Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Blogging Concerns of a Parent

Parry gets hundreds of emails a day and handles almost all of them personally. From time to time she forwards one to me. Recently she received a message from a concerned parent. Her son's middle school had sent home a notice that they were going to some of their students bogging on Classblogmeister.com. She was concerned about her son's use of the Internet to post his writing.

This is a concern I hear daily from parents and teachers. I previously addressed concerns about social networking in Over reaction to Social Networking and Is MySpace a Train Wreck. In this post, I'll offer you the response I sent to the concerned parent.

First let me ease your mind about the site. It is run and created by David Warlick. I know him very well and he is one of the leading educators in the nation. The site is set up with student safety and privacy at the forefront. It is set up so that all of the postings are under the teacher's control. The postings password protected and are not public. The student accounts are created and controlled by your son's teacher. He gets to see anything and everything before it is posted and it is only available for reading and comment by people the teacher okays (usually classmates or other other classes the teacher may be collaborating with on Classblogmeister). He also has complete control over the content and can edit or delete. As far as safe blogging goes, it is probably one of, if not the safest blogging site on the web.

As far as blogging in education goes, it is my opinion that it is one of the most powerful tools available for developing writing skills in students. Keep in mind, more than 1/3 of all teens online already have personal blogs of some sort. A large number of them are at social networking sites and kids are using them without proper instruction. I fell is it important for teachers to model proper, effective, efficient and responsible blogging so that kids can learn the proper way to use this important journalistic tool.

With all that said, it is up to the teacher to use it properly with the class. While am a strong supporter of blogging in education, know David, and Classblogmeister, I don't know your son's teacher. However, I do know quite a few teachers who use his site and are doing a commendable job, both because they are modeling responsible online communication and they are putting in a lot of time and effort to do so. Setting up and managing a blogging environment for students is no easy task and it is very time consuming. All of the teacher I know using the site are very dedicated.

Finally, just visit David Warlick's blog and ask yourself whether you would want your son learning from this model or the blogs of his peers who are not getting guidance from a teacher.

I hope that helps.


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posted by Art @ 5:50 PM   0 comments

Moving Damage

In August, I changed hosting services for my web site and this blog. For the most part the move went smoothly. However, when I went back to check a few past blog entries, I noticed that some audio and picture files were lost or damaged in transit. Unfortunately, I do not have backups of some of the files. My apologies for any inconvenience.

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posted by Art @ 5:46 PM   0 comments

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Buffalo Internet Predator Roundtable

Podcast version 4.2 meg

Well, I ended the previous blog with "So long from Buffalo", but I'm afraid I have to open this one with, "Hello from Buffalo."

I'm sitting here in the airport waiting for a flight that is being delayed because Ernesto is visiting NJ right now and causing delays at Newark. Compounding that is the fact that the flight before mine is being delayed because it has tire trouble and has to wait for another flight to arrive with new tires for the plane. We just got word that that plane is now airborne. Of course it is coming out of Newark.

...and it's kind of ironic that the reason I'm here in Buffalo is because I had a flat tire on the way to the first round table.

But enough of my travel saga and on to the roundtable discussion of Internet Predaors. Conducting the meeting were:
NY Assemblymen Jack Quinn, Jim Hayes, Joe Giglio, Steve Hawley, and Mike Cole.
Roundtable speakers were:
Art Wolinsky from WiredSafety
Ed Suk the NY Director of National Center for Missing and Exploited Children,
Veronica, Robin, Jeff, and Lizabeth Block (a family impacted by a sexual predators)
FBI Special Agents Karen Ferguson
U..S. Attorney Terry Flynn
U.S. Attorney Witness Coordinator Sharon Knope
Child Advocacy Case Coordinator Candice Kopti
Erie County DA Sexual Assault Chief Roseanne Johnson
NYS Attorney General Senior Investigator Mike McCartney
Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard
Erie County Sheriff's Office Dept. Police Services Chief Dennis rankin
Erie County Sheriff's Office Detective Sue Puma
Town of Amherst Councilmember Shelly Schratz
Buffalo Police Detective Lieutenant David Mann

After opening remarks by each Assemblyman the speakers took about five minutes to introduce themselves, their organizations, and what they do that works. The members of the roundtable were impressive in their credentials and their messages to the Assemblymen. For the most part they offered solid suggestions and advice to the lawmakers.

Two themes came across consistently, namely the need for a substantial increase in education and more teeth in legislation. While everyone agreed on the need for greater education, there was a mixed message concerning legislation, which we all know often impacts education.

A parallel thread in the conversation was the number of teachers involved in online sexual predation and inappropriate conduct. It was pointed out that in many cases teachers leave on district under a quiet cloud and surface elsewhere only to be exposed when an incident reaches the police. A number or participants called for stronger regulations concerning the reporting of sexual misconduct by schools, specifically private schools. There was also a call for legislation that moves sexual contact by a teacher from a misdemeanor to a felony.

