Recently, I presented at a school on an opening day for teachers where the first thing that greeted everyone on the table in the lobby was an 8-page Acceptable Use Policy which staff members were picking up as they filed into the school. I picked one up too, and when I had a moment I started paging through it, looking at all the ways in which students (and teachers) could get themselves in trouble on the school network. The middle three pages were filled with an A-Y double spaced list (guess they were saving room for one more rule next year) which spelled out the many transgressions that were not going to be tolerated, things like people shouldn’t be harassing one another, going around the filter, accessing shopping sites, accessing any sites that were “social in nature” and, the big one, downloading software to school computers for personal use. And much, much more.
Frankly, I couldn’t help thinking that if I was a student in this district, I think I would actually beg NOT to get a computer. Between the filters and the restrictions, I had a hard time imagining what I would be able to use them for in ways that would actually stimulate my learning. I’d rather take my chances with my phone and my computer at home. (About 90% of students in this district had access from home.)
But the other part that struck me was what this policy said about the curriculum in that district. I wondered aloud to some administrators and teachers later if the stiff policies spoke volumes about what they weren’t teaching in their classrooms K-12 as their students went through the system. I mean wouldn’t it seem that if kids were taught throughout the curriculum about the ethical and appropriate use of computers and the Internet that much more of that policy could be spent going over what students could actually do with the computer rather than the “don’t dos” that were listed? At that point, we’d probably have to change the name to an “Admirable Use Policy” or something, but imagine if students walked in on the first day of class, picked up that policy and read things like:
“Do use our network to connect to other students and adults who share your passions with whom you can learn.”
“Do use our network to help your teachers find experts and other teachers from around the world.”
“Do use our network to publish your best work in text and multimedia for a global audience.”
“Do use our network to explore your own creativity and passions, to ask questions and seek answers from other teachers online.”
“Do use our network to download resources that you can use to remix and republish your own learning online.”
“Do use our network to collaborate with others to change the world in meaningful, positive ways.”
Etc. (Add your own below.)
Now, obviously, that would mean that the curriculum would be preparing students to do that all along, But I’m thinking that if I was a student and I read those “dos” on the first day of school, I’d be itching to get to class.