started a wiki as a project that will be local and hopefully global – they did this themselves as well. It is wonderful to see forward thinking students who will definitely be the leaders of tomorrow!

  3. Thanks for sharing. We’re all struggling with these same issues. It’s true: kids want recognition for their work. To deny them that recognition is to deny much of the power of technology to excite kids and enable them as publishers to an authentic audience. It can get a bit tricky though–finding a balancing between protecting kids and acknowledging their work.

    <a href=”http://justread.wordpress.com”<my blog

  4. I think it should stop with first and last names. I mean, nowadays, with facebook, you need to add your last name to let people you knew years ago find you. But I completely agree with the permission of images point. I was on the cover of Parent Talk at least three times last year, with my name and everything, and I wasn’t even told about that.
    As long as people know that their information is being published, or that they are publishing it themselves, I think it’s fine. Of course, I’m talking here about the students smart enough not to post a lot of personal details on websites.

  5. Hi Jeff,
    I’ve written about this issue many times. I’m constantly amazed at how the ‘net gets treated differently – let’s say for example different from the local newspaper. When the local paper runs a story about something in the classroom they print pictures with names and enough information usually to track down that child to a t. Here in the States it is very common to run sports items about local high school athletes – star of the week. You get several photographs, what their hobbies are, which sport and position they play, and when the next game is. The only thing they leave out is a map to their house.

    We have much more to fear from the child molesters who live in our neighborhoods than those who frequent the web. Yet the local newspaper is all that the local predator needs to scope out a potential victim.

    Internet safety is an extremely important issue, but it makes no sense to provide a significantly higher level of caution to the Internet than to the local media. I’d really like to hear what the local media outlets are doing to make things safer locally for our young ones – so far nothing that I am aware of.

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