Parents' FAQ

Parenting Issues

Q

How can I work with my child to promote safe online behavior?

A

Every family is different and develops its own set of principles and practices for addressing all the challenges and opportunities technology presents. Regardless of the values you hold dear or the level of access to electronic tools present in your home, good communication with your child is paramount in navigating issues of control, moderation, trust, privacy, and wisdom when wrestling with decisions about media and technology.

Be frank with concerns you have, and for privileges you extend, expect cooperation and responsibility in return. Give your child some say in reaching decisions, and make sure you are clear about what your child can expect from you and what you expect from him or her. Choose your battles carefully, and remember that it is difficult to develop good judgment in children if they are not given appropriate opportunities to exercise it.

Keep in mind also that you can only control so much; with the ubiquity of mobile devices a fact of life these days, the boundaries between home and “not home” have become very porous. The result is that your child is, or will be, under unrelenting pressure to make good decisions about media and technology use. You should start early and often when it comes to having conversations about the upside and downside of adopting any new form of technology. You also need to be aware of what capabilities and features are included in devices you or your child purchase.

One of the best resources available to you as parents is the Common Sense Media web site at http://www.commonsensemedia.org. The site offers reviews of web sites, movies, video games, iPhone apps, books, tv shows, music, and most other forms of media. They also provide information about issues of digital literacy, including online safety, commercialism, media stereotyping, home content filtering, and other salient topics in an objective, concrete way that many parents find very helpful.

Another valuable resource is a blog entitled Media! Tech! Parenting! written by Marti Weston, a long time friend of Lab and K-12 technology veteran. Ms. Weston’s advice, information, and concrete tips for parents are well worth your time.

Other sites generally recommended in the K-12 arena include these:

http://www.safekids.com/
http://www.wiredkids.org/
http://www.staysafeonline.org/
http://www.netsmartz.org/index.aspx
http://www.wiredsafety.org/

Of course, web sites and blogs are helpful, but please know that there are many real people here at school who are already helping you address these issues with your children. Computer Science teachers, Information Systems staff members, advisors, teachers, and administrators work directly with your children here at school, both in formal classroom settings and informal contacts, to support and extend your work as parents in keeping children safe and savvy when using technology here and at home.

Topics like how to handle cyber-bullying, the risks of sharing personal information online, copyright infringement, plagiarism, and other relevant topics are addressed in different ways at different times during your child’s education here at Lab.

Feel free to contact any of us with specific questions or problems when online resources don’t give you the help you need.

Q

Should I block or filter my child’s Internet access at home?

A

Again, every family is different and what works for one family may not work for another. Blocking or filtering at home is a personal decision. In general, though, filtering software will be most effective for very young children because it keeps them from accidentally accessing inappropriate content.

As children get older, they will either find ways to skirt your filtering system, go to someone else’s house, or use their cell phone to go places about which they are curious.

Including your children in setting reasonable boundaries for their online experience is perfectly appropriate. Reasonable boundaries balance privilege with responsibility; as trust is earned and shared, boundaries can expand. When trust is damaged, it should be built back up again – from both sides of the parent-child relationship.

Perhaps the most challenging conversations will center around the level of privacy you are willing to extend to your child’s online activities, particularly as they enter adolescence. Couching these conversations in the larger context of the relationship you share with your child will help; to the extent that you can link technology issues to other areas of family life and the boundaries you’ve created to keep your children safe, the easier it will be to naturally extend those principles and practices to online activities. Above all, your child needs to understand that privacy is never absolute online, and that he or she gives up all control over content they share once it is posted or sent.

Teaching and Learning with Technology at Lab

Q

How is technology used to support the Schools’ instructional program?

A

Teachers at Lab have a lot of freedom in choosing tools that support their teaching practice. A combination of student needs, teachers’ technology skills, available tech resources, the content being covered, and the developmental level of the child all factor into any teacher’s instructional decisions about technology.

