On Acceptable Use Policies

There’s been an ongoing conversation over the last couple of years between my colleagues and myself concerning our district AUP and the need to acquire our own parental permission for using particular educational resources like Edmodo, CodeHS or Khan Academy. Ms_Woz has been planning to use student blogs this school year as well as a classroom Twitter account. Moving into internet social media has sparked renewed concerns regarding the current state of our AUP and the possible necessity to update it to more clearly define how technology will be used in the classroom.

Our AUP states that:

“Technology resources, including, but not limited to, email, Internet access, school computers and tablets, and the use of personal electronic portable devices on school grounds or at school-sponsored events, are to be used for educational purposes only.

…all schools will include special Digital Citizenship curriculum in all classes and grade levels so that every student will learn how to be safe, appropriate, and responsible online, both at home and at school. As the parent/guardian, I understand that I am responsible for supervising my child’s use of technology, including the use of personal electronic devices and social networking, outside of school setting.

Parents/guardians need to remember that email and other communications over the Internet are not guaranteed to be private and are subject to state and federal laws.”

So, technology resources will be used which include the Internet and email, but may include other resources as well. These resources will be used for educational purposes. Students will receive digital citizenship instruction to learn how to use these resources appropriately and responsibly. Communications over these resources is not private.

The language of the AUP is intentionally broad. I interpret it to say that Internet resources will be used for educational purposes. There are a multitude of Internet resources appropriate for educational use including, but not limited to, Twitter, blogs and student websites. It should not be necessary, nor is it possible, to explain and name each specific resources which will used by the educator. However, this intentionally broad language leads some to interpret it more narrowly. Specifically, some think this means that the Internet can only be used as a research resource like a digital library and other uses should be specifically named by the teacher and specifically authorized by parents in additional forms.

Now, the Common Core Standards state:

“Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.”

Students must know how to create and publish their work online, share that work with others and update and edit those products. By stating “including the Internet,” the standard takes student work beyond the classroom. The Internet is, by definition, a global resource shared by everyone. I do not believe it is possible for someone to so narrowly interpret this to mean that the Internet is to be used to produce, share and collaborate on student writing products using services such as Google Docs only. The standard states that the Internet will be used to produce and publish their work online. This is how we publish our work online; in blogs and on websites.

Another standard states:

“Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.”

This standard does not specifically refer to the use of the Internet to engage in collaborative discussions, but this is how we collaborate now. We use Facebook, Google+, Twitter and blogs to share our ideas, to discuss them with others and to collaborate. Our students are doing it already. Perhaps they are discussing what I wore to class today, but more likely they are discussing what we did today and what is expected of them on a given assignment. They share their ideas, clarify and refine. Why wouldn’t we use the available technology resources to address standards like this? Wouldn’t our AUP cover such uses as well? It says we will use technology resources for educational purposes.

My own step son does not have a smart phone. He is entering sixth grade next week. He is 11 years old. Many of his peers entering the sixth grade with him will have smart phones. On those phones, they will have Twitter, Snapchat, email, and maybe even Facebook. Josephine has wondered if the classroom shouldn’t be the exact environment to be introduced to the resources. We will be teaching our students responsible digital citizenship just as we teach them responsible citizenship in general. Isn’t this all just responsible citizenship period? What we say or do in the digital realm is just as real as what we say or do in our homes, in school and on the street. There really is not a hard distinction between these realms as there once was.

It should not be a necessity for a teacher to request additional permission for the use of any specific technology resources. This is what we are all using, including most of our students and certainly all of their parents. While I am writing this however, Josephine has been drafting a parental permission form which includes specific reference to blogs, Twitter, Hangouts and Global Read Alouds. She wants to makes sure that she is protected and parents are specifically informed. I hope that every parent signs and returns this permission. I wouldn’t want to see a student unable to participate in some of the engaging and room shattering activities that will be going on in her classroom. We had a preview of the sorts of possibilities these tools bring to the table. A few months ago, @Ms_Woz emailed Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like A Pirate. She had been following him on Twitter and subscribed to his blog newsletter. She explained that she was organizing a summer study book club with our school staff featuring his book. He emailed back and offered to share some resource materials and even to have a brief Skype or Hangout video call with the group. So yesterday, our book club met and Dave Burgess held a video Hangout with us. He called us from his car on the road in “the middle of nowhere in Oklahoma.” He explained the genesis of Teach Like A Pirate and generously allowed us to share our most important take aways from his book, elaborating and commenting on each one of them and answering questions as well. He was enthusiastic and engaging and all from his car on the side of the road likely driving for hours after the Delta computer crash had led to a cancelled flight. This is the sort of possibility that these new resources bring to the table. I won’t be surprised if Mrs. Wozniak’s class is holding a  video Hangout with J.K. Rowling in a few weeks. Maybe that is aiming high, but honestly, nothing is beyond the realm of possibility.




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