Q. My middle school daughter’s iPod is sitting by my desk and I noticed that she got some updates from friends on Facebook while I was sitting here – how is that happening during school hours? Shouldn’t schools be preventing kids from Facebooking during the school day? Also, half the time I get on FB during the day I see that my son – a high school senior – posted something during school hours. How does Facebook fit into learning?

A. I can completely understand the parent’s frustration and concern. Students are supposed to be engaged in the classroom and not be on websites like Facebook.

A school needs to have good computer policies, including the use of a good web filter to keep students away from these web sites during regular school hours. However, even with good computer policies and a web filter in place, students still might find ways around those. That’s why it’s even more important to take a proactive approach when dealing with this issue.

Role of the teacher

teen on computerA teacher’s use of good classroom management skills in order to prevent this kind of issue is key. Good classroom management doesn’t just include walking around students’ desk and watching what they have on their computer screens. It’s really easy for students to close or minimize windows on their screens.

Simple things like how student desks are positioned in a classroom can make a big difference. For example, a teacher might consider sitting in the back of the room – as opposed to the typical teacher desk in the front of the room – to better see what students have open on their laptops. If a teacher utilizes a screen and a projector for instruction, there’s no need for the teacher to be facing students all the time. Teachers can also walk to the front when necessary.

Also, filtering systems – whether it’s a web filter, a firewall, or some kind of software filtering system – need to be in place, updated, and monitored to make sure they’re doing the job they’re supposed to be doing.

Cell phone free-for-all

One of the things that is out of our control, especially if a school doesn’t have a cell phone policy, is the use of cell phones.

These days, a lot of students have a data package on their phone service, which may also include the use of a hotspot feature, making their cell phones essentially a wireless access point. This is a good way to bypass a school’s web filtering system, as students are able to connect to their own internet connection and get on whatever web sites they might choose, including Facebook.

Unless a school bans the use of cell phones during regular school hours or asks its  teachers to keep track of any non-school devices that are broadcasting in their rooms, there’s nothing we can do about this.

Editor’s note: Kevin Jones posed this question to the tech directors at Center High School, Julio Paez and Teddy Garcia. Since the school has a one-to-one laptop program, they are very well-schooled on the issue, Jones says.

 

About our First Person series:

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