It was reported by the Australian news agency ABC that 80 students at a high school – Prairiewood High School in Sydney’s south-west.
The students were suspended for accessing and using teacher computers to access blocked online materials – namely facebook and twitter.
This raises several questions for me regarding the teaching and modeling of Digital Citizenship within the school.
The Core three aspects of digital citizenship are:
- Looking after yourself (respecting and protecting yourself), which includes personal safety – passwords
- Looking after others (respecting and protecting other), Which includes social responcibility
- Looking after property (respecting and protecting Intellectual property)
To teach digital citizenship you must also model it. The staff needed to protect their passwords and access to their computers. Did they have a policy that saw the passwords changed regularly? Was anyone monitoring the use of accounts to check use or abuse? Being a digital citizen means the students are expected to behave in a suitable ethical and moral manner, but its not realistic to let them have unfettered access, there MUST BE MONITORING AND SUPERVISION. How do EIGHTY students gain access to and use passwords – How was this not noticed before it reached this critical point?
The students did not access illegal material like pornography or change school records, rather they communicated and collaborated using social media. Interesting huh. Not porn, just talk. Why are sites like twitter and facebook blocked when many students will have access through their smart devices (iphones etc) to them. In many ways this, blocking social media on the school network, is trying to patch holes in the dam when its collapsing. Controlling access to social media by use of smart rules like time based filtering is a better solution and allows you to monitor who is accessing social media, where and when. This brings this activity into the open, rather than being clandestine and allows monitoring.
While suspending the students is sending a strong message, the number of students involved is indicative of a systemic failure, who owns this problem? The students who took inappropriate advantage or the school that by their action or inaction allowed them to reach this point
Here is the article
“Eighty students at Prairiewood High School in Sydney’s south-west have been suspended for illegally accessing a teacher’s internet account.
A statement from the New South Wales Education Minister says the students logged into the teacher’s departmental computer account to access sites like Facebook and Twitter, which students are not allowed to view from their own accounts.
The statement says no illegal, pornographic or student record material was accessed, but police were called.
The 80 students have been suspended for four days.
They will have to attend a meeting where they will be warned by police about the criminality of accessing computer material without authorisation.
All Prairiewood High School teachers have now changed their computer passwords and have been reminded about following appropriate IT security measures.”