For the final project an impromptu cohort formed at Taipei American School to brainstorm, collaborate, and create a new AUP for grades 3-5. Rock Hudson, Michelle Lawgun, Andrew Vicars, James Couch, and Rick Monge met last Wednesday to stir the pot of ideas around the goal of cranking out the new AUP. After looking at policies from different divisions, we zoomed in on the grades 3-5 AUP for our focus. Rock and I are teach in grades 4 and 5, so it was good to have the perspectives from both kindergarten and upper school represented as well. Furthermore, we found that the expectations for an AUP are essentially the same school wide, the difference lies in creating an AUP that has language that is accessible and appropriate for the students at different levels.
Before the meeting, we had all done some pre-reading of our different divisions current AUPs, the sources from the COETAL course, as well as some AUPs from other schools. The general guidelines of the AUPs were quite similar and addressed a wide range of topics from care to citations to cyberbullying. We discussed how the AUP should connect to our school values of honesty, respect, responsibility, and kindness since the expectations of our digital community should mirror those of our real world school community. So the school values, which are the core of our lower school character education program, became the framework for our new AUP. Fortunately, we found a draft of an AUP for the middle school that had the same principle of using the school values.
We set out to craft a AUP structured by the values of honesty, respect, responsibility, and kindness, and to wordsmith it to be comprehensible for students in grade 3-5. With these basic intentions for our AUP determined, we focused on creating a document that used language appropriate for students in grades 3-5 since the AUP will be read and signed by lower school students. Looking at our current AUP for grades 3-5, we found much of the language useful, but there was repetition of ideas, some vague areas that needed more specificity, and some awkward phrasing. Moreover, the layout of the current AUP is perplexing. Multiple cartoons used to illustrate the AUP are woven throughout the eleven page document, and the various statements were not categorized in any way. Though certainly well intentioned, it seemed a mess in need of renovation.
With both physical and digital copies of the two AUPs (the middle school and the lower school ones) on the table, we began forging our hybrid version. We used the school values as the categories to organize the multiple statements. We also added an additional category of “safety” both to emphasize and to create a space for statements that were primarily concerned with safety rather than the character values. Next, we weeded through the existing lower school AUP and pulled out statements, tweaked the wording to make them more concise, and merged several of them that seemed repetitive.
As we continue to roll forward on creating the AUP (rather than reinventing the wheel), we found our decisions as to where to put certain statements to be a bit arbitrary. For example, does “I will always give credit when I have used other people’s work” fit under the category of “Honesty” or “Responsibility”? We attempted to make the most sage decisions about how to organize the statements under the values while realizing that many of them actually fit under various values. Realizing the arbitrary nature of some of the placements, we were quick to compromise and move forward.
Michelle continued typing on Google Docs while Rock projected the doc on the whiteboard screen, while we all added to her work either verbally or digitally. Phrasing and rephrasing of the statements went back and forth across the table. We were copying and pasting what each other said, sometimes citing that we were repeating what someone had just said and at other times just running with it. In the end a pretty nice framework was created that met our primary goal of creating an AUP that used language similar to the real world school wide values.
Finally, pleased with our newly organized statements, we decided that we needed a philosophy statement that clearly articulated the ethical dimension of using digital tools. Borrowing language from our school’s mission statement as well as common language of our technology instruction and character education, the philosophy statement sets the tone for the agreements of the AUP. The language of the philosophy statement is perhaps a bit more challenging for the audience of students of grades 3-5; however, they do have familiarity with most of this common language. Since our intention was that the AUP would be a document that is signed by students and parents at the beginning of the school year, we decided that a mention of the consequences of breach of the agreements was necessary at the end.
We shared the document with our lower school IT teacher Nancy Gorneau to consider for use as our new AUP. Currently, we have students and parents sign a similar document at the beginning of the school year. However, the language of that document is not as kid-friendly and does not structure the agreements in relation to the school values. With a new emphasis on character education in our lower school centered around the values of honesty, respect, responsibility, and kindness, we hope that this new AUP will be adopted. It would be a fruitful conclusion to the work we’ve done.
Lastly, my realization in the coursework this month and in creating the AUP is that the real world and digital communities of schools need to be viewed, discussed, and managed with the same values in mind. The digital school community is not an extension but an integral part of our learning community, and to avoid issues of misuse like cyberbullying, we have to create a trusting community were stakeholders act with integrity.