Hardly any teacher uses no technology at all. In preschool classes, teachers take many photographs on digital cameras to help capture a sequence of events in time, recall a shared group experience, or develop childrens’ cognitive ability to link a two-dimensional object depicted in a photograph with a three-dimensional concrete object. They often share these photographs on the Garbanzo server with parents in that class.

In the primary grades, you might find students exploring mathematical concepts using an iPad application, learning the basics of keyboarding, group editing a story together on an interactive whiteboard, sharing images of three-dimensional objects or book pages on a document camera, or creating illustrations to accompany their own stories in Kid Pix. Absent classmates on trips or extended illnesses visit the classroom on Skype.

In the Middle School, students use Comic Life and iPhoto to create electronic comic strips about copyright issues and safe online behavior. They engage in Humanities web quests on class sets of laptops and access digital renderings of primary source materials from all over the world. Handheld GPS devices are employed at 6th grade camp to teach orienteering and wayfinding skills. Music students find new ways to practice on SmartMusic software either at home or at school.

In the High School, the Fathom statistics software displayed on interactive whiteboards allows students to dynamically manipulate statistical variables to discover how each relates to a given data set. Science students analyze data gathered from sophisticated probeware, while English students may log in to a wiki to discuss and edit work together. World Language students share and record conversations that can be downloaded to iPods using innovative Language Lab software. Freshmen take a mandatory Computer Science class that gives them a solid grounding in the fundamental principles of computational thinking.

The variety of ways technology is used here is better experienced than described. When you attend teacher conferences or open house presentations, ask your childrens’ teachers about technology and how it’s used in the classroom. While it’s unlikely that you will get two answers that are the same, you will get answers that are well thought out and reflect the distinctive nature of Lab teachers and learners.

Q

Who teaches computer classes, and what is taught?

A

The Computer Science Department teaches computing classes in the computer labs in each school. In addition to computer literacy, the department also teaches students the academic discipline of Computer Science. The CS Department and Information Systems Group are separate entities with different reporting relationships, though the two groups communicate and collaborate actively.

Q

What school computer resources are available to my child?

A

File storage
All students in grades 5 through 12 are given file storage accounts on the file server. There is a limit of 250 GB. These accounts are accessible from home using both Mac and Windows computers and are a good way for students to keep track of their important files.

When Lower School teachers request them, a shared class folder with a common password can be created for student access while at school.

Student E-Mail

Middle and High School students are automatically given school e-mail accounts. Students can set up these accounts to forward to other accounts they may already have. Students are encouraged to use their school e-mail address for school-related tasks. They should protect these addresses from spam harvesters by not posting it to world readable web pages or using it to conduct personal business. Effective, appropriate mail server security and spam filtering measures are in place and updated regularly; they catch over 90,000 unwanted messages per day, though users can expect occasional spam messages to sneak through.

Computer Access

Thanks to the generous support of the school community, students have access to a great many computers each day.

There are 4.5 stationary computer labs available. Lower, Middle, and High Schools each have full computer labs of 24 workstations. The World Language Lab contains 33 computers for language instruction use, and 5th grade homerooms share a half lab.

Rowley Library also has numerous computer workstations, and 30 laptops are available for student checkout for use in the library. Blaine Library has 15 iPads available for accessing the online catalog.

There are full class sets of laptops in each of the 7th and 8th grade Humanities classrooms; the 6th grade Humanities team shares a set.

The Science Department shares a set of 15 laptops. The Math Department shares one set of 24.

There are also four carts of 24 laptops each that any teacher may reserve for delivery and pickup by the Information Systems Group. These are heavily used each day.

The Music Department also maintains an Electronic Music Studio with pro-quality tools.

Audiovisual Resources

Over 90 classroom and meeting spaces feature built-in LCD projector or flat panel display systems with integrated audio and DVD playback capabilities; 18 of these are Promethean interactive whiteboard systems. Three class sets of handheld response systems (“clickers”) are also available. Many a/v systems include a document camera for sharing projected images of three-dimensional objects. Math classrooms in Middle and High School contain standalone (i.e., not wall-mounted) interactive whiteboards. There are also three mobile LCD projector carts available for checkout for the relatively few spaces still lacking permanently installed a/v systems. IS teams with Facilities to support and troubleshoot these installations.