A particularly poignant portion of the program was testimony from the Block family. During the conversation Victoria talked about MySpace.com. The discussion
of social networking at that point made it clear that there was fairly wide range of knowledge of the subject on both sides of the panel.

Assemblymen, law enforcement, and social services people on the panel were all experts in what they do. They have forgotten more about their jobs than I know. On the other side of the coin is the fact that I was the only educator in the group and the perspective that I offered was one that needs to be heard.

The message I tried to get across is the fact that legislation is a double-edged sword. In their zeal to help protect children they sometimes created laws that hamper the ability of schools to educate the children in safe, responsible, effective online communication.

I cited DOPA as one such law that has the potential to undo much of the good that is being done by schools in the area of online publishing and journalism. On the other hand, the state level legislation they were trying to implement was aimed in the right direction. It was designed plug loopholes in laws that have prevented law enforcement from prosecuting predators.

Ultimately, it is the schools and the parents who will be primarily responsible for supervising and teaching children about safe, responsible netizenship. I urged them to keep that fact in mind when they draft legislation. I urged them to talk to teachers about how proposed legislation might impact their ability to make kids safer. Finally, I urged the to continue their legislative focus on the predators and assisting law enforcement in their job.

I was very glad I made the trip to Buffalo, even with my comedy of errors. The assemblymen were eager to listen and learn, I learned a great deal listening to the other members of the panel, and hopefully my message on behalf of education and the generation that will be leading us in years to come, did not fall on deaf ears.

When it comes to Internet and schools, education is the answer. Rather than legislate behavior, facilitate learning. That's the message we have to get across.

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posted by Art @ 10:32 AM   0 comments

Friday, September 01, 2006

And now for something completely different...

This was going to be a podcast, but I don't have time to record it before hopping on the plane. For those of you reading this blog for online safety information, news, or tips, you can save yourself some time. This entry is just a chronicle of events that happened to me on my last two speaking engagements. It may well stand as a monument to my stupidity, but what the heck. No one's perfect. So here goes.

Last week I was invited to participate in a two hour roundtable discussion on crime sponsored by the Republican Assembly in Carmel, New York. After a quick trip to Google maps, I saw that it was about a three hour drive, so I accepted the invitation.

The morning of the roundtable, the forecast was for rain. I wasn't looking forward to a hour drive in the rain. I headed out the door at 5:00 AM, a full five hour before the start of the event. Plenty of time, right?

Obviously, by that question, you have surmised the answer was a resounding no. I got about an hour away from home when from the rear of my car came a sound that sounded like a dozen ball bearings the size of tennis balls in the tumble dry mode.

It was raining buckets and I had no intention of getting out to inspect the damage, but from the sound of it, I thought my 1989 RX-7 convertible was history. Fortunately, because I own a motor cycle, I had to take the RV AAA policy to have it covered. That includes towing for 100 miles and roadside repairs.

I didn't anticipate any repair here, but being about 50 miles from home, the towing would be a must. AAA said I would have a flatbed within 30 minutes. An hour later it arrived.

Grabbing my umbrella, (at least something was going right) I hopped into the truck. After asking what my problem was, I told him that I thought I had blown the rear, and that I would need a 50 mile tow. With AAA RV, no problem, right?

Wrong. We were on the Garden State Parkway and all he could to is tow me off. He could tow me to his shop where I could call for another tow. (Thanks Parkway Authority.) He suggested I call AAA so that they would be there when we got there and then got out to deal with my car.

A few minutes later he had the car on the truck, but I had decided to wait a few minutes to make call because I didn't want them getting there before us. Good idea, right?

Got you this time. It was a good thing I didn't call.

When he got back in, he asked what led me to think that I had blown the rear. I told him about the sounds. He said, "You do know you have a flat, right?"

DOH!!! It wasn't the rear. I had felt absolutely no difference in the way the car handled when it was flat. I would have expected a flat a 65 mph to give some other warning other than a sound that was unlike the sound of any flat I had encountered in the past. Well, at least I wasn't going to be new car shopping.

The plan was to go back to his garage, see if he had a tire, and get me back on the road in time to make the roundtable. No such luck.

He had neither a new tire nor a used tire. By the time anything opened in time to buy one, it would be too late to make the roundtable. I called and let them know I wouldn't be able to make it on time.

I only had a donut spare and if you know anything about them, they are rated at about 50 mph for 50 miles. Once you go 50 miles on one, it is basically ready to die of old age. So 120 mile at 65 mph in the rain, was not an option.

He mounted the donut and instead of taking the Parkway home, I took to low speed Rt. 9 route and made it home and sent a follow up apology e-mail.

They were very understanding and told me that they were having a similar bigger event in Buffalo on Sept. 1, but hesitated to invite me, because it was so far away.

After thinking about it for a while, I decided to accept this invitation, but this would not be a drive. After checking flights and hotels, I didn't find any bargains, but neither would it break the bank.

