Technology Ethics Audit: MECHS

Report

By Ann Gilcrease: EDTC 6101

This interview focused on early college high school student safety online at Memorial Early College High School in New Braunfels, TX. The primary reasoning behind the ethics audit is the current disconnect between new and old staff, coupled with the relatively small campus size. This left a sizeable gap in my, a new staff member, knowledge of the protocols and precautions at a district and school level. 

After a thorough conversation with an anonymous campus employee, I have come to conclusions about the integrity, communication, and collaborative elements that could be improved. The results of the ethics audit fall under the umbrella of the ISTE standard 7a: Inspire and encourage educators and students to use technology for civic engagement and to address challenges to improve their communities. I will attempt to focus the results by the remaining ISTE standard and the Mission Statement categories.

Interviewee: Anonymous

Interview Date: 11/10/2020

Report Reviewed: 11/13/2020

Student Demographic: Early College High School Students (choice school) in Central Texas

COLLABORATION – 7b: Partner with educators, leaders, students and families to foster a culture of respectful online interactions and a healthy balance in their use of technology.

With regards to collaboration, there is a clear disconnect between the decisions made by the district and the campus, the administration and the campus and amongst the educators on campus, with regards to digital citizenship information and coursework. There is a lack of shared resources, planning, and implementation on all levels of the district with regards to what students are supposed to understand about digital citizenship at the Early College High School level. At this level of communication, I recommend implementing a task force at the district level to connect and appoint technology specialists at each campus in our district to vertically and horizontally align digital citizenship criteria based on the ISTE standards, as well as criteria created by individual campuses based on need. It is important that there is alignment across the campus, but we must also recognize the years spent in a technology-lacking mindset. If we focus our efforts in the College and Career avenues, the need for technology will be apparent, thus the need for digital citizenship classes to supplement student knowledge and safety online will start to be seen as essential. By focusing on the end, we can define the pathways to get there.

INTEGRITY – 7c: Support educators and students to critically examine the sources of online media and identify underlying assumptions.

Integrity should underscore every move we make as a district, and our assumptions about technology have become apparent over the course of this audit. Historically, technology use has been limited for our students district-wide, and the rapid implementation of 1:1 computers was a direct result of the Coronavirus response. If it had not occurred, our students would still be entrenched in a district with limited access to the requisite tools for success in today’s digital workplace. The conservative aspects of the community mindset have held the students back in technology development, including access to computers, equity in access to the internet necessary for remote learning, coding, robotics, and the hiring of new tech educators to further their student’s education. There are missing links to resources for professional development and growth for both students and teachers that is a direct result of an entrenched mindset. There is a clear lack of integrity in that district and campus leaders are not being honest with their students or themselves when they deny the advancements of the digital age because they are hearkening back to a ‘better time’. If they do not embrace the changes that were made necessary by a pandemic and enhance them for future growth and development, their young adults will be left behind by society. It is time to put time, attention, and funding behind the future, not the past.

COMMUNICATION – 7d: Empower educators, leaders and students to make informed decisions to protect their personal data and curate the digital profile they intend to reflect.

Communication lies at the bedrock of the issues that plague the district with regards to technology, its use and usage, and its relevance for our students and staff. There has been a clear understanding for years that we are a ‘pen and paper’ district, with a real focus on keeping computers and their many uses out of our schools. With the influx of COVID-19, that was no longer an option, and the majority of our campuses had to make an overnight change. From busses providing hotspots to the reinvention of curricula so they can work online, I was not here for those changes, but I am here for the start of the new school year under entirely new conditions. It has been stunning observing the continuing efforts to discredit the importance of technology in the hands of our students, as well as the denying of its role in their future. The communication between the district leaders and the teachers has not been a two-way street, so decisions are being made about the classroom that have not been run by, or included, teacher input. This creates results that are what neither party wants, and to bridge that lack of communication, I recommend the immediate implementation of a technology task force to engage technology specialists on each campus to provide communication that moves up the ladder from teacher to principal to district leaders. In order to empower our educators, to help our district team make informed decision so that our students are able to have a culture around technology use that includes a safe, future-focused approach to their online presence, we must build collaborative spaces for conversations to take place around digital learning. We can no longer rely on individual teachers to provide guidance without administrative and district supports in place. It must be a cohesive, collaborative effort. 

