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Responsible social networking

Safe use of internet part of School Curriculum.

Technology changes bring upgrade to Dist. 20.

Safe use of the Internet, including responsible social networking, is being woven into the curriculum at District 20.

While widespread use of the Internet has been around since the 1990s, on-line social networks—through such websites as Facebook that link communities of Internet users—have become popular in recent years.

Many schools are scrambling to keep up with the changing face of social media.

Dudley Elementary media specialist Angie Richeson said she and others at District 20 are upgrading the curriculum to reflect the needs of 21st Century digital learners.

Within the last five years, the technology curriculum has exploded, according to secondary media specialist Lori Long .

“As a result, we need to re-adjust our curriculum to meet the needs where they are,” she said.

Technology coordinator Jo Wiggins said the district’s role is to help students understand the responsibility of social networking at a young age and continue to provide Internet usage safety guidelines.

For example, Wiggins said students are reminded that posting pictures or comments on websites like Facebook cannot be undone.

In addition, “friending” someone students don’t know can be dangerous, Wiggins said about the technology that allows people to view personal postings on-line.

The women pointed out that federal requirements mandate schools to provide an Internet safety curriculum.

“We need to do more and start earlier,” she said, noting that second graders are learning to create PowerPoint presentations.

Students also need to be media literate, they said.

Long uses a website about a tree octopus to show students what that means.

Despite the fact the tree octopus doesn’t exist, she said many who visit the website are duped because they don’t know how to look for clues to substantiate the information.

Researching the author of the article is a way to examine authenticity, she said, as well as paying attention to advertisements indicating a questionable site.

To keep students from viewing inappropriate material, Wiggins said the district is required to buy and use software that filters and blocks certain websites.

While the district has a responsibility to help students use the Internet safely, so do parents, she said.

“Parents need to know what their kids are doing on phones, computers and in the home,” Wiggins said.

Long said there are positive aspects of social networking. She uses the website Twitter for professional reasons.

“I have instant experts at my fingertips,” she said about the social networking site and microblogging service that enables users to send and read text-based posts.

She noted that many businesses use Facebook to promote and advertise.

Wiggins said new college students use Facebook to get to know roommates and other students and share information before classes begin.

Within the district, Wiggins said several staff members communicate with students online through programs like Google Docs where they can have discussions.

The site allows users to create and edit documents online while collaborating in real-time with other users.

“It keeps students involved and bridges the gap,” Wiggins explained. “It also accommodates the way they learn and prepares them for education after high school.”

Internet safety and how to social network responsibly are taught to students in all grades, she said.

“We try to prepare them in a responsible, educational manner.” Wiggins said.

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