Last week I spent three days working with various groups of educators as part of the training CASTLE provides. Superintendents, principals, teachers and technology directors attended our workshops. Acceptable use policies and online safety were two topics we addressed. As most of you probably realize, many educators have very strong feelings when it comes to these subjects.
The differing viewpoints and diversity of the group resulted in some interesting conversations. Unfortunately, there is not just one simple solution or answer to these issues that I can offer school districts. I attempted instead to present attendees with some facts and questions to get conversations started. Hopefully these prompts can help educational leaders have meaningful conversations related to these topics.
Who is responsible for the current systems in our schools? Who is responsible for developing policies and procedures that teach empowering use of technology? As educational leaders, we must take responsibility for the system. We are the system!
What are the real facts about online safety? In order to make informed decisions about any topic, facts need to be gathered. Many times policies relating to online safety have been developed as reactionary or addressing an overblown concern.
When we lock down and filter the internet aggressively, what things do we lose? Anytime that a government or organization restricts freedoms, it comes at a cost. Districts must address this question! If students and teachers are blocked from numerous resources, we have to realize that there are costs to students’ educations.
Do we really need to develop specific technology policies, or are many issues around technology already addressed in another policy. (i.e. A school in Mississippi prohibits teachers from communicating with students on Facebook. Is Facebook really the issue, or is inappropriate communication or behavior with students the issue? If the latter is the issue, there should already be policies that address that this.) Will we need to continually develop new policies as new technologies are released?
Do we treat technology discipline issues differently than other issues? Do we take the prohibition approach to technology? Because some students may use YouTube or other resources inappropriately, should we block all students from using them?
What message does your AUP send home? Does it focus on all of the positive benefits afforded by technology, or does it only address fears and punishment of inappropriate behavior?
How can we trust our teachers with our students, but not the internet?
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