That is the announcement that all Kindergarteners should be hearing as they get up from the rug and approach their computing machine for the very first time. As soon as they start clicking keys and swiping screens they will be building a portfolio, intentionally or otherwise, that will define them in their future. As I explored how we approach this somewhat overwhelming reality with the children in our school, it became clear to me that we are not doing enough work with them around this issue.
Teaching in the elementary school (2nd Grade), I work with children at an age level where they are just beginning to leave traces of themselves in digital world. They are making Voicethreads, writing blog posts for the classroom blog, and most of all, they are starting to interact with other students’ digital work by commenting and asking questions. These seven year olds are starting to have online conversations that will never disappear. Of course these children will (hopefully) never be hired or not hired on the basis of these comments, but they are learning important behaviors and attitudes that will define how they make these same choices during the stormier years of their later education, when it really might matter much more.
I looked at the AUP that our school (it is a single K-12 document) is using from a few different angles. Firstly, from the perspective of how the document is used, regardless of the student’s age. From what I can gather, it is signed by the parents when the students enroll, and at some point (perhaps middle school, but this is not clear), the students begin to sign the AUP themselves. My concern is that it is not given the importance that I believe it merits. In our Google Doc discussion I wrote:
“I really think that this document (AUP) can be the source of one of the most important pieces of learning that a student of any age can engage in.”
I believe that more strongly than ever, especially after reading about and talking to Kim Cofino about the YIS Digital Citizenship Week. There the students explore what it means to be expressive in the digital world, and where boundaries are and what limits might exist out in the digital world. My second angle was that of teachability and language. The document that we currently use has little applicability in the elementary school as far as it’s accessibility. I needed to write a document that the children could interact with. What became clear to me during this search was that it is not really about the document, it is about the exploration of the ideas contained in the document. Shakespeare could write an AUP for us, but if a student’s father signs it on enrollment day and then it gets filed away and that’s the last we ever see of it, it doesn’t really matter who wrote it.
Andre De Koker, Sarah Leonardis and I began to gather examples of AUPs from other schools as well as our own, and keeping them in a shared Dropbox folder. As I read through the AUPs, I had a second small epiphany; The new AUP that I was going to write, I was not really going to write. There were a dozen great AUP’s in that folder, each one differing slightly in ways that were necessary because of how each school defined itself and what its population’s needs were. I would be borrowing, remixing, and customizing these ideas that others had created and refined, and adapting them to TAISM’s needs. So I began that process, knowing that a new AUP without a plan to teach it and bring it to life is no better than any other AUP buried in a file cabinet.
I talked to our IT specialist in the Elementary school, and we sorted through the permutations of what we thought might make effective splits. Should we have 3 AUP’s for K-5, or just 2? We decided that perhaps 3 would be more teachable. One AUP for Kindergarten and 1st grade, one for 2nd and 3rd grade, and one for 4th and 5th grades. Our rationale was hinged around the 3rd-4th-5th grades. I think that a child coming into 3rd grade is has different considerations from a child that is finishing up the 5th grade. I therefore paired the 3rd grade up with the 2nd grade, and worked on making the 4th-5th grade AUP a more sophisticated document for the students to work with. In the upper elementary grades the curriculum is asking them to engage in more complex projects and to deal with research and copyright issues more. The students are also entering the world of social media on a much more serious level, and at the same time their personal relationships are starting to become more confusing and intense for them.
I have tried to adapt and craft each bullet of the AUPs to fit our unique population, and to have in worded in a way that it is a teachable concept. Many of the concepts were already worded that way, because I drew on previous AUPs that I thought were close to what I was looking for. My goal is to work with Mike, our IT specialist, and see if we can write an AUP curriculum that classroom teachers could use to integrate (with his support) the ideas contained in these documents into their own community-building units. There will have to be some administrative support as well. The AUPs that I have written are visible at the following links: K-1 2-3 4-5