I wrote an article for the National Association of Independent Schools on the challenges of digital leadership. Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite!
Schools often purchase software, computer devices, and technology-based learning systems because they are effective marketing tools for recruitment, or because they want to keep pace with the digital investments of rival institutions, or simply because they fear appearing outdated. None of these have to do with learning, of course, and inevitably are insufficient to smooth over the challenges that arise as digital tools enter classroom spaces.
Too often, when navigating faculty or parental resistance, school leaders and technology staff make reassurances that things will not have to change much in the classroom or that slow baby steps are OK. Unfortunately, this results in a different problem, which is that schools have now invested significant money, time, and energy into digital technologies but are using them sparingly and seeing little impact. In such schools, replicative uses of technology are quite common, but transformative uses that leverage the unique affordances of technology are quite rare.
As school leaders, in order to achieve the types of successes that we hope for with technology, we will have to overbalance for our staff and parents the side of the scale that contains fears and concerns with countervailing, emotionally resonant stories, images, visions, and examples of empowered students and teachers doing amazing things. That’s fairly hard to do if we’re technology-hesitant or unknowledgeable about the educative value of technology ourselves, which is why so many successful digital leaders preach over and over again the necessity of personal engagement and modeling.
When we take away technology access because of student behavior concerns, we send the message that digital devices and the Internet are optional, ‘nice to have’ components of schooling rather than core elements of modern-day learning and teaching.
When we ban teachers from using social media – but not other forms of interaction – to communicate with students in or out of school, we send the message that we are unable to distinguish between behaviors and the mediums in which they occur.
When we decline to devote adequate time or support for technology-related professional learning and implementation, we send the message that low-level or nonexistent usage is just fine.
When we require educators to go hat in hand to IT personnel to get an educational resource unblocked, we send the message that we distrust them so they must be monitored.
When we wag our fingers at students about inappropriate digital behaviors without concurrently and equally highlighting the benefits of being connected and online, we send the message that we are afraid of or don’t understand the technologies that are transforming everything around us.
When we make blanket technology policies that punish the vast majority for the actions of a few, we send the messages of inconsistency and unfairness.
When we ignore the power of online and social media tools for communication with parents and other stakeholders, we send the message of outdatedness.
When we fail to implement hiring, induction, observation, coaching, and evaluation structures that emphasize meaningful technology integration, we send the message that it really isn’t that important to what we do in our classrooms.
When we treat students as passive recipients of teacher-directed integration rather than tapping into their technology-related interests, knowledge, and skills, we send the message that they don’t have anything to contribute to their own learning experiences. And that control is more important than empowerment.
When we continue to place students in primarily analog learning spaces and ignore that essentially all knowledge work these days is done digitally, we send the message of irrelevance to our students, parents, and communities.
Are these the messages that we intend to send with our technology decision-making (or lack thereof)? Often not, but what counts is the perceptions of the recipients of our decisions.
What technology messages is your school system sending? (and what would you add to this list?)
It’s Banned Books Week. I oppose censorship and support students’ and educators’ freedom to read. Do you?
Does that extend to all of those blogs and other web sites that your schools are filtering and blocking categorically?
Tim Cushing said:
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 (AUPs).
Some random technology-related incidents that I have seen and heard about during the first few weeks of school here in Iowa…
1. Big Brother
Nothing says ‘students, get excited about our new 1:1 initiative!’ like frequent, numerous, vehement reminders from administrators during the rollout that WE ARE WATCHING YOU and that WE CAN SEE EVERYTHING ON YOUR SCREENS AT ALL TIMES.
2. More sign-offs than buying a house
Nothing says ‘students, get excited about your new laptop!’ like both students and parents having to initial each and every one of the items below AND having to sign their name twice for the overall list.
- 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.
3. RTF or WTF?
Nothing says ‘students, get excited about your faculty’s technology knowledge!’ like your community college professor sending you a bunch of .RTF files to start the course.
4. Nope, and nope
Parent: “The kids all have laptops. Can we use this free online graphing calculator program instead of having to shell out $100+ for a separate graphing calculator?” School: Nope.
Student: “We all have laptops. I know you cited some random study that I will retain more if I handwrite my notes but I’m an A+ student even when I type my notes. Plus there are many things that I can do with digital notes that I can’t when they’re handwritten. Can I use my laptop for notetaking?” Teacher: Nope.
I think we can do better than this. How about you? What would you add from your own first few weeks of school?
NorthJersey.com just posted an article on how New Jersey school districts are creating very restrictive social media policies for their adult employees because of new legislative edicts. Here is the comment I just left there:
I wonder if the districts’ policies for employees also include no handwritten notes to students, no face-to-face discussions at church or at the mall or in the grocery store, no landline phone calls, etc. These districts already have policies prohibiting inappropriate communication with students. Why not just make sure those policies include electronic communications and be done with it rather than create special policies that demonize technology and highlight to kids how irrelevant we adults are? Why are we penalizing the 99.9% of teachers and students who will use these tools appropriately for the 0.1% of those who won’t? We don’t do this in other areas of discipline. We’re cutting off our noses to spite our faces…
We’re unknowledgeable, we’re afraid, and/or we need control. As a result, we’re discouraging adult educators from connecting with and forging relationships with youth. I think that’s dumb, particularly when the statistical prevalence of such incidents is so incredibly infinitesimal.
What do you think?
Most school technology acceptable use policies (AUPs) contain these kinds of phrases:
- “Students shall not use technology unless authorized by appropriate school personnel.”
- “The use of the Internet is a privilege, not a right, and inappropriate use will result in cancellation of those privileges.”
- “Students will not access or modify other accounts, data, files, and/or passwords without authorization.”
- “You will be held responsible at all times for the proper use of district technology resources, and the district may suspend or revoke your access if you violate the rules.”
- “Users have no right to privacy while using the district’s Internet systems. The district monitors users’ online activities and reserves the right to access, review, copy, store, or delete any electronic communications or files. This includes any items stored on district-provided devices, such as files, e-mails, cookies, and Internet history.”
- And so on…
That’s a lot of legalistic language. That’s a lot of negativity.
How about an empowered use policy (EUP) instead? In other words, instead of saying NO, NO, NO! all the time, how about saying yes? Here’s one to consider…
[SCHOOL / DISTRICT NAME]
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.Thank you and let us know if you have any questions.
Is there anything major that this EUP doesn’t address? Other thoughts or reactions? Help me make it better…
George Couros says:
If we got rid of a library in a school, people would be outraged that [we were] taking away information away from students, yet kids often hold the biggest library in the world in their pocket[s] and schools ban them from using it in the classroom.
They can use it at home but, hey, let’s just ignore that. Blocking is always better than educating, right?