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Keeping Students Safe Online

NetTrekker d.i.—a company that provides an educational search engine for schools—recently released its list of top 100 school districts that keep students safest as they search. The title of the rankings is somewhat misleading, as the criterion for determining the safest school district was based solely upon the amount of time districts spent using the netTrekker software, but it does point to an overall trend in ed-tech to keep students safe online. As students become more and more plugged in and technology savvy, teaching them how to use the Internet appropriately is becoming a bigger issue for everyone—including educators.

This past year, Virginia became the first state to require Internet safety to be taught at every grade level. Since then, proposals in many other states have called for similar action to be taken. I'll be reporting on the status of this trend for the next issue of Digital Directions, and I'm sure there will be interesting tidbits to share once the story is up, but for now one thing is clear: Internet safety is a high priority for schools, and numerous products have cropped up to help schools fill that need. Whether or not those products are successful in teaching kids what they need to know about Internet conduct is yet to be determined, but I'm sure the technology has evolved a great deal since I was in school.

Back then, the idea of keeping students safe online meant blocking any Web site that had words which would trigger the Internet filter. In addition, all social networking, blogging, and e-mail sites were blocked. Pardon the possibly overused metaphor, but to me, that sort of feels like taking a hatchet to the Internet, where we could really use a scalpel.

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