Few entities approach new advances in technology with more foreboding than school administrations. What could be used as portals to a nearly-infinite supply of information via the internet is often neutered into uselessness by schools' acceptable use policies (AUP).
Several months back, the Los Angeles Unified School District shelled out $500 million on iPads for its students. Within a week of the first deployment, the schools were already repossessing the devices
. Students found that the new tool was aggressively limited by school-installed software that turned the Information Superhighway into a dark tunnel that runs from the device to the school. So, they figured out how to circumvent the built-in "protections." And in doing so, lost access to the devices altogether.
School officials (including school resource officers [pronounced "cops"] saw the equivalent in the fall of Western Civilization contained in the students' subversion of restrictive limitations. But rather than use the opportunity to teach or learn, they simply took the technology away.
Dangerously Irrelevant's Scott McLeod
[previously seen here discussing tech/schools
], the Director of Innovation for the Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency in Iowa, noted the following while making some early year tours of schools in Iowa. Rather than embrace the Internet and technology in general, schools put more legalistic wording into telling students how much stuff they can do wrong
by using either.
In addition to such proclamations as "your use will be monitored" and "internet access is a privilege," McLeod found that the average Acceptable Use Policy contains more things t...
The composite list he put together rivals the numerous unreadable Terms of Service agreements scattered across the web.
- I understand that I am responsible for my use of the district technologies and the use of the tools is for academic and educational purposes.
- I will practice digital citizenship by using information and technology responsibly, legally, and ethically.
- I understand the use of the Internet and technology is a privilege and not a right; there are consequences for not adhering to the Acceptable Use Policy.
- I will honor property rights and copyrights with information and technology.
- I will keep my intellectual property safe by saving in specified locations, using and safeguarding passwords, and using my own account at all times.
- I will practice personal safety by safeguarding identities while online or offline.
- I will not participate in any form of cyber-bullying or harassment.
- I will use technology in a respectful manner, sharing equipment and resources.
- I will only use district-approved technology, tools, resources, and applications while on [the district’s] campuses.
- I understand that users must use the district wireless access points; no personal or other access points should be used while on [district] campuses.
- I understand that personally-owned devices are not allowed on district networks nor used for online access.
- I will not attempt to use any software, utilities, applications, or other means to access Internet sites or content blocked by filters.
- I will not capture video, audio, or pictures without the consent of all persons being recorded, their knowledge of the media’s intended use, as well as the approval of a staff member.
- I will report any problems with the equipment, resources, or network to a teacher or administrator in a timely manner.
- I understand that the district’s technology resources are the property of the district. I have no expectation of privacy with respect to any materials therein, and all use of district technology resources may be monitored without notice.
- I understand that I may be responsible for any damage or loss I cause to district technology resources.
- I have read the acceptable use policy, which [sic] are incorporated by reference herein, and agree to the stated conditions in this form as well as in the entire policy and regulations. I also agree to abide by any school technology handbook which may be applicable.
- I understand that I am responsible for taking care of my laptop and accessories, including proper cleaning, avoiding hot and cold temperatures, and storing the laptop in the district-provided case.
- I will not leave my laptop unattended unless it is locked in a secure place. I (or parents) may be fully responsible for the cost of replacement should my laptop become lost or stolen.
- I understand that I (or parents) may be fully responsible for the cost of repair or replacement due to damages that occur to the laptop issued to me or damages I am responsible for on another person’s laptop.
- I will bring the laptop to school every day and to the best of my abilities have it fully charged.
- I will use the laptop for educational purposes and in accordance with the handbook and other applicable [district] policies, including, but not limited to, policy [ZZZ]. I will use academically-appropriate sounds, music, video, photos, games, and applications.
- I will not attempt to use any software, utilities, applications, or other means to access Internet sites or content blocked by filters. [duplicate!]
- I will only use the laptop’s recording capabilities for academic purposes, with consent of the participants, their knowledge of the media’s intended use, and staff approval.
- I will report any problems with my laptop to a member of the technology staff in a timely manner. The only technology support for the [district] laptops are [sic] through the [district] technology department, not a store or technology service.
- I understand that the district owns the laptop and has the right to collect and inspect the laptop at any time. I have no expectation of privacy in the laptop on [sic] any materials and/or content contained therein.
- While off campus, I will abide by [district’s] policies and agreement with respect to the use of the laptop, including but not limited to the 21st century learning handbook and board policy [ZZZ].
- I will only use public or personally-owned access points and not privately-owned points without the owner’s permission.
- I will turn in the laptop and accessories on or before the designated day and location, or prior to my leaving the [district].
- We have read the [district] 21st century learning handbook and policy [ZZZ] (acceptable use), which are incorporated by reference herein, and agree to the stated conditions. Questions or accommodations regarding the device would be directed to your building principals.
He's not exaggerating much. While not every policy has all of these stipulations, a cursory search for Acceptable Use Policies finds plenty of AUPs with similar stipulations, most of which run on at length [pdf].
How does this encourage students to expand their knowledge or broaden their horizons? How can anyone learn from mistakes when all mistakes are either preempted or severely punished? Students faced with agreements like these may just decide to do all their surfing at home or anywhere else where they don't need to get the approval of presumptive "guardians" or worry about accidentally violating the many rules governing their dumbed-down access points?
Even worse is the fact that an extensive list of "don'ts" doesn't encourage proper behavior. The AUPs assume that any small amount of leeway will be abused. What it says to students is that the school doesn't trust them to do anything on their own without screwing it up or using resources to do "bad" things. This sort of thing, repeated year after year throughout school, has a cumulative negative effect that strips students of the ability and willingness to make their own decisions or handle their own problems.
Yes, trust is earned, but simply signalling that you're willing to trust sends a powerful message to students. Those who will take this opportunity to further build trust will find it very rewarding. Those who only look for loopholes will be swiftly outed by their own actions. The only difference between a restrictive AUP and an empowering AUP is this: some students will improve. The number of those abusing the system will remain roughly unchanged. Implied trust is a very powerful motivator in the right people. And those are the kind of people schools should be actively pushing towards greater things.
McLeod suggests a different type of Acceptable Use Policy -- one that will encourage students to try harder, do better and become awesome people. He calls it an "Empowered Use Policy" (EUP). If nothing else, it's a whole hell of a lot shorter.
When it comes to digital technologies in our [school / district], please…
Be empowered. Do awesome things. Share with us your ideas and what you can do. Amaze us.
Be nice. Help foster a school community that is respectful and kind.
Be smart and be safe. If you are uncertain, talk with us.
Be careful and gentle. Our resources are limited. Help us take care of our devices and networks.
There's no shortage of micromanagers in the world. Let's not keep giving them a reason to exist by sending them wave after wave of graduates who can only function when someone else is in control of every aspect of their activities.