Big steps for school tech
Author: Richard Singleton

The first grading period of the 2012-2013 school year will occur this month. For some that might mean progress reports, teacher conferences and doubling down on homework. For others, it will mean that the routine of cacophonous alarms, caffeine-laden coffee and cold cereal have found their place back in the well-worn ruts of 2011-2012. Whether you’re facing the challenge of middling effort, the weary routines or something in between, there’s more to the unfolding school year than chaotic schedules and scuttled homework.

First, there’s the ubiquitous issue of cyberbullying. We’ve spotlighted this issue for quite some time now and we’ll continue to alert parents, teachers and caregivers as important developments arise. According to a USA Today story back on March 19, there seems to be a growing movement in many states to crack down on this modern scourge. Texas and New York, among other states, have instituted legislation to require schools to be more proactive and persistent in preventing cyberbullying.

With this rising legal interest in protecting children has also come more technological tools to help protect kids from cyberbullies. As reported by local television KTBC Fox 7, Leander ISD is taking action to give kids a technology-friendly way to fend-off cyberbullying. Using a program dubbed Talk About It, students from fourth through 12th grade are able to send anonymous texts and online messages to alert teachers and administrators about bullying. It’s yet another option in a growing array of interventions to provide kids access to trained, responsive adults.

There’s more. Leave it to the techno illuminati to come up with the next big thing in the effort to eradicate cyberbullying. On August 17, reported that computer scientists at the University of Wisconsin had developed an algorithm that scanned Twitter, combing through 250 million Tweets, learning from its searches and identifying 15,000 bully-soaked messages. Admittedly, this is just high IQ research and has no immediate, pragmatic effect on our kids’ Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, but it does signal important movement in our culture towards high level research designed to curb malevolent cyberbullying activity. Perhaps some of these researchers know the ravages of bullying firsthand.

Moreover, as the new school year reaches cruising altitude, something else has emerged from the technology horizon – BYOD – the ability of kids to bring their own device to school as educational tools in the classroom. These BYOD efforts come with a fair amount of ambivalence. Perhaps it’s one of the most compelling if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them concessions in school history, or maybe it’s a stroke of genius that will signal the dawning of a whole new way to simultaneously stretch education dollars and expand student minds. The jury is still out.

This BYOD strategy has already seen widespread adoption in many workplaces across America.

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