Responsible use of Technology and Access to technology for educators

The issue of Responsible use and Web filtering is something that rears its ugly head periodically.  Recently I listened to a Lawyer conduct some PD to discuss the issues surrounding technology, copyright, FIPPA, FIA, and Their legal implications.  The lawyers answer to the question of student presence was simply “don’t”.  Sharing any information on the web even with parental consent is tricky.  The problem with this view of technology in schools is two fold.

First we (Divisions=taxpayers)  have spent way too much money to develop networks and infrastructure to support the use of technology to enhance student learning to not fully use it.  Technology allows for opportunities to collaborate, and construct learning in ways that old standards (Pen/Paper/Books) never could.

Secondly I think that the incidence of problems is over inflated by the media and public in general.  We are very cautious about technology but rather than teaching students to be responsible digital citizens we block access.  Blocking access is a major hurdle for innovation teachers, who tend to shy away from technology if it is not reliable, but only a minor inconvenience for students with time and motivation to bypass technological restrictions.

What does all this mean? It means that we need to teach responsible use regardless of what we do in terms of blocking and restrictions.  We need to operate in our schools as though our students have open access even if they don’t because ingenious students can get what they want even with the best precautions, our job is to ensure that they understand what responsible use.

I borrowed this document from George Corous.  Follow this link for the full document.

We embrace the following conditions or facets of being a digital citizen.

• Respect Yourself. I will select online names that are appropriate, I will consider the information and images that I post online.
• Protect Yourself. I will not publish my personal details, contact details or a schedule of my activities.
• Respect Others. I will not use technologies to bully or tease other people.
• Protect Others. I will protect others by reporting abuse and not forwarding inappropriate materials or communications.
• Respect Intellectual Property. I will suitably cite any and all use of websites, books, media, etc.
• Protect Intellectual Property. I will request to use the software and media that others produce.

Interestingly his school division blocks pornography and gambling sites only and his teachers have full access to the internet.  Apparently this approach is widely adopted in Europe and has spread in North America, much to the disdain of Lawyers.  An excellent example of this phenomenon is in my own school.  Two years ago after consultation with parents, the community and teachers we decided to allow students to bring their cellphones to school under certain conditions.  The conditions we imposed were simple 1. Phones cannot be used in class unless your teacher wants them for educational purposes, 2. Use them responsibly.

Since this change I have had less than five incidents involving cellphones and before teachers were having daily issues. Giving students the power to make choices resulted in responsible behaviours.  I think responsible use of the web will work in a similar fashion.

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