Dear Subscribers:This week - for Part 2 of a series on a Southwestern US school district's Internet evolution - we spoke with fifth-grade teacher Challis Ireland about how she uses the Net in her classroom. Don't miss her students' own comments! Here's the lineup for this third week of February:
- George's rules
- School & the Net: Challis Ireland's fifth grade class
- Web News Briefs: Major study on Net's social impact; DoubleClick & user privacy; Attack software disclosed; Uncle Sam seeks advice; IT 20somethings….
- Book review: Parenting with the Internet
- Subscribers write: School filtering, children's Net use
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In honor of the first US President's birthday, this week a little social history. Our thanks to HomeworkCentral for pointing us to the 110 "Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation" from young George Washington's school lessons. Written before George was 16, the manuscript containing these rules is found in one of two volumes of school exercises in the US Library of Congress's collection of George Washington's papers. "These maxims were so fully exemplified in George Washington's life that biographers have regarded them as formative influences in the development of his character," writes Charles Moore, who published a book about the rules in 1926.
Some of the rules are timeless ("Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Ce[les]tial fire Called Conscience."), others are not ("Spit not in the Fire") but, all together, they might give history students a picture of the ideals that shaped the thoughts and lives of America's founding fathers and mothers.
If you and your students use George's rules in the classroom, do tell us about it - via firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Internet in Ms. Ireland's class
Challis Ireland is one of Madison School District's MICE (Madison Incorporating Computers in Education). The MICE are a group of tech-literate teachers created by Jodie Neihardt, staff development specialist for this district of seven elementary schools in suburban Phoenix, Ariz. This second installment in our series about Madison's Internet evolution focuses on how one "mouse" is using the Internet to teach everything from standard curriculum requirements to typing skills to cultural awareness. Don't miss what the students themselves say about their Internet experiences.
Challis and her fifth-grade homeroom class have simply taken off with one of MICE's first projects, called "Global Connections", a US Education Department-sponsored program. She and a few other teachers from the district went to a conference last year and were teamed up electronically with teachers in Ireland and Taiwan to figure out how to use email between their classrooms to teach students about each other's cultures. "We spent the next three days working up a concrete idea," Challis told us, "and we came up with a newsletter format.
"What we do is, once a month the kids report on things that happen here - in our nation, at the state level, the city level, and in our school," she continued. "What we have found is that, if they talk about local things, they can relate to what's going on globally - things that impact kids. Our first topic was biography - the students' own interests, hobbies, and so on, things the kids love to learn about with each other."
We asked her what this report that they send to their overseas email-mates looks like. "My kids are big on collages," she told us, "so we take a couple of weeks of headlines from USAToday and the Arizona Republic and put together a collage. I scan it, and then we email it out. At the bottom we send a news summary we've written. This month [our topic] is national customs. My kids went online and found a Hallmark-type place and sent electronic valentines [to the classrooms in Ennis, Ireland (a small town north of Dublin), and Taipei, Taiwan], and explained what we do for Valentines Day. We'll also take digital pictures of what we're doing - like playing kickball. The kids in Ireland got a kick out of seeing us wearing shorts in November."
The students love to read the news they get back from overseas. "They'll check my email three to four times a day to see if Ennis has responded," Challis said. Even if the Ennis teacher just emails to say why her class couldn't get to the newsletter that month, the explanation - with all that it says about school life in small-town Ireland - fascinates Challis's students, she adds. (See what they have to say about this.)
Challis's classroom has six student computers and one teacher computer. Her computer monitor is projected onto a big screen visible to the whole class ("They can see everything I do on the computer," she said, "which really helps them."). The class's other Web projects include simulated stock portfolios and a class Web page, which has the students' favorite links and links to sites they use for research and current study projects (Challis also teaches languages arts, science, and math). The Web page has a number of purposes, including giving parents easy access to what's going on at school (teacher's notes tend to get lost in transit, Challis said). This, she said, is actually one of the Internet's biggest benefits to her as a teacher.
