Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Rethinking Acceptable Use Policies

Here's a great collection of articles relating to school online safety, and the creation of Acceptable Use Policies, from Scott McLeod's blog Dangerously Irrelevant.

Below, I've included a few of my favorite lines.

You never can promise 100% safety. For instance, you never would promise a parent that her child would never, ever be in a fight at school. So quit trying to guarantee 100% safety when it comes to technology. Provide reasonable supervision, implement reasonable procedures and policies, and move on.

If your community is pressuring you to be more restrictive, that’s when it’s time to educate, not capitulate. Overzealous blocking and filtering has real and significant negative impacts on information access, student learning, pedagogy, ability to address required curricular standards, and educators’ willingness to integrate technology. It also makes it awfully tough to prepare students for a digital era.

When you violate the Constitution and punish kids just because you don’t like what they legally said or did and think you can get away with it, you not only run the risk of incurring financial liability for your school system in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars but also abuse your position of trust and send messages to students about the corruption of power and disregard for the rule of law.

Don’t abdicate your teaching responsibility. Students do not magically gain the ability at the end of the school day or after graduation to navigate complex, challenging, unfiltered digital information spaces. If you don’t teach them how to navigate the unfiltered Internet appropriately and safely while you have them, who’s going to?

Will their schools pro-actively model and teach the safe and appropriate use of these digital tools or will they reactively block them out and leave students and families to fend for themselves? Unfortunately, many schools are choosing to do the latter. As a technology advocate, I can think of no better way to highlight organizational unimportance than to block out the tools that are transforming the rest of society. Schools whose default stance is to prohibit rather than enable might as well plant a sign in front of their buildings that says, “Irrelevant to children’s futures.”

Jeff Dicks, superintendent of the Newell-Fonda Schools in Newell, Iowa, thinks not. In his 500-student district, almost everything is open and encouraged as a resource. As Dicks notes, “Our students spend less time trying to get around the filter and more time on learning.” David Doty, superintendent of the 32,000-student Canyons School District in Sandy, Utah, concurs. He believes “students are more creative, more engaged and more dedicated to learning if they can access the full array of information available to them and the tools that allow them to share their knowledge with others.”

Our world demands digital fluency. By creating policies based on behavior rather than technologies, we can open up the world to educators and their students.

Suskind uses this phrase to describe Vice President Dick
Cheney’s (and others’) thoughts about the war on terrorism:
If there was even a 1 percent chance of terrorists getting a
weapon of mass destruction — and there has been a small probability of such an
occurrence for some time — the United States must now act 
as if it were a certainty.
This seems to capture the beliefs of school administrators, school
communities, and parents pretty well: if there is even a 1 percent chance of
something bad happening online, we need to act as if it were a certainty. Of
course the concurrent question that administrators and parents should be asking
is What do we lose when we operate using the One Percent Doctrine?
The AUP could be an opportunity to involve parents in your vision of technology, itcould be a way to communicate the passion and importance of building a learning community that values 21st century thinking, and it could be a way to help parents understand that despite “To Catch a Predator”, your school is thoughtfully using technology to benefit their child.
Highly restrictive Internet and mobile policies in the school environment provide only a false sense of protecting kids," write Jim Bosco and Keith Krueger of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN). Cheating, plagiarism, and online safety—not only from predators and bullies, but also from invasive marketing—are real concerns; but banning devices will not change behavior. "Rules for tools don't make sense. Rules for behaviors do," says Whitby.
"At the end of the day," writes Richardson, "high school graduates need a clear sense of both the potentials and the pitfalls of interacting online. They should be able to create their own connections in safe, effective, and ethical ways. For schools, this means far more than just doing an information literacy unit. Rather, we must envision a K–12 curriculum that seamlessly integrates these new skills and literacies in age-appropriate ways and gradually moves students into more public interactions online. Not doing so would be akin to handing teenagers the keys to the car without having taught them to drive."

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