ISTE STANDARDS

7a: Inspire and encourage educators and students to use technology for civic engagement and to address challenges to improve their communities.

COLLABORATION – 7b: Partner with educators, leaders, students and families to foster a culture of respectful online interactions and a healthy balance in their use of technology.

INTEGRITY – 7c: Support educators and students to critically examine the sources of online media and identify underlying assumptions.

COMMUNICATION – 7d: Empower educators, leaders and students to make informed decisions to protect their personal data and curate the digital profile they intend to reflect.

Questions:

COLLABORATION

  1. What concerns have come about regarding online student safety and security? (7b, 7c, 7d) 

We are insufficient in being able to block the use of messaging and discourse services – we do have bullying going on campus that we can’t control bc they are on their personal devices. We have had situations in the district where students have hacked the LMS (Google classroom/Gradebook/Websites). 

  1. Is anything off-limits for our students online?
    1. They’re not supposed to go to sites that offer explicit content or shop while on campus. They are not supposed to use their personal gmail/email accounts on the district computers. They have limited ability to download on school devices (not on personal devices). 
  2. If there were, what are your thoughts about that?
    1. Where I see guided practice and monitoring of technology in learning as important, I also see that students are not using the equipment for the right reasons. They’re not researching, they’re not doing science. They’re playing games (group games between classes) rather than students working on assignments, such as Among Us, Open-source, warfare games. With those types of things, we don’t have a way of restricting those actions on devices unless we can physically see what they’re doing. There is a need for a perhaps limiting the use of access to personal devices during classes. This is because they are not using their device in a constructive manner. It diminishes the learning/discussion/collaboration time in class bc they’re doing things they’re not supposed to be doing. Multiply all of that because of the remote situation. 
    2. I used to have software called “labview” that used to allow me to monitor their screens, but due to cost constraints, the district took it away. 
  3. We have a district that is inconsistent with the technology that is used from one platform to another. Some computers are PCs, older models with limited capability for expanding, Macs, iMac, Macbook Airs, etc. We have remote students who have limited access to technology were issued chromebooks – which limits access. Are we pushing them towards google docs? microsoft office? for college readiness.Is there a person you personally go to who could answer any digital citizenship inquiries that you might have? 
    1. The process for online bullying/inappropriate use of technology usually goes from the discovering teacher to administrator to assigned technical specialist. They pull data from the history so they can see the websites. They try to track it through the network, research it, run a list of URLs that the ID has logged into. They have the capability to find proof to support any kind of disciplinary action. 
    2. There is no consistent digital citizenship curriculum for the district. It’s all based on policies in the student code of conduct. THIS IS IT. This has shown us the inequities between our varies parts of the district as far as access to the district. We don’t have a plan to mitigate that. They put wifi on busses and put them in certain places – but that’s a short-term fix, not a long term. Also, having multiple users for a single device in the household makes it extremely difficult for students to be successful. 
    3. Who do the teachers turn to, usually, when they have a digital citizenship question? All of the technology CTE classes we teach the same curriculum (those are elective, so not everyone has them). It’s going to go from the teacher to the admin. staff. We have a help desk at the district office that teachers can put a ticket into. There is a way to rush it – high priority, low priority – typically takes 1-2 days. That’s any maintenance issue – teacher laptops, ipads, cow carts. 
    4. The technical materials that were provided by the district for the teachers were both inadequate and there was limited training on how to best implement it in the classroom. 
    5. Then, there’s the question of remote learning. Is it asynchronous or synchronous? We were told this summer that it would be synchronous, but then they said that they want asynchronous. This meant that they wanted us to record lessons and teach live and remotely at the same time. The training wasn’t geared towards secondary – it was obvious from the spread of training that they were geared towards the primary, not the secondary. Then they expected the teachers that were not in ECHO to use Google Classroom with limited to no training. 
    6. Having to adjust to a PBL model with ECHO – there has been limited training available for teachers. 
      1. If it is the students, how has that played out so far? 
  4. Do you think that the digital revolution will change how the teacher-student relationships will be perceived in the future? 
    1. It has to be because the teacher will become less relevant in the classroom. For that to survive, there has to be some kind of change. In my opinion, students perceive that they can just look up something in the classroom and don’t want to listen. We need to go from ‘why am i learning this’ to ‘tell me more.” We need to make that transition.
    2. If I hear relevant in the workplace one more time. The minute something is printed, it becomes irrelevant. Interpersonal dynamics are going to have to become more important in the classroom. 
    3. What are the implications of such a shift?

