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District Trains Students to Be Safe, Civil in Digital Era

Students in Modesto, Calif.'s Ceres Unified School District will begin training in online etiquette and how to stay safe.

by Nan Austin, The Modesto Bee / September 21, 2015
A Tennessee student remotely manipulates a research-grade microscope at a March 2015 Global Environment for Network Innovations Engineering conference in Washington, D.C.
(TNS) -- The Internet opens the world to eager students, but the world has its perils. With high tech come high expectations about teaching kids online etiquette and raising their cyber-street savvy.

“You don’t just get the keys to the car. You have to learn the rules of the road,” said Chris Higle, head of information technology for the Ceres Unified School District. “Digital citizenship is really teaching kids how to behave online,” he said.

Topics high on the list of IT concerns include cyberbullying, ever sneakier ways to cheat, or simply understanding that not everything read on the Internet can be believed.

“Vetting the credibility of research, not just using anything that’s out there,” is part of the package for high school students, said Dan Pangrazio, principal of Central Valley High School in Ceres.

All students who work on computers at schools, whether they take devices home or just use them in a lab, get training. Such training is required as a condition of receiving federal E-rate funding to improve broadband access and as a common-sense precaution against legal liability.

Beyond the have-to factors, however, tech administrators say it has become part of a basic education, what kids need to know to be safe and civil in this new era of digital existence.

What is taught, however, varies district by district. Much is available, and every administration has to prioritize time spent.

Modesto City Schools has cute animations for its younger students, and what IT Director Jim Gain calls a video mashup for junior high and high school students. As a sign of how students sometimes get ahead of the teachers, Gain noted he disabled the fast forward and other functions to ensure kids watch the presentation.

The nonprofit Common Sense Media has created a curriculum for digital citizenship. It also certifies districts. For 2014-15, Manteca Unified was the only district in California  certified by the group for its tech etiquette procedures.

“By preparing our students to use technology safely and responsibly, we are providing them unlimited opportunities to maximize and personalize their learning,” said Manteca Superintendent Jason Messer.

©2015 The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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