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CNN Today

NetSchools CEO Discusses Bringing Internet Ethics Into Classrooms

Aired June 16, 2000 - 2:35 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDRIA HALL, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now to share his insights on bringing Internet ethics into the classroom is Scott Redd. He is chairman and chief executive officer of NetSchools Corporation. And it's a company that places computers in schools right here in Atlanta.

Thank you for being with us, Mr. Redd.

SCOTT REDD, NETSCHOOLS CORPORATION: Delighted, Andria. Thank you.

HALL: This is a touchy issue. And I'm a parent so I understand, you know, how sensitive it can be. But at NetSchools, how do you folks deal with really teaching the kids responsibility?

REDD: Well, we were talking before, it is every parents' challenge as to how you're to balance this. But as you look around, and there's been a lot of publicity, obviously, about the sort of downside. But you really look at some of the recent surveys -- for example, National School Board Foundation surveys -- you find that most parents and most students are very positive about the use of Internet.

And so what we do at NetSchools is, in terms, specifically, how we deal with this -- and we take a very holistic approach to technology. So we give the teachers and the administrators and the parents the tools they need to allow -- to control the environment and allow the children to learn to use technology, but use it properly.

HALL: Now, when you say "tools," you mean like parental controls on the Internet?

REDD: It's a bunch of things. What we do -- and you need to understand it's a holistic approach. What we do is every child gets a laptop computer, but so does every teacher and administrator. And it's a laptop they take home. They can take it to, you know, classroom to classroom, they take it home. We have the standard -- we provide the standard filtering tools, if you will, for the school, but we also bring the parents into it. We teach them how to use the computer, we have an acceptable-use policy which the school puts out. And so, as you know, you can go back and -- a lot of technology can help, but at the end of the day, the parents are going to have to be very involved, and they are. HALL: Well, here's my challenge: I have a 12-year-old daughter and she wants her own screen name. But my theory is, I don't have to worry about the Internet and her getting into trouble if I just don't give her her own screen name. I'll just control it from my end. Am I being a little too rigid on this issue?

REDD: I would follow Ronald Reagan's arms control thing, in my own language, which is trust but verify.

HALL: OK.

REDD: It's probably time. She's getting to the age. But, again, there's a tremendous benefit, which is what we found, which is the real message, if you will, from Carmen Arace where this new paradigm which is, every child having his and her own computer is making a tremendous difference in terms of education. That's the positive side of this.

HALL: But, you know, Scott, you have to remember we are talking about kids. Kids typically are not necessarily the most responsible individuals on the planet. And so you're asking them to just simply say no to certain areas that can be tempting: people coming into a chat room. And, you know, I just wonder if we're not asking a lot of our children in terms of their own personal responsibility.

REDD: Yes, you're right. In fact, most of the polls show what people want from educators today is two things: They want to keep the children safe and they want to improve their achievement. And so the way to do that is to bring -- again, technology offers a lot of help. It does not answer all the questions. You can do things, for example, keeping -- lets say using filters, that sort of thing.

When you put it altogether, though, with the teachers, with the parents, you can come up with a pretty strong deterrent effect, if you will, to keep the kids, you know -- kids in line. And there are lots of ways you can do it. You can restrict their access, for example, to the Internet, which is what we do. A teacher in a NetSchools school, for example, just presses one key to turn off the Internet, can turn off e-mail, that sorts of things. Some schools restrict Internet use to certain sites. And as they get more comfortable with it, they allow wider access.

HALLS: And here's the real challenge: You're asking for children to be responsible in an act that pretty much is private, as if no one is looking.

REDD: Well, but see the difference is this: Through technology, you can go back, again, because in a NetSchools situation, every student has his or her own computer. So you know who's using a computer, you go back, you can check and see what Internet sites they've been on. There's an acceptable-use policy which the parents sign up to, and you put all that together, plus the controls which the teachers have and the administrators have, it's pretty effective. But you've also got to remember the positive sides. What you need to see there -- we saw there in that film clip, in that classroom, they have had some incredible results in terms of increases in test schools, decreases in disciplinary problems, 80 percent drop in suspensions. And you know why that is, Andria? It's because the kids get excited. They've got their own computer and they're connected to the teacher; controlled but connected to the Internet. They take it home, it becomes the paper and pencil of this generation...

HALL: All right, all right, Scott...

REDD: ... and it all works.

HALL: ... you've given me pause to reconsider this whole issue of the screen name. I thank you for being with us from NetSchools Corporation here in Atlanta, Scott.

REDD: My pleasure. God bless you.

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