Safety Respect and Equity in the Evaluation and Applicable Use of Digital Tools

I want to leverage the value applications within digital education to enhance my work in helping children heal and grow from abuse and Adverse Childhood Experiences. Through this course, I identified three guiding values that I wanted to focus on in shaping my practice as a digital education leader. Those values were Safety, Respect and Equity. A Mission Statement that I have been developing in recognition of those values, reads:

As a digital education leader in the protection of children from abuse, it is my mission to help community leaders, educators, students and their families recognize the risks and advantages intrinsic to digital education in the prevention and intervention of abuse. For this to be significantly realized, I will aim to reflect the values of Safety, Respect and Equity in the evaluation and applicable use of digital tools and technology”.

In building this Mission Statement, I examined the protection (Safety) we give ourselves, our families, our students, and others as we learn, share, and connect through digital devices. My intention was to account for ways that we safeguard our privacy, and protect our loved ones from predators and dangers as we connect in today’s digital age.

I examined the value of Respect in two ways. First, respect as the need to promote care and consideration for cultural diversity. Second, respect as care and consideration for yourself, for others, and for property. My intention was to account for the existence of perceived misunderstandings online as a result of cultural differences, and to account for the focus of care, kindness and support we extend to one another regardless of one’s access to technology or a digital space.

Finally, I examined the value of Equity, as it relates to educator preparedness. My intention – as it specifically relates to my work – was to highlight online prevention education curriculums, such as Childhelp Speak Up Be Safe, as a key to intervening and breaking the cycle of child abuse.

Through the exploration of my Mission Statement through a Digital Ethics Audit, I interviewed John Hopkins. John Hopkins is the Chief Information Officer and HIPAA Privacy and Security Officer for Childhelp. It is John’s responsibility to ensure that the information Childhelp holds digitally is kept secure, while at the same time, the systems in place are structured and supportive to record and share information to make better decisions for clients and the organization. John must ensure Childhelp’s information systems further the mission to meet the needs of abused, neglected, and at-risk children, while complying with all applicable laws, regulations, and best practices.

In addition to his role as the Chief Information Technology Officer for Childhelp, John Hopkins also helped manage and develop the Childhelp Speak Up Be Safe prevention education curriculum. In addition to helping complete the full enhancement of this curriculum into an online learning management system for students in preK-12th grade, John helped to extend this curriculum to reach children digitally residing on US Military bases in 8 different countries in direct partnership with the US Department of Defense (DOD).

For my Digital Ethics Audit with John Hopkins, I explored the following:

  • How are electronic devices used in schools that claim to practice digital safety for their students?

As is the case with programs and services that are used at Childhelp such as the Childhelp Speak Up Be Safe curriculum and the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline, John shared that these technology/digital systems help students understand the dangers of abuse, online predators, and the risks they face through using systems like social media, certain digital apps, and even gaming systems. John shared that he believes that digital devices are valuable in helping teachers and educators collect feedback quickly, and organize that feedback in a way that will advance student learning; promote student collaboration; and help students engage with curriculum materials. However, schools need to ensure that they have control and oversight around what devices are used, the information that students are putting into and exporting out of those systems; and how long that information is stored before it is appropriately removed.

I want to continue exploring with John, how can schools fully garner control and oversight around technological devices when students have access to personal devices that are not school property. Is this achieved through greater policy? Through technology restrictions? How can a school realistically achieve this?

This led to my second question:

  • What rules should be applied to non-school devices for students such as their cell phone?

John expressed that non-school devices such as cell phones that are being used by students at school should be regulated in a way that minimizes distractions and helps enhance learning. John suggested that rules should include:

  1. Cell phones and other devices can only be used on school grounds before school, during lunch, and after school in an effort to minimize distractions from direct learning in the classroom – and should be prohibited from any other use during school hours unless approved by a teacher or school administrator;
  2. All, non-approved digital devices should remain tucked away in a backpack or locker, and in silent mode. All headphones, AirBuds or other listening devices should only be allowed before and/or after school hours.
  3. The school should adopt and enforce a cell phone policy that is sent home with the students for their parents to also review and acknowledge.