I almost always fly out of Philadelphia even though Newark is a few minutes closer. I just like Philly better. Parking is easy and not three miles from the airport like Newark.

On Aug. 31, I left home at noon for a 4:30 flight and the hour and a half drive to the airport. Plenty of time even with the heightened security at airports, right?

Well, I'll let you wonder about this one as I continue to part to of my monument to stupidity.

You know how you sometimes drive on "automatic pilot" on trips that you make over and over and over? We'll that was me today. About an forty-five minutes into my trip to the airport I had reached the Marlton circle. As my peripheral vision picked up a Turnpike sign, I little voice in my head shouted in a not too friendly tone, "Hey, idiot! You're going to the wrong airport!!!"

Well, I shouldn't have any problem unless the TSA admonishment to to arrive three hours early we really true. Well, I'll try to make this short. I arrived at Newark parking lot by 2:00. It took a half-hour to get to the terminal.

I had checked-in online and printed my ticket last night. At least I could go right to security. Crossing my fingers, I stepped into the terminal, up the escalator, and toward security where I saw a line that was at least 5 or 6 people long.

The TSA agent check my ID and wished me a belated birthday (two weeks ago).

I thanked her and about a minute later, I was stepping through the metal detector. Where another agent was in conference with the x-ray operator. He asked to see my ticked and said, "Is this your bag?"


"I'm going have to check it. After you get all of your things, please step over to that table."

I had carefully planned to contents of my carry on luggage to avoid this kind of thing. What could it be? As it turned out, for some reason, the belt I had packed showed up very dark on the x-ray.

Checking the departure board, I saw that my flight had a gate change, but was on time. Even with all that I had an hour and a half to kill, or so I thought.

I stopped a Pizza Ono in the terminal and had a late lunch. Listened to my iPod for a while and rested my eye. Then I made my was to the gate and started writing this.

The flight was scheduled to board at 3:50. It is now 4:22 and the flight is being delayed with a new time of 5:30, because our plane landed in Terminal A and we are in Terminal C. They have to tow the plane over here.

If their estimate is as accurate as AAA, I might be here for a while.

Ooops... Prophetic words... I just looked up and our new time is now 5:44.

Okay, that's all for now. I'm going to save battery power and sign off now. Hopefully my next entry will be a very short one from the hotel in Buffalo.

Well I'm in Buffalo, but it's 10:00 PM and as you may have guessed, things have not gone all that well.

Right after I signed off they updated the departure time to 5:14 which made everyone happy at least until 5:14 passed and we were not yet on the plane. We eventually made it to Buffalo at 7:15.

I made it to the hotel by 8:00, settled into the room, and to my delight found that there was free internet access. I checked my mail and the found a message from Carrie that contained the attachments I had asked her to forward to the folks running the Buffalo roundtable. That meant she has sent them.

Finally things seemed to be falling into place. I was in the middle of a great roast beef sandwich when I got a call from Carrie. The email she sent to the Buffalo folks kept bouncing.

After finishing the sandwich, I located the business center so I could print out the attachments. More good news. The printing is free. I sent the first page to the printer and saw the dreaded message, Toner Low, along with the streaked printout that attested to the validity of the message.

I called the front desk. No one would be able to do anything until tomorrow. So it was back to the drawing board. Fortunately, I had a bit of experience with low toner techniques and did something I dubbed the HP rhumba. You remover the toner cartridge from the HP printer and shake it too and fro to redistribute the toner. Each time you do the dance, you can get a few more clear copies.

Eventually I eeked out enough copies to take with me in the morning. Who knows what adventures await me in the AM. Only time will tell.

It's 9:30 AM and I'm sitting in the meeting room. I made it, but not without one or two more mishaps. At the risk of being picky, I have to mention that breakfast was less than what you would expect from $9 for two eggs, toast, juice, and coffee. For those of you who know me and know that I will eat anything you can pierce with a fork, complaining about food is not something I do very often. The over light eggs were over hard and dripping in butter to the extent that the cholesterol police would put them on their ten most wanted list and I'm still burping up the garlic from the one home fried potato I tasted.

The roundtable is from 10:00 to 12:00, so after breakfast I went to the front desk to request a 1:00 check out. That was no problem except that when I tried to go back to the room to get my things for the meeting, my key wouldn't work.

After getting a new key, I walked the three blocks to the meeting and didn't even have a close call with traffic. When I got there I met Kathleen Lisson who's mail was bouncing and to my relief, it wasn't another brick added to my monument of stupidity. She told me her email was over quota.

I'll cover the meeting in my next blog and hopefully end this entry with no more than a sentence or two.

Well the roundtable is over. I just had another great roast beef sandwich and I'm waiting for the airport shuttle. So rather than wait for the other shoe to drop, I'm going to post this blog and work on the next one that will cover the roundtable which was very interesting.

So long from Buffalo...

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posted by Art @ 2:03 PM   1 comments