A piece of paper made its way around the classroom. Sometimes the teacher intercepted the message, but often the note circulated undetected from desk-to-desk. This story most likely took place in the past and was a common method of communication in the days when most of us adults went to school.
Students no longer use a pen and paper to get a message to their friends — they text. Most of the time, texting is an appropriate and safe means for students to keep in touch with their friends and parents. Most students text responsibly and the most of the nearly 35 billion texts sent by Canadians every year are harmless. However, schools must acknowledge and be vigilant about the darker side of the texting world.
There has been some recent media coverage on sexting. This involves students sending or receiving inappropriate images or sexual messages. Police have laid charges against a woman in southern Alberta after investigating allegations of extensive phone calls and text messaging with two male students at a school. Even more serious are the examples of using texts to cheat on exams and bully other students. This is becoming more and more common in schools throughout North America.
The St. Thomas Aquinas Roman (STAR) Catholic School Board has an “Acceptable Use of Technology (AUT)” procedure that governs the use of technology in the division. The AUT procedure will evolve as new technologies and issues emerge.
STAR Catholic acknowledges students live in a rapidly changing technological world and we are working hard to anticipate how technology will be used properly in our schools. We are taking steps to ensure that students have responsible access to technology by limiting file size to conserve server space.
STAR Catholic schools are giving students permission to bring in their own personal electronic devices that can access the school’s wireless Internet (Each school has the discretion to allow this privilege). It must be noted that these privileges come with expectations to behave wisely. We set standards for our students to be responsible citizens in a digital age and expect our students to follow these procedures. All students and staff sign off on acceptable use agreements that outline the conditions and rules of use, which include the possible penalties for improper use.
While paper notes being secretly passed in class are perhaps a thing of the past, digital and instant forms of communications are here to stay. There is the potential for great things to be done with students’ personal electronic devices but we must all be aware that these same electronic devices can be used to cause great harm. We must be prepared to adjust to our changing communications culture.
—Maria Lentz is the chair of the St. Thomas Aquinas Roman (STAR) Catholic School Division. She also represents Ponoka on the Board. You can reach her at 780-986-2500.