My district takes the issue of internet safety very seriously and has a number of meetings throughout the year around this subject. At the start of each year we review FERPA, COPPA and CIPA and how those would look in our classrooms. Our district AUP is extensive and references the above laws a number of time throughout. After reviewing my districts AUP I can safely attest that my district is following CIPA laws above and beyond what is actually outlined.
CIPA can basically be broken down into three sections; Schools must filter material, must monitor student activity and must educate minors on appropriate behavior. In regards to the filtration of material, my district uses a program called Lightspeed which is our brute force filtration software. I classify it as brute force because it basically blocks everything until the district comes in and specifically allows that website to access. For instance, ESPN was blocked for a while because of its repeated references to balls. As for the monitoring of students who are using the internet my district has started using a program called DyKnow. Because each of my students has their own laptop it is impossible to see everyone’s screen at the same time. DyKnow allows the teacher to sit in the front of the room and see everyone’s screen on our own computer. This allows all teachers to monitor the students and make sure the material they are viewing is appropriate. Finally, once a month during our homeroom class time students go over anti-bullying information or computer awareness training. This includes what should and should not be posted on social media sites and other smart practices with computers. These actions together clearly demonstrate to me that my district is meeting the law as outlined in CIPA.
Unfortunately my district AUP has nothing in it about using new technologies with students. When I asked one of my building technology people about this the reply was that it was up to the teacher’s discretion when using third party websites. They followed that up with a rule of thumb, if the students do not have to enter any personal information then most likely the website is fine to use. As for bypassing the filters, that is not possible. Although a number of students have figured out ways around them. If you want to use a website that is currently blocked, you need to email the district with the URL and an explanation of why you want the site unblocked. I had to do this last year with a site called blabberize, while time consuming it was not overly difficult to go through the process. I wish there was clear guidelines to follow, but again it is being left up to teacher discretion.
My district AUP is a fairly restrictive document that does try to limit the amount of websites that students can use. It also was written to apply to grades K-12, something that is not truly possible to accomplish. At my high school we don’t have to worry about COPPA because all of our students are over the age of 13 so we have more flexibility then the elementary and middle schools. That being said, the three laws together definitely try to restrict the use of new technology in the classroom, but by not concerning ourselves with COPPA we are able to introduce new technologies into the classrooms fairly easily. It is simply a matter of justifying the resource to the district, basically the same as trying to teach a new curriculum or novel in your class. If you can show the academic relevance of the material, and how it applies to the standards, then you may use the resource with no worries.