Friday, September 21, 2012

e-Rate and CIPA 411: What Schools Need to Do

e-Rate and CIPA. Not terms that the average classroom teacher would be overly concerned with or knowledgeable about.  I know when I was in the classroom, I knew only what was shared with me regarding my responsibilities as an educator with my students on the Internet.  I should have known more. I should have done more. Hence, the reason for this breakdown for educators.

What does this all mean for schools? What do we need to do to ensure our students are receiving the proper instruction regarding Internet Safety? I've looked high and low, and there isn't a canned, one-size-fits-all Internet Safety Curriculum out there...nor should there be. That's up to schools and their Tech. Coaches or Technology/Curriculum Directors.

Let's break it down:

1. What is e-Rate?
The e-Rate program provides discounts on certain services and products that are essential for classrooms to receive voice, video and data communications.  The amount of the discounts varies, depending on the poverty level and location of the school. Discounts range between 20% and 90%, based on students eligible for free and reduced lunches.  In early 2001, the FCC issued rules implementing CIPA and updated those rules in 2011.

2.  What is CIPA?
CIPA, or the Children's Internet Protection Act, was enacted by Congress in 2000 to protect children from accessing obscene or harmful content while on the Internet.  CIPA imposes requirements for schools and libraries that receive e-Rate discounts for Internet access or internal connections.

3.  What does my school need to do to receive this funding?
In general, elementary and secondary schools are eligible to receive discounts. This includes many private and religious schools as well. 

Schools must certify that they have an Internet safety policy that includes protection measures for students using technology.  These protection measures must block or filter access Internet images that are: (a) obscene; (b) child pornography; or, (c) harmful to minors (on computers that are accessed by minors).
Schools subject to CIPA have two additional requirements:
  1. Internet Safety policies must include monitoring online activities of minors, and
  2. Schools must provide for educating minors about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with others on social networking sites and in chat rooms, and cyberbullying awareness and response.

4.  How does that get done?
Schools need to determine how they will meet e-Rate regulations.  As of July 1, 2012, schools receiving e-Rate funding must somehow provide internet safety instruction. 

Technology Integration Coaches, or Curriculum Directors for those schools with no Tech. Coach, can curate materials and resources for teachers to integrate into existing lessons that require Internet use.  It doesn't necessarily have to add more to our already-bursting-at-the-seams curricula, but it is our responsibility to find ways to educate and protect our students from potentially harmful choices and teach them to be positive, digitally literate cyber citizens.

For more information about CIPA and e-Rate legislation:
e-Rate Simplified

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