Legal and Ethical Issues

Steve Hiner * Feb 19, 2018 * CUR/545 * Rochelle Kolhouse

Bridging The Digital Divide in Columbus City Schools

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Dealing With Inequity

Our district, the largest in Ohio, is tasked with providing the best education possible for over 51,000 students. We have expanded our Pre-K program and now have all-day kindergarten. We have 110 schools in various configurations. We have K-5, K-6, and K-8 buildings. At the secondary level, we have 6-12, 7-12, 9-12, and even one 11-12 school. How do we make sure students in all parts of the city receive the same access to technology and the same instruction?

Copyright, Fair Use, Creative Commons

All teachers and students must follow copyright laws. This can be difficult as technology continues to grow and laws change. It is important to keep up with the changes to copyright laws. Teachers can avoid copyright issues by finding lessons in the public domain, which can be seen as "a major engine for further creation and innovation" (Bitton, 2011, p.5).

Using Creative Commons (CC), students can create a copy of an original piece of work and make their own changes to it. Students enjoy using CC and it encourages them to share knowledge (Liu, 2014). This platform helps ensure that credit is still given to the original author(s).

FERPA and Other Technology Privacy Concerns

We must make sure that as students surf the Internet, their data is kept safe. Laws such as The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) exist to protect student education records (Young, 2015, p. 562). It is outdated, however, due to the speed at which technology improves. We must decide as a district what student information we need online and what information can be kept in-house only. Otherwise, we risk outside groups gaining access to student information.

Another concern is on the instruction side. We must teach our students that they should assume that everything they post online will be seen by everyone. Even when privacy settings are set on Facebook and Twitter, etc., there is no guarantee that their information will not fall into the wrong hands. They must be very careful about what they post.

Plagiarism and Academic Dishonesty

Students needs to be taught about the pitfalls of plagiarism. They may feel they found a great shortcut to an assignment when they see someone else has written a paper on the same topic they need to write on. However, teachers know their students' writing and can distinguish it from that of other people.

Teachers can run the paper through an online service to find out if the paper has been plagiarized or not. If we are truly preparing students for college and beyond, then they must learn how important it is that they do their own work and cite sources when necessary.

In addition to making students reliable researchers, addressing plagiarism helps students see what they know and don't know and work hard towards achieving professional standards in their writing (Bethany, 2016).

Access for All

One final issue to look at: what do we do for students with no computer or Internet access at home? Here are a few suggestions:

1. The district should go 1:1 on Chrome books for students and allow them to be used at home.

2. Low-cost Internet access can be provided for $10 a month. The district could pay this fee for the highest-needs students. Grants can be written and sponsored programs can be examined.

3. The district should look into adding wifi to school buses and parking them in high needs areas on nights and weekends as the article below on CNN discusses.


I am convinced that our students can safely and effectively use the Internet and other technologies to improve their education. We can take steps to protect them online while allowing them to express their creativity and enjoy themselves using their individual skills.