Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Technologically Challenged?

Luddite: An individual who is against technological change. Luddite comes from Englishman Ned Lud, who rose up against his employer in the late 1700s. Subsequently, "Luddites" emerged in other companies to protest and even destroy new machinery that would put them out of a job. A neo-Luddite is a Luddite in the Internet age. Source: Computer Desktop Encyclopedia
Sometimes I fantasize about life without computers, cell phones, and IPods. Like Henry David Thoreau, I dream of a simpler time before Al Gore invented the internet and Steve Jobs invented the IPods. No, I am not really a Luddite or even a neo-Luddite. I confess to having two cell phones and broad band internet at home. No IPods yet though but only because I get XM over the internet. Ten years ago, I had none of these accoutrements of the Digital Age. Now, they feel indispensable. And like any good thing, they have a dark and troublesome side which is the topic of this week’s chat.
Cell phones, MP3 players, and IPods: The student policy handbook clearly explains our policy on the use of cell phones, MP3 players and I-pods on page 8.
Cell phones may be used during lunch outside the school building. IPods and MP3’s may never be used on campus. Lately we have seen a rash of lost or stolen devices. I know this because when a student loses a device, s/he writes an announcement requesting its return. This lost/found process has become a big distraction for us in the office and we are no longer going to announce missing devices. Students have been clearly advised that such devices may be brought at their own risk. As the handbook states: The school assumes no responsibility for the theft of recovery of cell phones. If a student feels his or her device was stolen, the proper course of action is to notify Officer Steve Aldredge and complete a report. Officer Steve will investigate and if a student is found to have stolen a device, he will report it to the principals who will take appropriate disciplinary action per the school discipline matrix. Again, I remind parents that it is the child’s responsibility to keep track of cells and IPods. We aren’t against any of these devices like old’ Ned Lud would surely have been. We just want to make sure they don’t distract the child from getting a great education.
Internet Bullying: Does your child have a My Space page? Do you know what’s on it? Did you know some students use their page to threaten and bully others? I had several students in my office on Thursday over threats and allegations made on just such a page. The students were angry at another student over an incident at school and published their threats on line. Thankfully, a concerned parent forwarded the pages to Officer Steve who brought them to my attention. With the children present, I phoned the children’s parents and asked her if she knew what was on her child’s page. I then asked the child to read to her parent what she had posted on-line. To say this was uncomfortable for the student would be an understatement.
Parents, I bring this to your attention because some kids are using the internet and text messaging to bully other kids. You may remember the recent case of a Midwest teen who committed suicide after being bullied by a girl half a continent away. As I recall, prosecutors sought to hold the bully’s mother culpable for her daughter’s actions. We want to avoid anything like that here at Taylor. Please talk to your child about this. If you don’t know how to get to My Space, learn how and check it on a regular basis. Bullying is bullying is bullying. Help us stamp it out.
On the whole, I believe we are having a very productive and instructive school year. Some examples of this include:
• Students’ proficiency on the RACED writing process is steadily improving.
• We are bringing back student lockers next semester.
• We are working to implement pre-AP strategies in more classes this year.
• We are considering pre-AP classes in math and language arts next year.
• We have purchased digital projectors and “Elmo’s” for almost every classroom and we have purchased digital “clicker” systems for all science classrooms.

We still have room to improve and this is where we continue to stress the importance of our partnership with you as parents. We really do value your suggestions, phone calls, and emails. And while sometimes I daydream about living in a one-room cabin on the shores of Walden Pond disconnected from technology, the here-and-now challenge is to make sure our students use technology in a way that is safe. Let me add this proviso: the vast majority of our students are using technology safely and much of the credit for this goes to you, their parents. Thanks for your ongoing support during this hectic season. I hope to see you at the upcoming musical performances next week!

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