Upon reflection and feedback on this response from John, I wonder if it is possible to allow for greater autonomy within a specific population of students. In other words, should there be a goal of helping students monitor their own behavior with a device? How would such a goal be developed and achieved?

  • Are all school networks protected, and does that protection adhere to the guiding principles of CIA (Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability)?

John could not speak to whether all school networks are fully protected, but believes that every school should have a geo fence around their network; and that every school should have strong security firewalls to prevent outside entities from being able to access their data – and the data of their faculty, staff and students. He does believe in the guiding principles of CIA, but reinforces the need for strong IT support and compliance. John expressed that he believes the full need for cyber security within a school around all of the guiding principles of CIA may be a bit outside the operational budget of schools and districts.

With all schools have access to e-rate, which is the FCC’s program making telecommunications and information services more affordable for schools and libraries, I am curious to learn if e-rate requires schools to meet a standard for CIA. If they do, how is that monitored and regulated?

  • How should schools handle problem or concerning content and behavior?

John expressed that the major problems he sees schools experiencing as it relates to digital tools and the way those tools are used by students stems beyond just inappropriate use, cheating, and social behavior concerns, like bullying. John expressed concerns around student’s mental health as being one of the largest problems as a result of student behavior with technology. John feels that the subject of mental health is one that is not addressed enough. John expressed that he believes students are struggling more personally and socially as a direct result of their constant attention to online systems – like social media – and he believes that schools need to actively engage more in curriculum that supports self-awareness and social awareness; healthy relationship building; and responsible decision making online and in person. John expressed that positive – and consistent – reinforcement of these areas is critical to preventing and learning from behavioral challenges experienced through the use of digital devices.

I would like to see this area explored further, specifically around a deeper conversation associating the relationship between technology and student behavior.

  • How often is curriculum reviewed and updated to account for people from different races, ethnicities, or cultures?

John was not familiar with how often curriculum is reviewed and updated at all – especially as it relates to people from different races, ethnicities or cultures. In looking at the Childhelp Speak Up Be Safe curriculum, John acknowledged that this curriculum has been trying to get translated into a Spanish version for more than 3 years. Translating into a foreign language has taken considerable time as the team has worked to account for culture differences as it relates to direct translation of curriculum content. However, this approach does not fully account for cultural changes fully, and cost prohibitive factors are more responsible for the length of time than anything else. My encouragement to John is that it may be good to have the curriculum reviewed for culturally responsive pedagogy practices.

  • What activities or assignments are built into the curriculum to encourage students to think about different races, ethnicities, or cultural experiences?

The curriculum, Childhelp Speak Up Be Safe that John is familiar with notes that many of the activities are built in a way that promotes social learning. Through social learning, he believes that many teachers leverage those activities to encourage students to reflect on their own ethnic and cultural backgrounds and most importantly share them through the course with the teacher and the other students.

I asked John if he felt that was too much of an expectation of ownership on the student rather than the teacher or the school. He responded that though he see and agrees with my point, he does not believe that enough encouragement is placed on lesson plans to address different races, ethnicities or cultural experiences beyond the encouragement of student reflection.

  • How are major news events built into the application of student learning and community engagement?

John expressed that what he believes is one of the incredible benefits of digital tools being used in today’s classrooms is the access to major news events and how those events can be built into the application of student learning and community engagement in real time. John spoke of his support of the positive use of social media, podcasts, blogs and social interaction applications – like polling – that today’s students are using to share information on major news events and encourage action.

John also expressed his opinion that more attention needs to be placed on sourcing information and data, and its authenticity, before that information is being shared and radicalized. John expressed appreciation for youth today having a greater means than ever before to not only gather real time information – but share and act on that information in a way that is compelling for them. However, I am curious about how we can account for digital literacy; media literacy; and information literacy.

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