The fifth graders' stock portfolios are a tool for teaching fractions, percentages, and decimals. Students are divided into teams, and each team is given a pretend portfolio of $100,000. "The first thing some of them do when they come in in the morning is check how their stocks are doing." The Arizona Stock Market Simulation is affiliated with the National Council on Economic Education, which has a presence in 48 states. Challis's five teams are among 10,000 teams in Arizona alone (there are five teams in every classroom in her school).
Technology is certainly not all her students do. Five of them, for example, will soon have their poems published in the Young Americans Youth Poetry Anthology, she told us. Challis has seen a lot of progress in her students' computer and Internet fluency, she says, not to mention in spelling, typing, grammar, Net etiquette, critical thinking, math, research, communication skills. It's giving them a sense of independence, too, she said. When something goes wrong with their computers, they know how to troubleshoot and don't come running to her with every little problem. "It's really just broadened their horizons," she told us.
Teachers, send us your own stories about using the Net in the classroom - what have you found effective and why? We learn a lot from your input, and we think your peers might find it very useful, too.
In Part 3 in our series, we'll look at the Internet in Mrs. Montag's second grade class.
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Web News Briefs
- Major study says the Net isolates
A significant new study about the impact of the Internet on society was released this week. The research, conducted by professors at Stanford University and the Free University of Berlin, indicates that the Internet is eating into time Americans spend with family and friends. The survey of 4,113 adults found that 55% of Americans have Internet access (43% of US households) and, of those, 36% say they're online at least five hours a week. The study zoomed in on these "regular Internet users. The New York Times suggests the study will stir controversy because many Internet users say the Net enhances and expands their experience of community. In its Thursday morning headlines, National Public Radio reported the survey data itself might be "tainted." Here's the Associated Press's brief report on the study, via Compuserve.
Meanwhile, another survey, cited by CyberAtlas, found that the number of US households with Internet access will nearly double to 90 million by the end of 2004 (there are a little over 100 million households in the US right now). Another source we use, NFO Interactive, says 66% of households will be connected in 2002.
- The DoubleClick privacy milestone
Remember our report about Net ad agencies reducing the privacy that some health sites can provide users? Well, since then the user-data-gathering practices of DoubleClick, the world's biggest Internet advertiser, have been getting a lot of attention not only from the media and privacy advocates, but also from federal regulators. The story's worth watching because DoubleClick has become the focus of the debate; we're probably going to see some sort of progress as all the dust settles. USAToday reports that DoubleClick is trying to defuse criticism by showing users how to "opt out" of having their surfing patterns tracked (via a DoubleClick-run site called PrivacyChoices.org) - and is heavily marketing this option with a big banner-ad campaign. Privacy groups are not a bit impressed, Wired News reports. The New York Times refers to "indications in Washington … that the Clinton administration, long an advocate of industry self-policing in matters of online privacy, is losing patience as the gathering of personal data grows more pervasive."
As for investigations of DoubleClick, CNET says the Federal Trade Commission is investigating the company "for its practice of collecting dossiers on consumers." (The FTC has also begun an inquiry into healthcare sites' privacy practices, CNET reports.) The New York Times reports that Michigan and New York State are also investigating. Michigan is accusing DoubleClick of violating its consumer protection laws.
- Attack software disclosed
There have been plenty of followup reports on last week's cyberattacks on major Web sites (see our lead news brief on the story last week). One interesting one in CNET is about how many attack programs there are floating around the Net, complicating the job of security experts who are trying to fight the malicious programs. A programmer familiar with attack software this week told experts about three new attack programs, CNET reports. They're a type of software called "distributed denial of service" software. According to CNET, it "harnesses the collective abilities of a [whole bunch] of computers to swamp a target computer by inundating it with packets of information sent over the Internet." Meanwhile, cyberattackers have now shifted their focus to large sites in Latin America, reports the Associated Press via Compuserve.
- Uncle Sam seeks advice
Many ideas for "cleaning up" the Net for kids have been floated. Wired News published a brief looks at two efforts in the works. One in the US government will be considering all the options - maybe even coming up with new ones. The National Research Council is looking for volunteers to join an advisory council that will look at how to protect kids from inappropriate content. It's seeking expertise in everything from developmental psychology to e-commerce to image recognition to religion and ethics.
