I left this category as a place for me to ramble on about things I may not have covered in the other sections or to talk about items which might be of interest to someone who is not really new to technology, but stopped by here anyway.
My number one soap box item is that we, as teachers, do not, for a variety of reasons, have the training or commitment to using technology in our classrooms. There are so many "new " things which teachers are expected to learn that they may get the feeling, "This will pass. Why learn it?"
I believe it was David Thornburg, at a California Computer Using Educators conference, who said, in
essence, "The Internet is a great threat to schools and teachers as we know it. By the year 2000, 20% of the students will be home-schooled or get their education from the Internet." If you are a teacher, you need to think about what that means. In the State of California, and others I am sure, there
was a set of Technology Proficiencies a teacher must demonstrate to be given and retain a Credential to Teach by the year 2000.
Who is going to provide this training? The district with its limited funds? The teachers' associations? Unfortunately, the answer all too often is, yourself. You are going to have to take the classes, seek out the tech leaders at your school and ask questions. Learn how to use this marvelous infra-structure for you and your students' benefit.
Topic two: Proxy Servers. I mentioned these in the Internet section, but would like to revisit this important software and hardware combination. We, as teachers, are supposed to provide our students with as diverse a view of a subject and as in-depth knowledge about an issue as possible. And this is the reason for the push to get the Internet into schools.
However, just as you screen what movies, books and other items are brought into your room, the district, by providing access to the Internet, feels it must screen what material students have access to on the Internet. Hence, the proxy server. This is a computer running software, which filters sites by addresses or file content. Users are given a level of access based upon training, position and subject matter. Also, the proxy server keeps an electronic copy of every page visited for a period of time. This is called "Caching." If another student from a different school requests to go the same page, rather than actually going to that address on the Internet, the page will be displayed from the cache. This cuts down on the need for bandwidth as it is already "in" the district.
I do have a couple of concerns. First, by attempting to filter everything, a false sense of security may exist. As new sites with "new" bad things come on line, the filter may miss it. Also, what is okay for one person, may not be okay for someone else. I feel training and information about appropriate use of the Internet is important. Children need to be taught what is okay to view, download and view and what is not. Parents need to understand that, if their child is going to use such a vast resource, the district can not screen or police every page. And those student who abuse the service, shall be provided more traditional methods of getting the data needed to master the concept.