Oct 12 2006

Tools To Help Keep Your Individual Safety

An identification system that tracks entry into our schools serves a vital function yet it’s still possible to provide security while respecting our students right to privacy.

Today’s society considers individual safety a paramount issue. Law enforcement has responded with technology tools to help monitor public spaces with the hope of minimizing criminal activity. School is one place where heightened concerns about safety and the rights of our children intersect.

This issue’s cover story, “Tracking with Technology” (p. 18), details how schools use electronic identification, fingerprint recognition, instant messaging and electronic surveillance tools to keep campuses and schools safe for both students and staff. But some technology implementation programs present additional challenges to educators because of concerns about how student information gets shared and with whom. In those situations, it’s critical that schools understand and create privacy guidelines.

The National Education Association advocates that schools create clear usage policies to protect students’ personal information. Pare nts, students and school staffs can also augment their Web sites with priv acy guidelines. Educators may also consider teaching students about t heir privacy rights. Students should be taught about their rights in a way that helps them understand how to protect their own privacy.

As school populations continue to grow across the country every year, the importance of appropriate ID validation systems for entry to schools is essential. One school system highlighted in our cover story discourages students from cutting classes because teachers can track those who may have entered school but did not show up to their scheduled courses.

Our cover story also shows how technology helped Dorothy Crenshaw solve a tricky problem in the Indianapolis school system. As the director of telecommunications and instructional media, Crenshaw put together a technology platform that made it easier to purchase school lunches. While the students use their ID cards to purchase the mystery meat special and get research for a term paper, the technology helps obscure the income disparity between students. Some s tudents in the Indianapolis Public Schools get reduced cost or free lunche s but with a new card-swiping system in place, no one knows who pays and who gets a subsidy. It’s impossible to calculate the importance of this project in return on investment terms, but surely small efforts such as this factor into the measurement of success at this school.

In a recent conversation with Mark Victor Hansen, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Teacher’s Soul: Stories to Open the Hearts and Rekindle the Spirits of Educators, we talked about teachers like Ms. Crenshaw, who go the extra mile to look out for the best interests of their students and schools. There are lots of stories out there about educators, who deserve our admiration. Unfortu nately, talk of the problems in our sch ools sometimes overshadows s mall victories such as these.

In Hansen’s “Reinvigorating the Teacher Story” (p. 50), he reminds us that sharing our recollections of the teachers that have changed our lives is critical to our collective success. CDW•G’s Ed Tech is glad to be a part of that goal. I hope you’ll enjoy this issue about educators that make a difference in our children’s lives.