Peripheral Devices

There are over 80 networked printers and multi-function devices in the school. Students bringing their own devices to school can print to most of them.

Many teachers are assigned digital still cameras, with small “Flip” cameras increasingly popular for capturing video. Many teachers also use iPods in the course of instruction, and iPads are working their way into Lower School classrooms. A variety of microphones, headsets, audio speaker sets, scanners, and other typical such devices are found in classrooms and offices as well.

Software

Each school-owned computer is equipped with a robust selection of software programs for personal productivity, content creation, and curricular integration, including iLife, iWork, Microsoft Office, Adobe’s Creative Suite, Geometer Sketchpad, Comic Life and many more.


We keep current on new operating system releases from Apple, though migrations are timed to be least disruptive to school operations and tailored to the specifications of computers in service.


Many online subscriptions are available to Lab students and parents, including Atomic Learning software tutorials, TumbleBooks, Grolier Online, Culturegrams, Grolier Online, Encyclopedia Britannica, BookFlix, and many more. See the library website for more information.

Q

Can my child bring a laptop to school?

A

Yes, from 6th grade on up. Different teachers have different practices about using computers in class, so you and your child should investigate beforehand. In common spaces like lounges, the cafeteria, and libraries, laptop use is welcomed when used for school-related purposes.

Please keep in mind that students are responsible for securing their laptops at school. No matter who owns the computer, all activities on the school’s computer network are governed by the Laboratory Schools and University of Chicago’s Acceptable Use Policies and may be monitored.

Q

Can my child get on the wireless network with a personally owned computer?

A

Yes, if he or she is a student in good standing in grades 6-12. A username and password called the CNet ID must be created since the University operates the Schools’ network; the CNet ID is their method of authenticating. Students should visit the Middle or High School computer labs for help with this. They can also set up their computer to print to school printers with advice from the same teachers.

All use of personally owned laptops on the network must conform to the Schools’ and University’s Acceptable Use Policies.

The IS Group does not support personally owned computers, but will help students troubleshoot connectivity issues with the University network when they bring their own devices to school.

Q

Can it be a Windows laptop?

A

Yes, but be careful to take proper antivirus and other security precautions. The University’s IT Services group will prevent the laptop from accessing the network if it presents a threat to other users and/or the network.

Q

Do I need to buy a laptop for my 6th-12th grade child to use at school?

A

At present, there is no requirement for students to bring laptops or other networked device to school each day. Some families choose to buy them, and students may use them with the conditions noted above.

Q

What about other wireless devices?

A

Rules vary from school to school. Please check with school administrators and/or student handbooks before going online with the iPod touch, “smart” phones, iPad, or other wireless devices. Students may not create wi-fi “hot spots” that piggyback on the University network.

School Operations

Q

Can Lab School parents use the wireless network when at school?

A

Not generally. The Laboratory Schools’ voice and data network is owned and operated by the University’s IT Services department, who determines who is eligible to use the services they provide.

The terms of the University’s Eligibility and Acceptable Use Policy (EAUP) restrict network use to University students, faculty, and staff. Lab School parents not affiliated with the University are not considered eligible network users. If parents are affiliated with the University and have a CNet ID, then the network at Lab is open to them as it is anywhere else on campus.

The Director of Information Technology, designated as a Trusted Agent on the University’s behalf, can extend limited, temporary network access privileges to parents for specific school-related purposes that comply with the Special Users provision of the University’s eligible user guidelines. When such access is authorized, it is for school-related activities only and, in keeping with University policy, will be discontinued when those responsibilities cease. Kindly contact the Director of Information Technology for more information. For doing personal business online while at school or on campus, we recommend you contract with a wireless broadband service provider.

Q

Who supports Lab School technology?

