Web 2.0 Roadblocks
Security remains the top concern for schools as they adopt new technology.
If we're going to fully embrace Web 2.0 technologies—and all signs say that we need to do just that to remain competitive in the global marketplace—then we have to make better rules. That's the message from "Digital Districts: Web 2.0 and Collaborative Technologies in U.S. Schools," a recent survey of nearly 400 technology directors by Interactive Educational Systems Design. While districts report using both teacher- and student-generated online content in greater numbers than in 2009, when the survey was last conducted, security issues are standing in the way of more rapid adoption, especially when it comes to online collaboration, social networking, and game playing. More than half of respondents named students' safety as a barrier to online collaboration and student-generated content, and about a third voiced concerns about monitoring appropriate use. There is less resistance to teacher-generated content, with 76 percent of districts saying that more than a quarter of their teachers publish content online, and 55 percent plan on promoting teacher use of Web 2.0 technology.
Still, it's clear that we need to work on getting Web 2.0 in the hands of students—and do it in the safest way possible. One possibility might be more widespread adoption of technologies that can be controlled and monitored within schools. While 82 percent of schools reported talking with students and teachers about Internet safety, only 52 percent use technologies with monitoring capabilities. Another recommendation made in the report is for districts to look for technologies with simple interfaces so they can spend less time on how-to training and more time discussing instructional use. "If new tools are easy to learn," the authors conclude, "teacher acceptance is more likely."
Majority of Schools Face IT Threats
A recent survey of more than 100 tech directors by Panda Security found that 63 percent of K-12 districts have had at least two security breaches in the past year. The survey indicated that some of the security breaches could be due to the use of personal devices. A surprising 15 percent of schools take no security measures with personal phones and laptops.
Cheating Debate Rocks D.C.
Washington, D.C., schools continue to be at the center of a scandal surrounding high levels of erasures on standardized exams. The problem was first flagged in 2008. A security firm paid to investigate concluded that the big jump in test scores was "plausible." But a recent expose in USA Today compared the erasure rates to those at other districts and interviewed teachers who say the scores and kids' abilities don't match up.
Michigan Gives Away Personal Data
When two Bloomfield, Michigan, parents requested, under the Freedom of Information Act, a list of school employees who make over $100K, they didn't expect to receive the employees' social security numbers and personal data. But that's what happened to Chris Mellin and Pradeep Mehra. The parents quickly informed the district of the error and destroyed the data. The district has promised every employee a 12-month insurance policy against identity theft.