Saturday, June 11, 2011

To AUP or not to AUP

That is the question. Actually, the current question is what should the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) say? The real question should be why even have an AUP? This train of thought can cause as much disagreement as homework. In short AUPs outline how to use the school's technology (Internet and intranet). They also outline consequences for inappropriate use. There are plenty of reasons provided why to have an AUP, including digital footprints and Cyberbullying. My argument for eliminating AUPs is quite simple.

1) The technology is a school material. If we are to have an AUP for tech then we need to have one for all school materials. All school materials have the potential to be misused with degrees of severity and harmfulness. Pencils and crayons have the potential for poking someone's eye out. Paper has the potential to spread mean-spirited comments. Base-ten blocks have the potential to be used as a weapon.

2) Trust. Teachers have to be trusted to teach their students how to access and navigate the web as well as Social Media. IF administration does not seem to think their staff can do this, then they need to teach them how to do so. Some teachers just may not know how to teach their students how to appropriately use the web and social media. Thus leaving them incapable of knowing what they don't know.

3) Faith. Adults need to have faith that the students will use the tech appropriately. I don't bring out my dice every year thinking that my students are going to whip them across the room. I believe that with my guidance they will roll them on a flat surface from an appropriate distance. I have this same faith when I teach my students how to blog, tweet, and search. Because I believe they will use it appropriately, they will. (The instances of appropriate student use, world-wide, far outreaches the inappropriate.)

4) Don't only expect the staff to teach the students how to use the technology, but hold them accountable for doing so. Do frequent classroom check-ins to see that they are doing so. Encourage open dialogue about how to set this up in a classroom. But just throwing the technology at them and showing them ways to use it is not enough. Make sure they are monitoring their students' use, walking around the room, have routines and expectations of their own that meet their class's needs.

My district probably does have an AUP, but I do not need to read it to know that my students need to be responsible online. I know that they need to be kind to others online. I know they need to learn how to take care of school property. I know that they need to know how to interact with others online. I monitor them in very many ways.

1) They can only work in area where they can are visible. This is a key expectation to everything we do in our classroom, but particularly important when working with tech. There is no hiding in my classroom where you can sneak off to do something inappropriate. Everything is done out in the open, for all to see (and hear).

2) If they are saving or accessing something to and from the school server, I make sure they know how to do so appropriately. This helps teach them how to take care of a shared resource. Keeping them aware to respect other people's saved work on a shared network.

3) If they are engaged in social media I watch their tweets and blog comments in real time on my iPad or Droid. They know that I am going to read what they write online. They know that I will hold them accountable if they engage in inappropriate behavior. But they also know that I will reinforce their positive behavior.

4) I personally monitor my students while they are working by walking around the room and conferring with them. Doing this, and in no particular student order, tells them that I am watching them. Not only does this keep them on task (I typically don't have to worry about this if I have them engaged), but provides them with some 1:1 time...which they LOVE.

5) I hold them accountable for the small stuff and early on. "It's unfortunate you chose to listen to music (or play a game) online instead of making your Glogster (researching, or watching one of the suggested videos). You need to shut down and do this instead." I obviously file away that they did this as a reminder to include more options with music and games, but until then they understand that there are class expectations.

Some of this may sound harsh, but it's all in my tone of voice. I try to always be empathetic and word it in a way so that they know there will be a next time. They will get another opportunity, real soon, to show that they know how to use the tech appropriately. If teachers are doing these things, then AUPs are obsolete. If they are not, opportunities need to be created so that they can learn to, and then make AUPs obsolete.