As more politicians push for classroom Net access, parents and teachers are struggling to come up with solutions for some of the problems that come along with the Internet.
Although sound bites from politicians who promise "wired" schools make the evening news, so do stories about students plagiarizing essays from the Internet, teenagers being stalked by adults in online chat rooms, and technologically precocious students hacking into schools' computer systems.
The University of California at Berkeley Extension is teaching one of the first courses aimed at giving administrators, parents, and teachers answers to these problems.
"Ethics, Access, and Equity in Technology," taught by Ana Solomon, will include topics like copyright law, intellectual property, profanity, pornography, online etiquette, and gender issues related to technology.
"In schools, there need to be some guidelines for how to use technology," Solomon said. "It's very easy to break the law and not know it. Because the Internet is coming into so many homes and classes, it has the potential to be a very powerful and dangerous tool, and there need to be guidelines."
In the class, students will also formulate a "fair-use policy." Now mandated by the California Department of Education, a fair-use policy is a contract made between pupils and schools in which students, parents, and teachers agree to a certain level of behavior while using the Internet and school computers.
The fair-use policy, "puts in black and white and on paper what everyone's responsibilities are," Solomon added.
Although she acknowledges the many ethical pitfalls that educators come across in offering technology to their students, Solomon felt that the Internet and computers can be an invaluable teaching aid.
"If we do not give our kids a chance to use this technology, we are denying them a tool of the future."