AUBURN — The School Committee got a virtual demonstration Wednesday night of Skype, a free, downloadable, audio-video communication program, by Peter Robinson, director of technology for the Auburn School Department.

Robinson, accompanied by Edward Little High School Principal Jim Miller, discussed the use of built-in cameras on student laptops and the potential benefits and risks associated with them when used by students. A demonstration of the program’s video conferencing feature followed.

“(Skype) is a phenomenal learning tool,” Robinson said, “but it obviously has a dark side, as well.”

Concerns about misuse of the program, fueled by national reports of students using such programs inappropriately, have led to plans to tour Auburn schools in January. Students and teachers will be informed of strict limitations and how unsuitable use can hurt students by leaving what Robinson described as a “digital tattoo,” or a long-lasting negative image of the student circulating on the Internet, even if thought to be deleted.

“We need to be 100 percent, crystal clear with students about the use of cameras,” Robinson said.

He stressed that Internet safety is, and must continue to be, part of the bedrock of Auburn schools’ computer-use policy, as well as monitoring from parents when laptops go home.

Also on the agenda was a presentation by Shelly Mogul, assistant curriculum director, on changes made to Chapter 118, the state law that governs teacher recertification. Both new and seasoned teachers are held to the same set of standards.

The committee approved the new Teacher Certification Plan, which was redesigned to be compliant with new laws put into effect by the state. Changes include approved mentor training from the Maine Department of Education, as opposed to locally approved sources, as was the case in previous years.

The finance report for November 2009 was approved unanimously but called “very bleak” for the new year by Vice Chairwoman Bonnie Hayes.

David Das was re-elected to another two-year term as School Committee chairman and Bonnie Hayes was re-elected vice chairwoman. After a short executive session, the committee approved the re-election of Thomas Morrill as superintendent for another three-year contract.


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