After reading through the many resources on AUPs and Social Media Policies of other schools, I did some digging to really find what the policies at my own school look like. We are a one-to-one school with school-owned iPads in the elementary school and BYOD in the Senior school. Appropriate use and guidelines are a quick talking point at the beginning of the year for all students under the heading of “Digital Citizenship”, but other than that the conversations around acceptable use are few and far between except when students have acted inappropriately. The actual AUP document is rarely discussed or looked at.
But how can students know what is acceptable without detailed knowledge of the AUP you might ask!? Well, I’m a believer that a good conversation does more than a document full of words, but let’s start with the document we have at our school.
Digital Citizenship for Students – Acceptable Use Policy
The document follows a common format that I observed in quite a few AUPs from other schools like ISPS and CIS. The idea that users are responsible for respecting and protecting themselves, others and intellectual property is a pretty all-encompassing idea. Looking more closely at our own agreements I identified a few pros and cons.
– Clear language
– Gives specific examples
– Fairly thorough
– Too long
– Too specific
– Doesn’t encourage or empower
creative learning through technology
As you can see, I have put specificity into both the Pro and Con side. As with so many things when working with students, there is a fine line between being specific enough, and too specific. Creating an agreement with more open statements allows for broader coverage, more critical thinking by students, and an opportunity for creativity. Not being specific enough leaves students feeling as if these broad statements don’t really apply to their everyday activity, and the connections are too abstract. It is similar to the problem of introducing a class inquiry or project where if you show examples of finished projects you will get a class set of identical projects, but if you leave students without some guidance they will have trouble getting started and finding direction. I believe the way forward is to start with broad statements that are accessible to the students, and then build on them through discussion and exploration to create examples and understanding for the students.
I like the suggestion of a Empowered User Agreement from Scott McLeod, as a simple starting point for these kinds of discussions. The reality of an elementary school setting like the one I work in is that students are still learning and testing boundaries and no long list of rules on a piece of paper will prevent that. By empowering them to be creative, kind, caring and safe, and having the discussion when things go wrong, we are helping them on that learning journey. I don’t feel that the agreements at our school explicitly encourage students to learn and grow as technology users (although I do believe that this is a part of our school’s culture, just not explicitly in our agreements).
Where to from here?
As you can see above from the difference between the Prep sample agreement and the Grade 5 agreement, there is a huge difference between what agreements for younger elementary students look like compared to the older grades. As I will be teaching Grade 4 next year, my hope is to work with both the Grade 4 and 5 teams to develop a plan to start the beginning of the year off with empowering conversations with our students based on McLeod’s EUA, and develop our own empowering agreements that promote creativity, respect, and engagement with the world around us (within the confines of GDPR regulations of course…)