Rochester Technology

Tech in schools: Brighton’s progressive view of personal electronics

With technological advances and increasing numbers of students owning cellphones, school districts have had to begun to reevaluate or reinforce their current policy with stricter policies. With such constantly changing technology, is it becoming a waste of time for schools to constantly addressing changes and fighting a, seemingly, lost battle?

In comparison to other issues, like bullying, a student’s use of a cellphone during class is really insignificant. Instead of wasting the energy and time of school officials to change and enforce the electronics policies, why not begin to embrace the different gadgets and incorporate them into the classroom?

Students at Brighton High School are allowed to carry cellphones with them on school grounds. The devices also do not need to be locked in a student’s locker at the beginning of the day.

Brighton’s Code of Conduct states that electronic devices are not allowed to be used to: invade privacy, disrupt the academic setting or engage in any academic dishonesty. Of course, the code reminds students that bringing these devices on campus mean they are responsible for their “safe-keeping.”

Seemingly vague, the code actually leaves room for more freedom with electronic devices, specifically cellphones, than most other schools.

Students are actually allowed to use their cellphones in classrooms when it is appropriate, says assistant principal Michael Leiner.

“They can be used when it is constructive to the classroom, like fact checking. It’s good when students can look information up and contribute.,” said Leiner in a phone interview. The students also are allowed to use their cellphones in lunch and hallways

As assistant principal to Brighton High School, he also oversees disciplinary actions of 1/3 of the students. With the freedom the school’s policy provides, he sees very few cases of inappropriate use for cellphones.

“It’s just not on list of big issues we see when it comes to disciplinary problems and students making the wrong decisions,” he said.

With this approach to technology, the issue with abuse doesn’t seem to be a problem, allowing the student to use their phones takes away the thrill of doing it on the sly. Maybe then they will only use the phone when it’s needed or beneficial.

With this approach so successful on cutting down on disciplinary actions needed, it seems silly that other schools still remain so strict with their policies.

Similar to other schools, Brighton does not allow texting in class or using the phone to cheat on tests. If students are caught using the phones, they are subjected disciplinary action that could be anything from losing the phone to being suspended, depending on the severity of the disruption.


Your Top 5 Articles for 05/06 ~ The Diddly Center rides again

Seriously? $750 million for a “mixed use” mashup on a swamp? Yep. And as @rachbarnhart reports, the developers are looking to get $250m out of the State of New York in the form of sales tax-paid financing. But that’s only part of the story of this past week. Photos of the Gemini mission stole the show on Monday, followed by a sun pillar on Tuesday. Apparently, the photography thing is really working!

Plus lots of tech in the classroom news, including some original reporting by RIT journalism students Michael Roppolo and Lyndsay Saunders. That article will be part of what will be a larger series, analysing local schools’ policies on personal electronics. Look for it this week! Speaking of which, have a great one!
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A Martian sunrise »


Beautiful photography to start the week off, this one coming courtesy of NPR and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. A view of a sunrise very few have ever seen before, from a rover on Mars.

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A “sun pillar” over Michigan » Earth Science Picture of the Day

Photo: Kevin Povenz @

Another one of those strage phenomenon of earth science which, if you haven’t seen it, you’ve probably never heard of it. Sun pillars are caused by light from the sun reflecting off of plate-shaped ice crystals in clouds.

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NYC schools issue first-ever social media guidelines for teachers » First Amendment Center

Photo: mrsdkrebs @

In what is most likely to be a trend, New York City schools adopt new rules for teachers regarding social network availability and students.

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Medley Center wants $250 in financing from the state »


The project to replace Medley Center drags on an on, and now the project is estimated to cost $750 million, of which developers want $250m to come from State financing. For perspective, the F22 fighter – latest plane in the U.S. fleet – is estimated to cost around $668m.

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Technology in the classroom: how do local schools handle personal electronics? »

Photo: Gustav H @

I’m very pleased to see this article be as popular as it turns out to have been. This is part of what will be a series of articles dealing with local schools and personal electronic devices. RIT journalism students Michael Roppolo and Lyndsey Saunders help me out analyzing Rochester City, Gates-Chili and Hilton Central School policies.

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Rochester Technology

Technology in the classroom: how do local schools deal with personal electronics?

Making cellphones and other technology acceptable in school In 2010, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology released a National Technology Plan in the hopes of achieving President Obama’s goal that by 2020, “America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”

The report stresses that students and educators should have “options for engaging in learning: large groups, small groups, and work tailored to the individual goals, needs, interests, and prior experience of each learner.” It also stressed the importance of utilizing technology, which will help to develop “inquisitive, creative, resourceful thinkers; informed citizens; effective problem-solvers; groundbreaking pioneers; and visionary leaders.”

Despite this national recommendation arguing for the inclusion of cell phones and other technologies in the curriculum, in a recent study released by Project Tomorrow, 55% of students polled nationwide said that they could not use their cell phones while in school. Some school districts in the Rochester area are no exception, as they remain against students having their cell phones (or any other personal electronic devices) in classrooms and on campus.

