PRIVACY and duty of care are a right of students. As the number of teachers and students continues to grow from the grassroots, do we need better policy, as we do more online?
At worst, students online should have their identity protected – and there should be an acceptable use policy in place to even access the internet. This policy needs to be in ‘plain’ English – so students can understand it – and make it better. If the network policy was written by the IT guy, then its probably more about ‘what you won’t’ do – and not what you don’t understand not to do.
We need to be very ethical in our use of social media publication today. The growth of ‘youth online’ in the last few years is staggering – and reports vary widely due to the almost un-definable meaning of ‘online’. Five years ago, reports suggested that “Most children (79 percent) and parents (95 percent) agree that parents are knowledgeable about kids’ online activities.” This kind of statement seems odd, considering five years ago, the media focus was on cyber-stalking, cyber-crime and collapse of language via MySpace.
Today, teachers are ever more interested in making sure that students are ‘digital-citizens’, equipped to move fluidly over the landscape of social media, as though it is some permeable layer that promotes a transfer of knowledge. Some are doing it amazingly – and demonstrating both disciplinary and digital literacy attainment, however this is not universal. Many are not seeking effective, ethical permission to do so – and when promoting their blog, seem to ask ‘everyone’ about what they ‘think’ – when perhaps they need to be more specific.
“I soon realized that blogs also contain raw research, early results, and other useful information that never gets presented at conferences. Of course, that is just the beginning.”
It is an interesting approach – public comments as peer review – and the changes that it brings in academic work. Wardrip-Fruin goes on to say
“blog-based review form not only brings in more voices (which may identify more potential issues), and not only provides some “review of the reviews” (with reviewers weighing in on the issues raised by others), but is also, crucially, a conversation”
We need to be very clear when their online work is conversational vs scholarly – and be very honest about this to ourselves and students. We can’t say ‘we are always assessing’ – that is not enough when we’re talking about the internet. Students work online because they are told to; they use friend-networks because they want to.
We need to find ways to represent the boundaries and intersections when using blogs, wikis, podcasts etc., in this context.
CLASSIFICATION POLICY and PROCEDURE
Green work for conversational discussion (that doesn’t make it outside the institution), orange work for collaboration with other institutions and students (closed to the public) and red work – where it is likely that their work or part of it will be seen, or referenced in future published material, scholarly activity – or just Google-able.
Teachers need to demonstrate visible compliance with school policy and keep appropriate records to ensure professional development is focused on realistic ability and activity. Those responsible for curriculum must demonstrate understanding where this activity intersects with their ‘job’, and be proactive – not reactive by passing the risk to others. Leadership in this regard might be through the development of a policy where teachers need to spend some time on ‘green’ activities – and demonstrate attainment before moving further.
LEADERSHIP BASED APPROACH TO RENEWAL
This approach may lead to new ideas on network policy; new ideas on the induction into these spaces and better classification of ‘tools’ and professional practice. We need to ensure that those teachers who wish to enter the ‘red’ zone are themselves aware of the implications of poor practice, privacy and the nature of public comment. We need to create guidelines and resources that model and reflect this through school leadership channels.
Students in a grade 3 class undertake a green project using ‘voicethread’. Parents receive a ‘green publishing’ notice that clearly outlines the scope of work and what happens to it after the project ends – what data is going to be collected, where it will be kept – and how it applies to the assessment.
This would ensure that the teacher is aligning the outcome, the activity and the assessment – and is fully aware of its ongoing ‘reasonable use’. Consideration must be given to who owns the data’– and how in the future the students will have access to it (if at all). Parents understand how the school is managing their child’s digital footprint – and the student understands how to behave and approach the work in context.
We cannot today, simply ask parents for ‘blanket’ permission notes or rely on IT-Centric Network Policy to ‘cover’ ourselves. We need to rethink, and re-design the ‘classification’ (and associated technologies) – using simple systems – that clearly communicate how we are protecting and respecting the rights of the child.