The other Wired brief was about the idea of creating an online "red light district" - segregating sex sites from the rest of the Internet by creating a separate top-level domain such as .xxx and not allowing them to register as .com's or .ent's (the new designation for entertainment sites). Net Family News is aware of at least one lawmaker who is considering introducing legislation that would require segregation of sexually explicit content, based on a ratings system. We're not sure how effective such a law could be in this global medium. But what do you think? Would segregating and clearly labeling sexual content help protect children? Do email us your thoughts.
- IT twentysomethings
If you or someone in your home or classroom is interested in what info tech jobs look like from the inside, here's a fun piece. ComputerWorld talked to several young IT professionals about what they expect from their jobs and why they like working for large corporations.
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Book review: Parenting with the Internet
Last time we reviewed a parenting book by an Internet specialist; this time an Internet book by a parenting specialist. Well, that's a slight oversimplification. There's an Internet specialist involved in this one, too. Early childhood educator and parenting columnist Evelyn Petersen is only half of the mother-daughter team that authored "e-Parenting: Using the Internet and Computers to Be a Better Parent" (Sams Publishing, 310pp, $17.99). Her daughter Karin Petersen, Web designer, is the other half.
"When Macmillan USA approached me with a proposal to write about e-Parenting," Evelyn writes, "I knew I could not do it without Karin's e-World perspective, any more than she could write a parenting book without my perspective of 40 years experience in child development, family life, and education."
That seems just the right approach to a book about the Internet. It reflects what the Net is demanding of people in most professions and activities, including parenting (and we think it's one of the medium's strengths): collaboration, a pooling of skills and interests, and inter-dependency. Internet expertise is a collective, often a grassroots, thing. It's enriched when it draws from various perspectives - students and teachers in school, colleagues and departments in businesses, and parents and children in families.
And, as the authors have seen, we need to figure out what role the Net can play in families because of its increasing presence everywhere else! The Petersens write, "More and more resources, services, and businesses are moving to cyberspace; e-Parents need to know their way around cyberspace to get what they need or want for their families."
The authors show parents how to use the Internet as a tool to nurture self-esteem and teach self-discipline, responsibility, critical thinking, and other important life skills. There's also a chapter about how to preserve family traditions in new ways, and there are plenty of parenting-resource Web sites reviewed (complete with URLs).
The book is available at its publisher's site, Sams Publishing, as well as at both Amazon.com and BN.com at 20% off. Evelyn Petersen has her own Web site, maintained by Karin Petersen. The site contains an archive of Evelyn's columns, answers to parents' questions, and a link to her college-level early childhood class on the Internet.
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In response to our feature last week on how Madison School District worked through the Net-filtering problem, subscriber Steven in Oregon gives us another school's perspective:
"I read your article about filtering at the schools. We had a similar situation at our schools, and the filters worked well at school, but once the kids learned how to use the tools at school, they wanted to use the Internet at home too. So this left us on the hunt for a good solution. We found the best solution for us was a package called CleanNet, which was a proxy server with CYBERsitter software that included Internet access as part of the package. In addition, we were offered a fundraising deal that, if we would offer CleanNet through the School PTA, we would get a $10.00 donation for each package sold. The CleanNet package includes unlimited 56k Internet access with CYBERsitter software through a filtered server for $19.95 per month. That's the same I was paying for my old standard access."
From subscriber Cecilia, mother of two in Missouri:
If these children are sitting in front of the television, as opposed to being on the Internet, I think that is a sad thing. The Internet has many excellent sites for children to explore and learn new things. However, if these children are outside, interacting with family, reading, playing sports, music, or enjoying a hobby, I don't think they are missing out. On the other hand, young children who are online without filters or parental involvement are in a potentially dangerous position, the same as if they walked down some unknown downtown street somewhere without an adult with them. I don't think children should have access to chat rooms without parents with them, because a lot of children don't realize that even if someone says they are 12, it doesn't mean they really are, or that if they email a picture, that is really who they are.
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That does it for this week. Have a great weekend!
Net Family News
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