Digital Citizenship and Acceptable Use Policies

It’s the end of the school year here in the Mitten. Several area schools finished on the 5th of June and have been enjoying some well-deserved time away from the classroom. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t been learning! Last week I led a two-day Professional Development training with teachers at one of my schools. This particular elementary building is becoming a GAFE school, which I’m incredibly pumped about. I swear I’m not paid by Google (but if they’d like to…), but knowing another school is going to get on board with GAFE makes my heart happy.

We spent an awesome and productive two days just skimming the surface of all the amazing things GAFE will do to help make integrating technology more seamless. Before we were able to jump right in to the Google pool, I wanted to help set the groundwork for teachers by having an honest and frank conversation about Digital Citizenship. This is such an important topic that really helps to lay the groundwork for staff and students, yet it is often overlooked. Maybe it’s because it’s not as “sexy” as a fun tool like Kahoot or productivity apps, but it is essential to setting up expectations for technology usage. Beyond that, it is an essential skill our students do not have and we as educators are tasked with teaching them. Often we assume that because students grew up with technology they know how to use it appropriately. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. More often than not, students don’t have a real understanding of the potential ramifications of their technology usage.

To kick off our two days of training, I had teachers experience a Digital Citizenship lesson from a student point of view. I acted as the teacher and the rest of the staff went through the lesson as the students. I used The Trillion Dollar Footprint lesson from Common Sense Media’s Digital Citizenship Scope and Sequence. The gist of the lesson is, utilizing only the social media profiles of two candidates, students are to decide which candidate to hire as their talk show host of a new show – Trillion Dollar Footprint. It was very interesting to hear the conversation about the types of impressions staff made about the candidates after only reading a few things about each of them. Staff were instructed to make a decision on who they would hire, but there were some strong opinions about which candidate should be hired. We had rich discussion about who shapes our digital footprint and why it’s important to be mindful of what types of things are “out there” about us.

We transitioned into looking at the school’s Acceptable Use Policy. One of things I’m passionate about in helping building develop their technology plans is taking a hard look at their AUPs. In many cases, these documents haven’t evolved in many years, are stuck in the back of a student handbook, or is one of those screens you click “I Accept” when you first get a device. A lot of times these forms are not written in language that is easily digestible or engaging to read. Prior to our PD time together, we examined a lot of different AUPs and agreed that framing it in terms of values and behaviors would be the most meaningful. In this way, all parties involved are invested in the usage of the technology. We also are asking parents and students to sign off on this AUP so that it’s more of a communal document rather than a school directive. Of course schools have a responsibility to ensure that students use technology appropriately and responsibly, but we felt that by framing our AUP in terms of values, it helped to answer the “why” piece.

Establishing a shared vision, a set of agreed upon values, creating a culture of acceptance and trust, and upholding those ideals are essential to a successful 1:1 implementation. We ended our discussion with staff feeling more comfortable about the types of expectations the school will have for students. There are currently plans in place to begin the school year co-teaching with the classroom teachers some digital citizenship lessons. Setting the expectations early, revisiting them when necessary, and reinforcing them as the need arises will pay dividends in helping to create a culture of excellence.

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