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Ridgewood Superintendent’s Column: On digital citizenship



Ridgewood Superintendent’s Column: On digital citizenship

MARCH 27, 2015    LAST UPDATED: FRIDAY, MARCH 27, 2015, 12:31 AM

Years ago I ran in a local road race that had a very strange outcome.

Now you are probably wondering why is this guy telling this story? Well, it’s because I innocently signed up for this race as did a few hundred others and found that the organizers of the race gave away or sold that list. We do this same thing all the time when we hit the “Agree” button to get information off the Internet.

We hardly give it a thought when we electronically sign up, email, tweet, use Facebook, post on Instagram and blog as part of our everyday existence. Our lives have improved in many ways with the fast, easy, convenient and mostly free access to information at our online fingertips, whether we are researching directions, restaurant reviews or places to stay, ordering our clothing and books, or keeping track of our bank accounts, our photo albums, our documents.

Such convenience makes it easy to forget that when we log on, we also agree, yes, agree, to hand over access to all types of personal information about ourselves in exchange for that instant line of communication. Our privacy and personally identifiable information is easily shared, as we know from the personalized ads that appear on the sites we search. And yet, we get upset and outraged when the obvious happens, when a breach occurs and our files are hacked, or a company is called out as a spy on an individual.

Just this month, a student in another New Jersey district tweeted out some PARCC testing information. Pearson, the company that developed the assessment, followed its protocol to contact state officials, who then called to inform those school district administrators of a testing breach.

Many people were upset at this chain of events … and so was I … at first. Then I thought about Daniella. Sixteen years ago I had essentially “tweeted” out my personal information when I agreed to run that race, never thinking of the consequences. I did what we have all done dozens, maybe hundreds, of times when we readily fill out an electronic form, order over the phone, search for our next vacation and the like.

We know now that when we order from our favorite online vendor, they remember us. They know how our waist sizes have expanded or shrunk from the last time we ordered, our color preferences, the types of movies we like to watch.

As we move forward, others will know more and more about us because we have either given them this information directly, or granted them permission to access our files. We must hope that they use our personal information ethically, at least that is my expectation, but we must also make every effort to scrutinize to whom we give out our data so that it does not come back to haunt us. We must teach our children the same and pray every night that they’ve listened.

Taking responsibility for technology-based information, and having this conversation with our children, too, is called good digital citizenship. The Ridgewood Public Schools guards our data and only shares with state and federal officials the information that is required by law. We make every effort to teach our students about good digital citizenship and with the beginning next school year, we will teach it more formally through a Digital Citizenship Curriculum, from kindergarten through Grade 12.

As always, please feel free to contact me with your questions or concerns.

Daniel Fishbein, Ed.D., is Superintendent of the Ridgewood Public Schools. Dr. Fishbein can be reached at 201-670-2700, ext. 10530, or via e-mail at For more information on the Ridgewood Public Schools visit the district website at or visit the Facebook page at