A

The Information Systems Group, led by Director of Information Technology Curt Lieneck, is responsible for the overall operation and direction of Lab’s computing efforts.
The IS Group is currently comprised of 10 full time employees who manage approximately 1,050 computers, 14 servers, a web site of 15,000 active pages, several dozen administrative databases, 120 audiovisual installations, 80 printers and multifunction devices, and about 300 peripheral devices, including still cameras, video cameras, iPods, microphones, headsets, external drives, and more.

The IS Group does not support personally owned computers, but will help students troubleshoot connectivity issues with the University network when they bring their own devices to school.

Voice and data networking services are provided to the Schools by the University’s IT Services group. Lab School IS staffers act as liaisons with UC IT when communicating about voice and data networking needs. The Schools’ main servers are also housed in a state of the art data center managed by the UC IT Services group.

Information System staff members are hired as much for their interpersonal skills as their technical expertise. We pride ourselves on being able to communicate effectively and transparently; a healthy working relationship with school stakeholders is essential to serving the school community with distinction. We welcome your input, feedback, compliments, and constructive criticism on our efforts.

Q

What is Power School?

A

PowerSchool is the Schools’ student information system. At intervals prescribed by each of the schools, progress and grade reports are made available to parents in a secure online environment to help save paper mailings. High School students also do course registration online in PowerSchool in the winter quarter.

The Schools do not display teacher gradebooks online. Technical limitations of online gradebooks don’t mesh well with the broad array of assessment strategies at Lab, making them difficult to use effectively. There are some broader philosophical reasons the Schools choose not to do this as well, which readers can pursue with school administrators if they choose.

If you already have a PowerSchool username and password but have lost or forgotten it, please contact the main office for the Lab school division currently serving your child.

Q

What is LabNet?

A

LabNet is the Schools’ web portal solution. It provides a password-protected web presence that can only be accessed by current Lab Schools students, their parents, Lab alumni, and school employees. Teacher home pages, school groups, athletic teams, student clubs, and school community members others wish to post content protected from the world at large use LabNet to do it. To access LabNet, users must have a LabNet ID, available from the Schools’ webmaster.

Q

Why does Lab use Apple computers?

A

Apple’s stable operating system, intuitive interface, and superior software design and integration make it a good choice for a creative, open-ended curriculum like the Laboratory Schools’. Matched feature for feature, Apple’s prices are competitive; a number of reputable studies show a lower TCO (total cost of ownership) at the enterprise level for Apple than Windows-based alternatives, due in part to Windows’ greater exposure to invasive worms and viruses.

Q

About School Mailing Lists

A

Internal school mailing lists are for school business only and may not be used for commercial purposes or publicizing community events not sponsored by the Schools.

The Assistant to the Director works with the Parents’ Association Communications Coordinator to distribute Parents’ Association e-mail messages on a scheduled basis. Messages sent to all parents or subsets of parents are managed by the Office of the Director so as to avoid repetitious or overly frequent deliveries.

In Lower School homerooms and Middle School advisories, an informal e-mail class discussion list is managed by parent volunteers using a server called Garbanzo, which is supported by the Information Systems Group. Similarly, those lists are used for school-related communication only and not for publicizing commercial or social events or services not sponsored by the Schools.

The printed school Directory includes parent and student e-mail addresses people have chosen to share in printed form. They are not to be culled for creating mass mailing lists for any reason.

Q

Does Lab use images of students on the school website or promotional material?

A

Yes, as long as students are not identified by name or as otherwise specified in the Schools’ Web Posting Policy. Families who do not wish to have any image of their child(ren) posted on such materials can opt out by writing a letter to that effect and submitting it to the Office of the Director, who will in turn disseminate that information to the appropriate personnel.

Q

What school policies apply to those who use school and/or University technology resources? What happens when these policies are violated?

A

Students and adults in our school community are expected to comply with The Schools’ Acceptable Use Policy, as well as the University’s Eligibility and Acceptable Use Policy..

Though these policies apply to more technology-specific behaviors, students are also expected to comply with applicable policies regarding general behavior as set forth in school handbooks when using computing resources.

