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Virginia Journal of Education

Your Classroom

Toeing the Line on
School Computers

The constantly evolving world of technology has the potential to revolutionize the way you teach and the way your students learn. There are options and opportunities out there today that were just daydreams a decade or two ago. But, like most good things, technology can be harmful if not used properly. Be aware of potential hazards, and keep these tips in mind as you use school computers:

Know the policy. Check to see if your school division has an acceptable use policy—most do. Your school system probably has spelled-out policies for both students and employees. These policies should define where, when and how long employees may use computers and network services. Read yours.

Be vigilant about content. Do not access, accept or transmit anything that can be interpreted as inappropriate, obscene or pornographic. As part of your review of the acceptable use policy, see exactly what your school division deems objectionable.

Non-commercial use only. Most school-based networks prohibit the use of their equipment and networks for commercial purposes, such as promoting a personal business.

Guard student information. All confidential student material, such as Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), grades and all other private data should be secured if it’s on your computer. Establish a password that will limit access to computers you use for confidential material, and do not share your password with others. Ask your technology staff for help, if needed.

Your public employer owns your work e-mail. So, do not send anything you wouldn’t want your supervisor, or even the general public, to see. Your school division owns and controls the e-mail system. Even deleted e-mail can be retrieved and used in a lawsuit. Do not send any private or personal e-mail through your school e-mail address.

Keep politics out of it. School computers and e-mail should not be used for political campaigning, such as promoting or opposing a candidate, or promoting or opposing a position on a ballot question. Use your personal computer and e-mail for those purposes.

Middle-Schoolers Tackle
Problems in Contest

The Christopher Columbus Awards, now in their 14th year and endorsed by the National Middle School Association, challenge middle school students to stretch themselves to come up with ways of making positive change in their communities. Teams of up to four students and a teacher/coach pick a local issue and then use the scientific process to address it.

Examples of previous winners include a team that developed an awareness campaign to educate the public about the danger of putting used oil filters in landfills, and a group of Native American girls who built a study hall on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana.

Teams that become finalists get an expense-paid trip to Disney World, where they compete for gold medals and U.S. Savings Bonds.

Deadline for entries is February 8, 2010. For more information, visit

Grants Help Schools
Line Bookshelves

The National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association are accepting applications for the seventh “We the People” Bookshelf project, through which schools can receive 17 books for young readers that deal with this year’s theme, “A More Perfect Union.” In addition to the books, schools can also receive a DVD edition of The Civil War , the award-winning documentary by filmmaker Ken Burns, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of that conflict.

The Bookshelf grants are designed to encourage and strengthen the teaching, study and understanding of American history. Since 2003, the program has given out more than 13,000 packages to libraries.

Apply online until January 29, 2010 at In the spring, NEH and ALA will select 4,000 libraries to receive the books, as well as bonus materials for readers of all ages, and the option to receive three titles in Spanish.

C-SPAN Invites Students
to Make Documentaries

What national issues are on the minds of adolescents? C-SPAN is attempting to find out through the 2010 StudentCam Video Documentary Competition, which invites middle and high school students to produce a five-to-eight minute video using C-SPAN programming.

In this year’s competition, students can choose one of the following two topics: one of the country’s greatest strengths, or a challenge the country is facing. A total of $50,000 will be awarded in cash prizes.

Entries must be original work, represent varying points of view and include C-SPAN video that supports the documentary’s topic. Judging will be done by a panel of C-SPAN representatives, along with educators.  Entry deadline is January 20, 2010, and complete program details and an entry form are available at

Summer in China?

Interested in a behind-the-scenes look at the most populous country on the planet? The Chinese American Cultural Bridge Center, an Illinois-based nonprofit organization, is offering a 2010 Educators Tour to China. Several tour options offer the experience of discovering the geography, history and culture of China firsthand, including the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with Chinese educators. Continuing education credits are available.
Tours of 12 or 15 days are scheduled for next June and July. For complete itinerary and details, visit


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