The Nueva School (Elementary)
Nestled between "Silicon Valley" and "Internet Alley," the Nueva School tackles some of the tough issues of Internet use by educating parents and students about this resource. This P-8 school serves 310 gifted students from the San Francisco Bay Area.
The Nueva School is committed to open, unfiltered access to information and educates parents about Internet use and its application at the school. This program, "Parent Internet Driving School," began as a two-hour workshop with an hour of introduction to educational applications of the Internet followed by an hour of hands-on use.
In 1996, the Nueva School developed an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) that supports the principles of its Library Selection Policy. The Nueva School does not use textbooks and develops curriculum yearly to fit the wide interests and needs of gifted students; therefore, the Internet is a necessary extension to the resources in the school's library. The AUP subscribes to tenets of the Library Bill of Rights, which states that, "A person's right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background or views."
The school also offers extensive Web-based resources created by students, staff, and parents, and offers e-mail accounts to members of these communities. The Nueva School's "Parent Internet Driving School" introduces parents to information technology and its value in supporting the school's curricular goals.
The library and technology staffs -- now the Technology, Library, and Curriculum Department (TLC) -- developed the program to help parents advance their own skills in our increasingly technology-rich world. When they come to these education opportunities, parents also learn more about the school, its curriculum, and its AUP.
The Nueva School does not teach parenting skills, but it provides the opportunity for parents to become more familiar with the ethical and legal issues facing their children in a networked society. This information helps parents discuss and make "techno-parenting" decisions.
Parents also gain a better understanding of the potential and suitability of Web-based applications for collecting and analyzing data, as well as supporting collaboration and mentoring. Debbie Abilock, the TLC Department Coordinator says, "In a information-driven driven world where four-thousand hits from a search engine is considered a 'manageable' result, parents are being expected to both supervise and guide their children without much support or advice. This generation of children are multitasking 'technology optimists' who believe that they can skim the 'Net to get all the answers they need, while their parents have -- more or less readily -- adapted to these new technologies, while finding themselves still more comfortable in the print world."
The success of the school's programs has increased technology use and supported an increase in staffing of the TLC Department. Providing all staff with a computer for their use and creating three wireless "labs" of laptops -- about 60 computers -- has been they key element in the development of technology-rich curriculum. All teachers integrate technology into their teaching, and even teachers who might not have used computers a few years ago now want additional training to support their curricula. Requests for additional training and for time to collaborate with the staff have grown exponentially.
The Nueva School relies heavily on student portfolios and products, such as Web pages or software-based projects, as assessments of student learning. "Alternative products are no longer seen as frills but as authentic demonstrations of complex learning," says Abilock.
Increased familiarity with networked technology has also opened new lines of communication between the school and families, while providing unique opportunities for parents to volunteer. Parents have demanded additional topics for the Driving School and parents now operate school-related Web pages that inform and collect input from all participants through the school's network, NuevaNet. The parent section of the school's Web pages conduct surveys on issues like homework and diversity while providing electronic hot lunch sign-up and information on learning differences.
As parents gain confidence with their own Internet skills, they can also better understand and support the curricular requirements placed upon their children. Homework assignments are posted on-line and teachers e-mail letters about ongoing classroom events and curriculum that might contain pictures or media clips of work being done in school.
Methods of supporting acceptable Internet use remain a source of contention at many schools. Local and federal policymakers and legislators continue to propose a variety of methods for curtailing unacceptable use. The Nueva School demonstrates a successful process of education and communication that relies heavily on parent involvement. Abilock states, "Only in partnership with parents could we hope to develop a strong sense of ethical and responsible behavior with our students."