When violations of school and/or University policies take place, they are handled much like any other kind of rule or policy infraction. Specific consequences vary with the age of the child and the nature of the violation. The role of technology staff is to provide Deans, Principals, and others directly responsible for student discipline with technical information related to possible or actual violations of school policies and/or state, local or federal law.

Q

Does the school block or filter web content?

A

No, not generally. There have been a handful of special occasions when a particular site has been blocked temporarily in certain locations because of its disruptive influence on instruction.

Otherwise, the school relies on adults to supervise student use of school computers and on students to develop and exercise good judgment with the freedom extended to them. When students succeed in developing good judgment with our (and your) active guidance and support, we know they will be better prepared for later life than those who have never been given the opportunity to exercise judgment in their life at school. When students don’t show good judgment, the disciplinary action that results becomes an opportunity for learning how to do better next time. The trust in students that we show is part of our commitment to progressive pedagogy.

Spontaneity is also a characteristic of progressive pedagogy. Heavy-handed filtering approaches make good research difficult; more sophisticated filtering invokes a delay while sites that may have educational value are “whitelisted” or unblocked by tech staff.

Students also show great creativity when filters are put in place, in a “game on” scenario that can absorb a lot of student and staff time that could be put to better use.

Online Services and Tools

Q

Is it really necessary to use these services in the course of instruction? What is driving the adoption of tools like these?

A

It is possible to teach and learn effectively without these tools. However, many of these tools incorporate collaborative features that afford teachers and students unique opportunities to work together in ways that would not otherwise be possible. Some offer new avenues for self-expression, content area mastery, and organization and are available on a variety of devices and platforms for ubiquitous access.

Students and teachers are driving the adoption of these tools as the benefits of using well-crafted technology judiciously in the course of instruction become clearer each year. As with all technology adoption, there are trade-offs to be made, but teachers have done well in balancing measured change in pedagogy with Lab's progressive, hands-on heritage. These tools are enhancements and additions to what is; they are not supplanting those fundamental traits and practices that have made Lab the distinctive learning community it has always been.

Q

How do I know my child will be safe online when using these services?

A

No server is completely immune from being compromised, and no vendor will make an ironclad guarantee that such a thing will never happen. Yet most vendors take significant precautions to protect the privacy of their users, because they know it is in their best interests to do so. The Schools take those precautions into account when examining a product or service for potential adoption. When we have questions about the Terms of Service or Privacy Policy, we ask vendors for more information. If we don't like what we hear, we don't pursue it further. We have also sought counsel from the legal team at the University for guidance at times. Protecting your privacy is important to us, and if we err, it will be on the side of caution. Schools should not be data mines for vendors, nor should tools purportedly for education be delivery vehicles for targeted advertising.

Just as you do at home, the Schools also work with children from a very young age to help them develop wisdom, boundaries, and appropriate conduct when using online tools and managing their online profiles. We talk with them about the significance of personal information and the importance of keeping it to themselves as much as possible. We also use a number of resources from the Common Sense Media website to help students make good decisions about where they go and what they do online. Clearly, the child's ability to make these decisions varies with their age and developmental levels, but our adoption decisions and instruction are tailored to met them where they are.

tudents determined to find trouble online probably will in time, whether at home, here at school, or at a friend's house. What's important is that adults have taken appropriate precautions, are aware of what kids are doing online, and are informed enough to take meaningful action to when teachable moments arise. Some tips on how to work with your child on such matters can be found in the first FAQ question above.

Q

Will everyone be using all these services?

A

If you have been around Lab for any time at all, you already know that the notion that everyone will be doing any one thing is pretty unlikely. Teachers are not compelled to use any particular technology tools for instruction, so the answer here is some will, some won't, but that each of the services listed will be used by someone at some point during the year. I expect that the High School will use more of these services than Middle School, and that the Lower School/Primary School/N-K will use fewer of these services to begin with, and fewer still, if any, in our work with very young children. We expect that Google Apps for Education, ALEKS, Turnitin and Wikispaces will see the heaviest use with others used on a more ad hoc basis by individual departments or teachers.