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Negotiating Internet can be hazardous to unsuspecting, Brentwood school leaders stress

| Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The 140 characters sent out in that last Tweet or “selfie” posted to Instagram last night could travel far beyond the group of friends that follow your posts.

Future employers, or even the police looking to solve a crime, could see posts on social media years later.

That's the message Brentwood Middle/High School leaders want to instill in their eighth-grade students as they teach them how to use the Internet to benefit their futures, in a safe way.

“We just want to teach them the knowledge and skills to maneuver the global and online world efficiently and safely,” said Lindsay Klousnitzer, Brentwood Borough School District coordinator of curriculum, instruction and professional development. School board members last week approved curriculum changes for Brentwood Middle/High School for the 2014-15 school year, including the addition of a nine-week “media literacy and research” class that will be required for all eighth-graders.

Other changes will include the realignment of the middle school science curriculum, reinstituting of the “science 9” course and revisions to the scope and sequence of the engineering and design courses.

With the growing use of technology, it was important to add a media and research based class to ensure students were using the tools correctly, Klousnitzer said.

Klousnitzer is working with teachers — using ideas from Common Sense Media, which provides reviews and ratings on media — to create curriculum for the class.

The focus will be to teach students where their posts through social media could end up, and how to do research online.

“We worry that they don't realize how much they're putting out there,” she said. “We want to show them how putting something on Facebook can come back to you.”

Changes to the science curriculum will allow the life, physical and environmental sciences to be integrated into all three middle school grade levels, helping to better prepare students for the eighth grade Pennsylvania System of School Assessment.

Now, each topic is separated, and students spend a portion of eighth grade reviewing what they've learned in earlier year, Klousnitzer said.

Until the transition is made for a grade cycle, the “science 9,” a foundation course to teach the basics is being brought back for high school freshman, so that students don't have to start into biology their first year in high school, if they're not ready, she said.

The hope is that once the integrated sciences have been established, “science 9” can be worked back out of the rotation, Klousnitzer said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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