COMMUNICATION

  1. Do you have a clear understanding of the digital arena in which our students live in at school? What is your perception? (7a) Yes – I feel as though I am very much aware of their reliance on the various online platforms. That they monitor them throughout the day, regardless of whether or not it is personal or school-related. 
  2. Do we have a firewall? We have filters at the district level for certain URLs, however, any student who has their own VPN can circumvent those firewalls and have access to any site. That is only for personal devices, but on school devices the websites are blocked. Personal phones/computers can get around it, and they do. 
  3. Is there a designated IT person who monitors it? At the district level we have a monitor by student ID number, logins, and they routinely monitor usage in the computer labs. They notify teachers if there are students on inappropriate sites and the students have the Online Student Code of Conduct. If they’re found in violation of those rules, they can lose complete access to the internet on campus – no devices, etc.
  4. If there was something you could change on campus that would help our teachers and students in the future with their understanding of our technology and its use, what would it be? (7a)
  5. Do we have digital citizenship classes that they take to better understand their online role in the classroom? (7a, 7b, 7c, 7d)
    1. If so, who teaches those classes?
      1. They have them in middle school – usually 6th grade but they don’t revisit it unless the elective teachers. We do not have any set content developed from the district.
    2. If not, do you think we should? Yes
    3. Where do you see those classes being the most effective? 
      1. When should those be taught?
        1. Middle school and early years of high school. That’s when the habits are formed and they learn what is considered acceptable. 
  1. As the College & Career Advisor and teacher, do you think it is important for me to take on the digital identity piece of digital citizenship? (7a,7b,7c,7d)
    1. That is vital for kids to understand the footprint they will leave and how that will affect their future. Employment, College admissions, banking, personal finance, safety
    2. Who would be a better fit for this role, if anyone? 
      1. It would probably be most effective through your class because you’re helping students plan for the future career and they need to be aware how the decisions they make will impact them in the future. Long after they graduate.
      2. Are there collaboration options? 
        1. Yes! I think that any class that uses technology as its centerpiece should include cyber security, online safety, and the concept of being digitally responsible. But we don’t get all of the student, so it doesn’t cover it 100%, so it should be built into every year. 
        2. What is your vision for our students as they learn how to control their digital persona?
          1. I think that students don’t typically use or are aware of the positive platforms that could help them in their future, such as LinkedIn or more professional level association memberships or places they could apply for industry specific jobs. Those types of things should be integrated throughout their high school experience. 

INTEGRITY

  1. What are the ethical implications of our students not having a coding class? (7a) 
    1. Given the fact that most modern, mechanized technology requires some form of coding/language support. Students should learn the basics of code. 
    2. Are we seeing it playing out in the overwhelming robotics interest? 
      1. At least on our campus, the exposure to robotics is limited because our teaching staff are not abreast of the latest technology and workplace systems. So, students don’t get a good exposure to what those industries are or how they worked. We can’t hire people because they’re making so much more money elsewhere. 
    3. Do you think there will be a shift in public perception of the importance of understanding technology in the New Braunfels area in the future due to the realities of the present? 
      1. I think that the conservative culture of this community is going to restrict the people from fully embracing what technology has to offer us. They don’t want acknowledge the science behind wearing masks. Technology use is going to be scrutinized. 
    4. How do you think that lack is going to affect their job prospects in the future?
      1. I think that it will push our students to leave the community after graduation, which will not bode well for us economically. 
  1. What role do you see technology playing in the future? (7a, 7c, 7d)
    1. I see technology playing an essential role in everything we do. Schools need to prepare for that.
    2. In the future for our students?
      1. Our students are resilient, and as much as technology will be an embedded part of their lives, they will have to learn the skills necessary for change. That’s what we do here.
    3. In the future for our teachers?
      1. Our teachers will have to adapt – retain what works, learn the rest. It will be a tough transition, and I don’t see the number of new educators going up. 
    4. In the future for individuals in the workplace and in everyday life?
      1. Everyday life will look so different from what it looks like now that I hesitate to even speculate. Another loaded question. 

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