What is the Intent of the AUP?

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I wrote my AUP with two of my colleagues also in this COETAIL Cohort, Matt and Justin.  As we are all in the high school, we decided to try to upgrade and refine our current acceptable use policy, which has not been revised in some years.  We have presented our result to our current Director of Technology for feedback, in the hopes that we can adopt this, or a revised version, for the following school year.

In meeting about the AUP, we discussed a series of options.  Most of the samples we researched were wordy, sounded like legal documents, and contained a series of rules and regulations.  We figured, if they are unreadable to us, surely, they are unreadable, and therefore off-putting, to students.

I had just been looking at some sample school handbooks, and I like the way Taipei American School has laid out their Student and Parent Handbook.  Therefore, we looked at their AUP and really liked how it was centered on their school values.

At the same time, we are completing our self-study year for reaccreditation, and so we decided to focus our AUP on our Mission goals as well.  We wrote this document to reflect our school Mission and Beliefs and to represent the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law.  Hence, to the extent possible, we phrased things in the positive, focusing on what students should do rather than what they should not do.

In addition, we decided to define Digital Citizenship and incorporate the parameters this way.  In essence, this is a document meant to teach students how to be responsible Digital Citizens.  We also feel it is important to teach students that digital citizens create as well as consume.  Hence, our AUP is really a guideline for how to live with and use technology in this technology-laden world.  Hopefully, this is the first step in creating greater awareness of what digital citizenship is and how we can more fully support each other as digital learners.

Collaborative AUP for High School

Digital Citizenship = Global Citizenship

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A few days ago, I had an interaction at work in which I was visibly upset, more so than I have been since my early days of impassioned response, and those days, I attribute to youth.  This is not to say I am any less passionate, but rather that now, with maturity and perspective, I am more able to see all the murky gray that surrounds any situation.

In reflecting on why I was so upset, I realize that it had nothing to do with what was actually said in the meeting, but rather the expectations I had in going into the meeting.

I write this as I reflect on the following question, a question which seems to have a clear black and white answer:  Whose job is it to teach students to be safe online?

In essence, it is our job, everyone’s, all the adults.  Yet, that is a very unsafe assumption because the question should actually read, how do we teach students to be safe online?  And when?

As an administrator, I deal with issues centered around online safety and cyberbullying.  While they may be occurring in high school, many of these things actually started in 5th and 6th grade.

It is far too easy to offload responsibility.  I can imagine any of the following responses to the question:

  • The parents should teach it…
  • It should be taught in elementary school, middle school…
  • High school is too late…
  • We don’t have time in our curriculum…
  • We should start a separate 21st Century Skills class…

Who  is right?  No one and everyone.  Such is the beauty and problem of the world.

The fact is this: we should all be teaching digital citizenship because in today’s world, digital citizenship is global citizenship.  We should not create a separate unit that we teach once and expect students to know.  We should not relegate it to some random age grouping.  We should be constantly reminding students as we go through our courses.  We should not assume knowledge and say that “it is not my responsibility – they should have learned it before.”  At whatever age we teach, we must always meet a student where he/she is, and move that student forward.

In Outliers, Gladwell writes about the 10,000 hours.  He states that for anyone to become an expert, that person must engage in the activity, must practice for 10,000 hours.  If we go with this now widely accepted principle, is it any wonder our students have yet to reach mastery?  Be it with research citation, writing process, linear equations, or three point perspective, we must remember that we are experts and our students are novices.  Hence, they need practice.

Whose job is it to teach online safety?  Digital citizenship?  It is our job.  All of the adults in that student’s life, be it a parent, a grade 1 teacher or a senior English teacher, should be surrounding that student, providing inputs and supports for success.

Just as I should not have assumed intent in my recent meeting, neither should we assume knowledge in students.  We must embrace the notion that these are our children, and it is our responsibility and our privilege to teach them more than content.  It is our privilege to support and influence them as they move forward in life.

Learning is Asking the Question, Not Finding the Answer

In a recent blog post, John Merrow writes, “Schools today must provide opportunities for young people to create knowledge out of the swirling clouds of information that surround them 24/7.  You went to school because that’s where the knowledge was stored. That was yesterday. Think how different today’s world is. Today’s young people need guidance in sifting through the flood of information and turning it into knowledge. They need to be able to formulate good questions — because computers have all the answers.”

Sir Ken Robinson is one of my favorite speakers.  In this video, he urges us to shift paradigms because school is the one place in this ever-shifting world that has remained largely constant over the past 100 years.

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Heidi Hayes Jacobs discuss this in Curriculum 21.  She examines the roots of our present education system as designed by “the Committee of Ten, appointed at the meeting of the National Educational Association in 1892” (8) and who “recommended that all students—whether college bound or work oriented—should be taught the same curriculum…an academic program predicated on English, history, civics, mathematics, biology, chemistry, and physics on the high school level” and that “schooling would take place over 12 years—8 for the elementary grades (in which we now include middle school) and 4 for high school” (9).

When I first read this a few years ago, I was truly shocked.  To see it so blatantly written, that schools are largely doing the same thing as was determined, not in the last century, but in the century before, is pause for reflection.

A teacher I respect immensely recently stated that he believes schools will never take anything off a teacher’s plate; rather, as change occurs, schools continue to add to an already full plate.  Another colleague responded that while this may seem true, hopefully, what was added a few years ago has become ingrained and automatic.  That is the hope, and yet, with a full plate, where is the time?

I recently developed a leadership workshop framed around a series of essential questions.  The goal here, aside from modeling the UbD ethos which we use as a school, was to highlight that the question, and the dialogue surrounding the question, is far more important than the answer, particularly since the answer varies drastically based on the perspective and the situation.  As leaders, this is the essence of what we must know.

Reflecting back on the opening quote of this blog post, teaching questioning is not new.  Socrates was the master of questions.  However, as Jacobs points out in “Socrates Fails Teacher Evaluation,” we seem to have gotten waylaid in the 19th century model of finding the right answers.  This was a good model for its time.  Now what?  When we think about teaching in first grade, we need to be able to envision, not just what students need today, but what students need 15 years from today.  At the rate the world is changing, this is becoming a far greater challenge, and yet, it also poses exciting opportunities for growth.  In all that we do as educators, we should be asking what tomorrow looks like and seeking to merge tomorrow with yesterday and today.  That is what will be relevant for children.  And ultimately, it is they we serve, for without them, we don’t exist.