Rochester City School District

The Rochester City School District, which upon researching, had one of the strictest policies against cell phone usage in class. According to the RCSD Code of Conduct, disruptive behavior caused by students who are in found in possession of “laser pointers, pagers, beepers, walkie-talkies, or portable/cellular phones equipped with video or photographic capacity” on school property, may result in disciplinary actions, including suspension from school.

The Rochester City School District’s Code of Conduct does not appear to have been updated since November of 2009. We asked school officials why this was and if there were plans to update soon, but could not obtain an answer in time to publish. A FOIL request has been submitted for these answers, we will update our readers when we find out.

Some students in the Rochester City School District are not at all pleased with the ban or cellphones or the strict rules and enforcements on cell phone policy.

“I don’t really see the point,” said Gideon Kemp, a student at the Dr. Freddie Thomas High School. “I don’t think it helps anything; it just makes a bigger problem, in my opinion.”

“I listen to the rules and don’t bring my cellphone into school,” said Kemp. “But I don’t see the problem if I did.”

In an article by YNN, news students express their dislike of the cell phone bans, particularly talking about safety, but Edison Campus Principal Bonnie Atkins said that there has been a dramatic change in the culture inside the school.

“The school day is very different,” said Atkins, “Because you don’t have kids calling each other in and out of class, kids texting in class, the teacher spending more of the instructional time saying, ‘put it away or take it from the place to that place.’ Theft, we haven’t had a single incident of a cell phone being stolen at all, we haven’t had a single incident reported of cyber bullying during the school day because of that. You have your normal teenage problems during the school day. In other words, it gives the kids time to get the emotion out of it because they’re not all of a sudden angrily texting on the cell phone.”

Hilton School District

However, in the nearby Hilton Central School District, change is apparent. Originally against having students’ electronic devices in class, the high school recently adopted a policy that allowed students to have personal electronic devices out.

There are still some restrictions, as designated by a streetlight signal in each of the classrooms. According to the District website, there is a “red room,” in which no personal devices are allowed; a “yellow room,” in which some devices are allowed with an instructor’s permission; and a “green room,” which allows students to use personal devices as tools of learning.

Always evolving, the HCSD Code of Conduct has been changed several times over the past few years. The policy is always changing, as required by the NYSED, and will be reviewed at the May 8, 2012 meeting of the Board of Education, according to the Hilton Director of Communications and Community Education, Barbara Carder.

Gates-Chili Central Schools

A third path chosen by Gates-Chili School District is combining electronics policy with the rest of the school’s policies. There is no specific policy guiding the use of personal electronics, in fact, the Code of Conduct only specifies as “disorderly or disruptive” conduct as (section VII, 1.j):

Using/carrying cell phones, radios, pagers, walkmans, video recording devices, MP3 players, or other telecommunications or imaging devices during the instructional day except in such areas or at times specifically authorized by the building principal

On the other hand, GCS does a better job of explaining a three-step discipline process for those students who violate the code of conduct. And whereas other policies focus on students, GCS’s policy spells out – albeit in somewhat vague form – an acceptable use policy for faculty, parents, visitors and non-essential personnel.

DragonFlyEye.Net will continue to bring you comparisons of school policies around the area in the coming weeks. We’re also looking for local educator reactions to the state of technology in classrooms, which we will bring you as we get it. Is there a school whose policy you’d like us to review? An administrator you’d like us to contact? Leave us a note in the comments section or else contact us to send us a confidential message.


How alcohol slows your reflexes down: the science of DWI

Rochester has seen a rash of DWIs making headlines lately and as a result, it seems like a good time to review the science behind alcohol’s influence on the nervous system. Sure it is well-known that alcohol is a depressant and can be deadly if an intoxicated person gets behind the wheel, but did you know that slower reaction times are the result of an overload of a part of your brain?

“Alcohol slows down the central nervous system,” said Karen Pelc, coordinator of IMPACT, a Substance and Drug Education & Prevention Program at Rochester Institute of Technology. “When individuals drink too much too quickly it can cause the heart, breathing and brain function to stop.”

Interestingly, researchers have found that the brain’s frontal lobes are greatly affected by alcohol intoxication. The primary functions of the frontal lobe include the ability to distinguish and choose between good and bad actions and the ability to recognize impending consequences resulting from those actions. Both of these functions are altered once alcohol reaches the brain because it slows down communication between the neurons sending signals to your body. This fact can explain why many DWI incidents involve drivers unaware that their actions are dangerous and merit consequences.

Furthermore, alcohol increases gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) activity which controls the time it takes a person to respond to a certain situation. In the case of drunk driving this is a major issue because as GABA activity increases, brain activity slows down. The driver will not be able to make a quick enough decision to avoid an accident, hence why our society is told not to drink and drive.

The way alcohol affects the nervous system is not something you would typically think about while enjoying an alcoholic beverage, but it’s important in understanding why those intoxicated act the way they do. DWIs are not taken lightly in today’s society, so before you decide to drive home after throwing back a few beers, you may want to take a moment to think about the effects those beers will have on the way your body functions.

