Now 1:1, more online safety coming to schools

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When Noblesville Schools students return Aug. 1, each will now have an iPad at their disposal.

Sixth-grade teacher Sarah Cocks works with a student using an iPad. (Submitted photo)

Beginning this school year, the district is completely 1:1 from kindergarten through 12th grade. Students in kindergarten through third grade who are receiving an iPad for the first time will not be able to take it home. Students in grades four through 12 will still use iPads as they have in the past.

With the influx of devices, Noblesville Schools’ technology department also is working to increase students’ online safety.

“Online safety is a big topic, and obviously it has to be a partnership between our parents and schools and teachers,” said Andrew Swickheimer, directory of technology at Noblesville Schools. “On the school side, we do a lot of work educating our teachers with their curriculum because obviously we want digital citizenship, online privacy, safety, security and all those topics to be naturally embedded into the classroom.”

Elementary students in the district rotate through a technology class, just like music, art and physical education classes. Swickheimer said the class serves as an added dose of digital citizenship and safety.

“Students are learning about it with their general education teacher and in their technology class,” he said.

For teachers, in addition to becoming educated themselves, monitoring tools play a large part in making sure students are safe online and using the iPad only as a classroom tool.

A new monitoring tool, Bark for Schools, which keeps an eye on Google applications like Gmail, Google Talk, Google Docs and Google Drive, also will be introduced this year.

“(It) will monitor our G Suite environment,” Swickheimer said. “G Suite is the primary office productivity environment we use, and so all of our administrators are now going to be able to monitor all of that.”

Additional work also is being done to enhance filtering through YouTube SmartPlay, which helps prevent inappropriate YouTube content from reaching the devices.

Swickheimer

The district always has monitored what students search on school-issued devices.

“If a student is searching something that would be a red flag, like suicide or anything threatening or bullying, it alerts our administrators,” Swickheimer said.

“With 1:1 iPads, there’s a tool called Apple Classroom where our teachers can monitor what each student is doing,” Swickheimer said. “They can see their screens, lock them into a screen, distribute content to a student’s device, or, if a student is off task, they can disable their device for a period of time.”

The district also is compliant with the Children’s Internet Protection Act of 2000, meaning through its technology department, inappropriate is content filtered out on student devices at home and at school.

“We have Apple Classroom, Bark for Schools, safe search queries, CIPA-compliant filters and YouTube SmartPlay, and when you pair that up with the education and training that we do with our teachers and students, we have a lot going on,” Swickheimer said.

Swickheimer said parent involvement also plays a vital role in keeping students safe online.

“We always try to do parent outreach,” he said. “We have a Parenting in the Digital Age online course and a whole section of our website with resources for parents. We have a newsletter parents can subscribe to where we send out bi-monthly tips and tricks on how to make sure they’re keeping kids safe at home. We’ve had a lot of events at our schools, too, which we do every year. Last year, we hosted a viewing of the documentary ‘Screenagers,” and we also hosted a social media night in the spring with our parents and secondary administrators. We’ve also had parent safety meetings at all of our elementary schools.”

Online safety seminars and events have not yet been scheduled for the 2018-19 school year, but updates can be found at noblesvilleschools.org and will be communicated to parents when they are set. To learn more about online safety in the schools, visit noblesvilleschools.org/technology.

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