District incorporates technology, teaches students digital citizenship

In an effort to further incorporate technology into the classroom and teach “digital citizenship,” the Wilton Public School District rolled out a Google Apps for Education pilot at all four of its schools this year.
The platform allows students to develop a digital portfolio of all their work up until they graduate from Wilton High School and seamlessly collaborate with their peers and teachers.
According to the district, a critical part of its work is to teach students how to build their digital profile and reputation — otherwise known as “digital citizenship,” which involves the use of real-world tools like mail to model appropriate behaviors.

Email


At Middlebrook in particular, sixth and seventh graders are able to email their peers and teachers in a “closed” email system within the “@wiltonps.org” domain, while eighth graders have been given “open” email accounts.
The “closed” accounts are more restricted, said technology director Mathew Hepfer.

“In a restricted email account, only users with @wiltonps.org email addresses can email each other,” he explained.
“No email can get to users outside of our domain and no mail can come into our users from outside the domain.”
The “open” and “closed” accounts are both archived and vaulted so the district’s Technology Acceptable Use Policy could be enforced if any inappropriate exchanges were to occur.
“All email traffic both on and in/out of our domain is vaulted,” said Mr. Hepfer, “so if there is an issue, we can retrieve any email, even if the user attempts to delete it.”
To set up and maintain accounts, the district has supplied Google with usernames and initial passwords, which the students are required to change. Students’ new passwords cannot be seen by the district or Google, according to the district.

Documents


Students’ digital works are stored in their individual Google drives, which the district reserves the right to access at any time, and all documents are archived along with the emails.
Documents that violate the law or the Technology Acceptable Use Policy will be removed, according to the district, and “in such cases, the files would be retained for examination by the authorities.”
There are school and district staff members with system administrative rights to Google Apps who can provide technical support to students who experience issues with their accounts.

Opting out


Parents may choose to not create a Gmail account for their children. However, students without accounts may not be able to log in and view some documents created and shared by their teachers or peers.
The platform requires a Wilton-based Google Apps for Education account in order to access documents on which teachers and students are collaborating, which means a student cannot access these documents using a parent’s Google account.
If a parent chooses to have a child completely opt out of the pilot, according to the district, “teachers will make appropriate accommodations for students who do not have the school-issued Google account” and “the schools will continue to communicate with parents through Edline and Power School.”
For more information on Google Apps for Education’s privacy and security, visit http://bit.ly/1sDUO58 .