Posts Tagged 'AUP'

Build as we go

In previous posts I’ve called out for examples of state-of-the-art web policy for schools, and I’ve reflected on the overall lack of response to that call.

What there is no lack of is evidence that educators around the world are creatively incorporating web technologies into their personal lives and professional practice. Just visit the K-12 Online Conference and listen to or watch a few of the sessions that have already been posted.

Clearly, the shift is happening with or without official mandate or endorsement.

A system that pro-actively anticipates the shift is preferable to one always caught reacting to it, but some reaction is certainly preferable to no reaction at all.

Regarding web policy, perhaps the answer is not “build it and they will come.” Maybe it’s more like, “build as we go.”

So, with that in mind, I thought I would share some artifacts that a school or district might use to cobble together a web policy to support teacher- and student-created web content (rather than merely circumscribe or prescribe acceptable use of content). Here are some worthwhile resources:

  • Will Richardson discusses the educational value of social networking during October 17 chat session sponsored by the National School Board Association. If you read the transcript, you will notice a question about policy from an “individual from Knoxville, TN.” That’s me! Richardson provided a link to a model blogging policy at Arapahoe High School in Colorado, but he underscored the importance of starting “conversations with all of the constituents in a school district” as the primary first step to effecting change.
  • The Arapahoe High School Blogging Policy includes rules for safe blogging, a list of traits describing successful blog authors, and a writing sample from an actual student-authored blog. I think wording like this is essential for creating a durable and viable policy: “These guidelines are not meant to be exhaustive and do not cover every contingency. If you are ever in doubt about the appropriateness of an item – ask a parent or teacher.”
  • At the Generation YES Blog Sylvia Martinez has a wonderful post in which she encourages teachers to create Technology Vision Statements.
  • Karl Fisch and Steve Dembo have opened up dialog about this issue at their blogs. The comments at the Fischbowl are particularly interesting.
  • And here are some thoughts on the subject of computers, ethics, and schools by Howard Rheingold.

I want to thank my Classroom 2.0 friend Ian Carmichael who shared this Wallace and Gromit video clip which perfectly encapsulates the struggle of Web 2.0 teachers everywhere! Enjoy!

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Will better school policy provide “traction”?

Daedalus and IcarusCross-posted at Classroom 2.0

It has been almost a month since I posted a call at ThinkTime for educators and educational technologists to share examples of progressive policies that embrace web-based tools for content sharing, creation, and collaboration.

Realizing ThinkTime is not as high-traffic as some other “super-hubs” in the edublogosphere, I also posted my question at Classroom 2.0.

And I’ve been tracking comments on other blogs, such as Think42.com where Steve Dembo issued a similar call, also in September.

To date, the response has been zero, zilch, nada. Why is that?

I’m so confused. There are threads all over the blogosphere about Internet filters, censorship, and CIPA. (See recent dust-ups at blogs by Wesley Fryer, Doug Johnson, and Kurt Paccio.) But where are the parallel discussions about the need for proactive, systemic policies that embrace, or at least acknowledge, the changing information landscape?

To extend David Warlick’s flight metaphor from the K-12 Online Preconference Keynote, is our focus on filters essentially because they equate a grounding of aircraft? Without access to web content and the web-based tools that empower sharing and creation of content, educators and students can’t take flight much less contemplate detours, lay-overs, and emergency landings.

I get the problem of filters. I really do.

I have firsthand experience with blocked web sites in the classroom context. I resented the administrative process to remove a block from an educationally valid site. But, in truth — and please don’t mistake me for an apologist here — my system was reasonably responsive. I never once lacked access to Internet content I needed for instruction (provided instruction was planned several days in advance).

Yet, that was prior to 2005 — before my interest in interactive self-publishing sites and social networks.

Now, in 2007, the best that I can gather from my teacher and librarian friends is spotty, inconsistent blockage of blogs, wikis, and networking tools persists in our county. Enough to stifle creativity and production? Maybe, but that is only part of the problem.

You see, in my community we have a layer of system-wide web publishing policy that also acts as a “blocker,” of sorts. The filter blocks access to content; current policy as stated in the procedures handbook for web pages blocks administrators, teachers, and students from creating content. I may be interpreting the procedures incorrectly, but they seem only to address teacher- and student-generated web content on officially sanctioned web pages hosted on local servers.

So, provided teachers, librarians, and administrative leaders are vigilant about requesting access to appropriate sites, it is possible to operate under the flawed filter. But who is evaluating the web publishing procedures? Who is advocating that these procedures be refined to be a more accurate reflection of the new web landscape?

There is hope. Some folks in my community are willing to consider a new approach, but they want to see models.

I am begging for some outside perspective here!

I have considered the possibility that some educational systems and institutions have acceptable use policies (AUPs) that encompass both the access and creation of web content. I actually would love for that to be the case, as I am in no way advocating adding another layer of policy upon policy.

But what I fear is more likely the case is an overall lack of intentionality or conscious policy making regarding the read/write web.

Thus, we have situations like this, described to me in an email from a librarian friend who works in a school system here in the Southeast U.S.:

We go by the official AU policy . . . . And as you noted, there is really nothing about blogs, wikis, social networks, etc. I think our district shies away from getting too detailed because they don’t want to open a can of worms. I am just speculating it, but sometimes I think they take this approach in hopes that if they don’t draw attention to it, then they don’t have to deal with it. I do know “WordPress” is the officially approved blog host by curriculum, but there is nothing in writing about this — it is just what has trickled down to us, and I truly doubt most teachers know this.

In his keynote posted on Oct. 8, Warlick describes three brand-new conditions converging on our classrooms: info-savvy students, a new information landscape, and an unpredictable future. He warns, “We’ve tried to ignore them, we’ve tried to contain them, and to even block them out. But the best thing we can do is to realize that these three converging conditions can actually become new boundaries off of which we can gain traction.”

Warlick uses the metaphor of airplanes, which travel in invisible but established flightpaths and which still need runways for take offs and landings.

I am starting to wonder how we can pilot the aircrafts without flight manifests and air traffic controllers. How long is this under-the-radar, ask-forgiveness-not-permission way of doing things going to persist?

How desirable is it, really, to Build this Plane While It’s Flying?

What do you think?

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Graphic: Photograph of Icarus and Daedalus by Charles Paul Landon, from WikiMediaCommons


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Think on this:

"What if we just ignored the status of students in other countries? That wouldn’t be especially neighborly, but at least we wouldn’t be viewing the gains of children in other lands as a troubling development."

Alfie Kohn


"When I hear people say it's our job to create the 21st century workforce, it scares the hell out of me. Our job is to create 21st-century citizens. We need workers, yes, but we also need scholars, activists, parents -- compassionate, engaged people."

Chris Lehmann

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These are the communities where I network and cross-post. Come by for a visit!
Classroom 2.0
School Matters (East TN, USA)
Media Literacy