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A Policy Quandary

Posted by: | May 21, 2009 | 2 Comments |

Do we need to protect ourselves from… ourselves?

I’ve been doing a lot of research with colleagues in the last few months in the realm of public school district policies, especially pertaining to internet, web 2.0, social media, filtering, etc.

What we’ve found is many schools who have vague language in their policies, and who rely on either a person or a committee to make decisions on a case by case basis. I can’t imagine that this protocol would be immediately responsive, as I’m sure the individuals or committees have other job responsibilities.

We’ve also found quite a few districts that insist upon the strictest control possible. In many cases, the justification is “we need to protect the students and/or staff from themselves.”

Internet safety education is federally mandated in all schools, but even those guidelines and requirements are somewhat vague.

I think it’s fairly obvious where I stand (if you’ve read any of my previous posts on the subject). I’m very much in favor of educating the masses about productive use of web tools, as well as discussing the inherent risks and learning about productive and responsible online behaviors. Personally, I think “control” is an illusion- and locking students and staff away from everything at school teaches them nothing when they leave those school boundaries.

However…

  • where can schools draw the lines without making those lines too fuzzy?
  • how does one decide if a “tool” is truly too risky for students to use within the school setting?
  • if something “bad” happens as a result of using a specific web tool, what are the legal ramifications?

What are your thoughts?

  1. How do your schools manage these issues?
  2. Who makes those decisions?
  3. When was the last time your policies were re-written to reflect the changing nature of what kids do and learn online?
  4. Do you have an AUP that works well for staff and students? Why or why not?

I’m hoping for a lot of responses here, as I think it would be helpful to us all!

Also, if you haven’t seen this wiki started by educators in Missouri, take a look!
http://socialmediaguidelines.pbworks.com/

under: 21st Century Learners, Monthly Think-About
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2 Comments

  1. By: Josh Allen on May 27, 2009 at 3:02 pm      Reply

    You talk about legal ramifications of something “bad” happening…what happens when a kid pokes another in the eye with a pencil? Do we need to ban pencils from school? I really don’t see the difference. If we ban pencils, kids will sneak them in. When we ban websites, if kids really want to, they’ll find a way to get to them. Search YouTube for “how to block websites” and you’ll find a kid telling you how to get around filters.
    Decisions are made in our district by a group of people who ask questions of each other. What that does is causes us to think about the pros and cons of opening a website. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Generally we trust a teacher’s judgement as to what is and is not blocked. Having said all that, we haven’t had discussions about “major” websites. YouTube has always been unblocked without a whole lot of argument from anyone. I’m also the first to say that we need to rewrite policies, especially as we give laptops to every teacher and we expect them to use them proficiently.

    • By: Michelle Baldwin on May 27, 2009 at 3:06 pm      Reply

      Josh- I completely agree with you. Unfortunately, you and I don’t always get to make these decisions… and I’m wondering what kind of answers I’ll get from people who DO make those decisions.

      To be honest, I’m a little tired of saying the same thing, day in and day out, without much progress. As a parent, I want my kids to have the SKILLS to use these tools in school as well as at home. Thanks for the comment.

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