Friday, January 23, 2009

Berkshire District Attorney's Office Launches Internet Safety Mentor Program

Felicia Vargas, manager of TechBoston and head of the BPS cybersafety campaign was invited out to Pittsfield to see a presentation by the Berkshire District Attorney's office about the Student Internet Safety Mentoring Program they have created in conjunction with the Massachusetts State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. She was very excited about what they are doing with students and internet safety, and she brought back some great sample materials. The Berkshires are using NetSmartz workshops and materials to train high school students on issues of cybersafety. Those high school students then teach students from kindergarten to grade two basic internet safety lessons including:
  • Never go on the internet unsupervised
  • How to make smart decisions to keep themselves safe online
  • Appropriate internet behavior
  • The possible dangers of the internet
The mentor training will be conducted by staff from the District Attorney's office and the Massachusetts State Police. We at the BPS also hope to implement similar programs with our high school students teaching younger children about cyber safety. In the past, we have trained high school students and they have created cyber safety education materials for elementary school students. We commend what the Berkshire District Attorney's office is doing and hope that the program is a great success. If you want to inquire more about their initiative, you can find information on their website.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Will 2009 be the Year of Internet Safety?

eSchool News released its top ten most significant ed-tech stories of 2008 and 60% of them have something to do with internet safety. Six out of the top ten stories that eSchool News listed were about cases involving cyberbullying, online computer security, malware and illegal file swapping. It is amazing considering the amount of educational technological advances in the past year. The continued rise of web 2.0 technologies for educational purposes, the introduction of a slew of low cost, "netbooks", the election of Barack Obama who has campaigned about 21st Century Learning skills and frequently airs addresses to the nation via YouTube. Could this be that the media and public tend to report more on tragedies and danger, or could it be that digital citizenship and safety go hand and hand with any type of web technologies that are used by people today. How will this trend play out for 2009? eSchool has also made internet safety one of their top five stories to watch for in 2009. Specifically, How will new federal and state regulations affect internet safety education in schools?

This, I believe, is the most intriguing question related to internet safety education in 2009. Last year Congress passed a law that requires schools receiving federal e-Rate funds to teach students about online safety. Will there be a specific curriculum that needs to be followed? How will this be measured? What grade levels are to be targeted? What types of materials will the department of education provide to school systems? Will there be training available to teachers and parents about the importance of internet safety?

These are all questions that I hope will be answered in 2009.