Well, I went ahead and reviewed our Board’s lengthy Acceptable Internet Use Policy with my Grade 7 students this week. The intent is excellent: many items were very sound responsibility statements regarding good Digital Citizenship. We had some great discussion, and I tried to explain things as best as I could, given the limitations of my own understandings.
Afterwards, they took it home to sign and to get it signed by their parents. Most returned it without comment, but not all, and the experience certainly raised a lot of questions in my mind.
* What is the staff, student, and parent responsibilities for completing this? As a classroom teacher, I don’t know. I haven’t signed one, myself! At least not in the past 10 -15 years. But I hope I’ll be forgiven, because it turns out the 5 different people I’ve asked have had 5 different ideas about the who, where, when, and how it’s being completed.
* What is the intent of the AUP? Is it to set out a list of “Don’t Do” behaviours in a user-agreement for students? for staff? Both on the same one? To try to protect the physical network? To protect the Board of Education from litigation? To protect staff and students from cyber-abuse?
* In today’s world of fast-paced change, how often do AUP’s need to be revisited and revised?
* Does it make sense for an adult-language AUP to be signed by a child using the internet in primary grades? Junior? Under 12? 14? 16? Does it matter if the students can’t understand the language used?
* Is it valid if an AUP is signed by a parent who does not know or understand the technological issues about which they are signing? Can’t understand the terminology used? Does not speak the language?
* Do parents and students need to sign the same AUP again every year?
* What happens if parent and students are unwilling to sign because they don’t agree, or don’t understand, or there are situations which don’t apply? (i.e. our students are not currently given email accounts so are unable to send or receive messages; neither students nor teachers have the capability of downloading software on our network.
* At what point does login and password security become an issue? Student accounts in primary and junior grades share the same password: why? Why have individual accounts if passwords are both unusable and irrelevant, and shared passwords contradict individual responsibilities outlined in the AUP? (One parent wouldn’t sign it because the logins and passwords were read out in class. On reflection, they have a good point, even though I can think of very few activities another student could possibly do using another student’s login access. They could just as easily write a swear word in someone’s else’s notebook on their desk. Now, using someone else’s individual Edmodo or email account would be an entirely different matter.)
In light of all these questions, my students and I are creating our own Digital Citizenship Agreement — and I hope it will help all of us develop a clearer understanding, a greater sense of collaboration, and a deeper sense of responsibility for using new social media tools in our classroom this year.
Wish us luck. All offers of help accepted!!