Rochester Science

Dog days of.. spring? Rochester’s pets bombarded with fleas and ticks.

Most would say that the unseasonably warm weather that citizens of upstate New York have been experiencing this year has been unexpected but lovely. However ask your dog or cat and they wouldn’t think that this weather has brought loveliness. Instead for dogs and cats the unseasonably warm weather has brought the rapid arrival of cats and dogs nemesis, fleas and ticks.

Fleas are small, dark reddish-brown blood sucking insects, they are small but you will know you are looking at one when you see it. Their bodies are flattened on the sides so that they can get through the hair on the animal’s body. Their mouths are made especially for sucking blood.

Ticks are small, dark brown with eight legs but are not insects. They are closely related to spiders. All ticks are parasites. Cats rarely get ticks, they seem to prefer dogs. Humans can also get ticks but ticks don’t prefer humans.

According to the University of Florida’s electronic information data source, there are over 2,000 described species of fleas in the world. The most common domestic flea is the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis felis). The dog flea (Ctenocephalides canis) appears similar to the cat flea, but is rare in the United States. Cat flea adults, unlike many other fleas, remain on their host. Females require a fresh blood meal in order to produce eggs, and they can lay up to 1 per hour! Adult fleas live anywhere from four to 25 days.

Katie Morrison, animal care assistant at the Irondequoit Animal Hospital has seen a drastic increase of fleas and ticks during these “winter” months.

“There has been a huge increase with ticks this year, and a lot of dogs are testing positive for heart worm,” said Morrison.

Common health issues that the Irondequoit Animal hospital has seen this year is secondary skin infects, allergies and parasites such as tapeworm causes by fleas.

Lime disease is caused by ticks and unlike fleas ticks along with their parasites can affect humans.

Morrison suggests to her patients to make it a priority to use monthly flea and tick preventatives along with heartworm preventatives.

“A lot of people think that flea and tick medication doesn’t need to be used during the winter months but the fact is preventatives should be used year round especially if the weather is warmer than 40 degrees,” said Morrison.

Not only should these medications be given to dogs and cats but also avoid at all costs wooded areas and tall grass.

Keep in mind that fleas and ticks can cause serious illnesses to dogs and cats and any and all precautions should be taken to ensure the healthy and happy life of your pet.

Rochester Technology

Game theory: how RIT students beat some of IT security’s best minds.

On March 9th, an RIT team traveled to Franklin, Massachusetts to compete in the annual Northeast Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. The competition tests students on their ability to protect and prevent computers and networks from being susceptible to hackers or viruses floating over the Internet. Without protection, a company’s private information could be stolen and released, or its network could be destroyed.

Upon arrival to the event, all 12 teams participating in the regional competition had their cell phones, cameras, USB drives and all other electronics taken away for the weekend. Each group of 8 was put in a room with 8 desktop computers, a router switch and a printer network for a total of 20 hours over the three-day weekend. Their mission was to hypothetically replace a previous IT team of a small company and make sure that their client, a blog site, was constantly up and running and safe from attacks by the “Red Team.” The “Red Team” was made up of a group of professionals who were assigned to break into the system and networks of the fake companies that the students were required to protect.

“The first fifteen minutes are critical because everything is wide open with no security in place,” 4th year Applied Network Systems Administration student Jeremy Pollard said. “Getting those first couple of actions to muscle memory is crucial.”

The RIT team set up triggers and alarms to monitor the network traffic; logging the information as website viewers or as someone trying to hack into the account. They used firewalls to protect the inbound and outbound traffic and were required to defend all outward facing nodes, storage, the website, emails and the network printer.

“In addition to securing the company’s current infrastructure,” 4th year Information Security and Computer Forensics student Neil Zimmerman explained. “We were required to build upon it by implementing new technologies, and to write policies to ensure future safety.”

For each attack that got through their system the team lost points. In order to gain these points back the team would need to complete an “instant response report” which explained what happened and how they fixed it.

The team believes they had a leg up on the competition because their teammate, 4th year Information Security and Forensics major Griffith Chaffee, competed on last year’s winning team. The team also believes this because they were taught how to configure systems and networks in school, as opposed to other teams who only knew how to program.

“We had experience from extensive lab work and co-ops,” Pollard said. “Other teams didn’t have any job experience,” Zimmerman agreed.
Although beating teams like Harvard University in the Northeast regional competition was a “nice feeling,” returning member Chaffee says the team still has a lot to prepare for.

“The computers out number you,” Chaffee said. “There are 12-16 computers so you really have to manage resources. Also, the red team is much, much better. The best in the business.”

So until the National round in April, the RIT team will be spending their free time practicing and learning things that they aren’t too familiar with. The team has also ordered new equipment to study and will practice having teammates take over for each other if one should become too overwhelmed.

“We are all from various backgrounds so we divide up work really well,” Zimmerman said.

They will be competing for the national title in Texas against nine other regional winners, including Texas A&M University, Air Force Academy, UNC Charlotte and last year’s winner, University of Washington.