Safe and Sound


Earlier this year, district leaders tapped me to respond to writer Tommy Peterson. Tommy researched and wrote the article (pages 28-30) that appeared in's print publication, EDTECH: Technology Insights for Leaders in Education. You can also read it online.

Below are excerpts from the article that quote me. In all honesty, I have to give thanks to the many other folks who have shaped my perspective, and teammates--like Stephanie Correa--who played an instrumental role in implementing Digital Citizenship and CyberSafety in a large urban school district.

The article title is Safe and Sound. Here are my take-aways:
  1. Thanks, in large part, to the research skills of Miguel Guhlin and his colleagues, all teachers in the [large urban district's] 91 schools now have access to the district's Be CyberSafe! online cybersafety and digital citizenship training program. Ninety-two percent of the teachers have completed the training and presented the curriculum to their students. To create the program last year, [large urban district] relied heavily on learning software and pre-existing curriculum materials, thereby saving the resources-strapped district time and money.
  2. "We borrowed liberally, and honestly, we could do it without online resources," says Guhlin, [large urban district's] director of instructional technology and learning services. "My best advice to people to build programs like these is to investigate all the free resources available."
  3. Focusing on the risks of life online for young people shouldn't blind educators, parents and policy makers to the rewards--and the inevitability--of the Internet, says [large urban district's] Guhlin. Teaching K-12 students how to be safe and secure and to behave ethically online allows them to explore an almost unlimited landscape of information and communication.
  4. "Technology exists to lock down the Internet, and in some districts, Internet access is locked down tighter than it is in China," Guhlin says, adding that he's speaking for himself and not his district. "But how can we foster freedom and democracy if we don't give kids the power to make choices and teach them to act appropriately?"

Thanks to Tommy for the interview. Here are some additional information and resources relevant to the story:

1) The large urban district implemented an Internet Driver's License program 5-6 years ago via our Library Media Services Office, which at the time was part of the Technology Department.
2) The program was replaced 3 years ago with Internet Safety Presentations available to all campuses.
3) Two years ago, the Internet Safety Presentations were replaced with a 3 prong approach to Digital Citizenship and CyberSafety that included

a) Dissemination of information to Campus Technology Representatives (CTRs).

b) compulsory professional learning experience for all instructional staff via web-based training in our District's Learning Management System (LMS) known as "ePath."

c) Lessons facilitated for students by campus instructional, professional staff with principal certification that teachers and students have participated in relevant learning experiences.

Resource Links:
1) Instructional Technology & Learning Services (ITLS) -
2) Campus Technology Representatives -
3) Digital Citizenship/CyberSafety Resources -
4) Technology Applications:TEKS -

We also discussed how important it is to have learning conversations with campus communities about the appropriate use of social media/networking rather than simply "block." We have to seize teachable moments that are created by POSITIVE uses of social media, as well as deal with the negative in ways. Technology is no longer a "privilege" to be taken away, but rather, a requirement of learning in a globally connected world. That means "suspending access" is no longer a viable response.

These new expectations for student use of technology are reflected in the ISTE National Education Technology Standards for Students (NETS-S) available online at

We also discussed brain research and how important digital citizenship is for teenagers whose brains' "impulse control" is less inhibited...this makes learning conversations that enable educators to contribute to formation of online norms and behavior that students exhibit critical. It is the equivalent of watching a student do something that may lead to trouble, but choosing not to because you're prohibited. Of course, there is a balance to be struck...for example, "friending" a student on Facebook can lead to problems for teachers and staff.

However, using social media (e.g. Facebook) with a separate school Facebook account designed for that purpose that Districts know about can be valuable. Several districts in Texas are taking this approach, including:

And, here's the Brain Research Link -

I also shared that the large urban district adapted its Digital Citizenship approach from Ysleta ISD's program with permission from Micha Villarreal, Director of Technology.

Their resources can be found online at

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


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