Last spring, the Virginia state legislature passed a law requiring schools to teach “internet safety”.
As is usually the case, lawmakers left it to the department of education to expand on and make some sense of that vague directive.
However, in the end, it’s usually up to local school systems (like ours) to figure out the details of how to make the law work.
And that’s what our overly-large committee was tasked to do at our first meeting this week.
So, how do we teach students to use the internet safely?
The overall approach taken in most safety programs I’ve seen depends more on warning (often scaring) kids about the dangers of going online rather than helping them understand how to make good use of the web.
But is it possible to teach internet safety from a positive rather than a negative focus?
For that matter, is it even possible to “teach” internet safety at all? And shouldn’t this topic be part of the mix of helping kids use ethical behavior?
Taking a much wider perspective, how can we teach “safety” on the web without it being an integral part of the larger concept of information literacy – how to make good use of the web, not just safe use?
Then there’s the problem of who’s going to teach this stuff. Lots of adults don’t understand how to avoid problems for themselves on the web much less information literacy.
Anyway, this is just the first step for us and, as you can see, at least one of us has far more questions than answers.
My suggestion that students should be involved in creating this program from the start was not at all well received during our initial session. I’m not sure how the rest of this rant will go over.
I just hope that whatever we do isn’t based primarily on information derived from watching too many tabloid reports on Dateline.