Policy and Risk in 1:1 Laptops

As we see laptops being issued to students directly, here in Australia and around the world- it’s interesting to look at the policies being issued to students and teachers – which then shape their use and the learning possible. Given the language. Are we ready for laptops?

When it comes to visualising policy, a word cloud helps me to illuminates the ‘mood’ of the document.

This illustration is from a school laptop policy which beginsstudents will not disable …’, and then goes on to list a long list of terms and conditions under which students can use them. The entire document is built around fear and control, passing significant, long-term risk and responsibility from the issuing authority to the student.

As a parent, I’d be weighing up the risks before agreeing to such terms as;

“never plagiarise information and will observe appropriate copyright clearance, including acknowledging the author or source of any information” and “responsible for any breaches caused”.

The personal computer under overt policy becomes a personal tracking device. Mobile computing means flexible thinking; and shared risk.  I wonder how policy affects the learning outcomes. Risk passed directly to the student regardless of their ability to interpret or comply with it? – How does that encourage better pedagogy? How is this being taught and assessed? or it is a case of wait until it happens, then determine who was at fault.

A photo for example, used on a blog or powerpoint? Does the teacher understand copyright?, will the child ask? How can we validate that it is the original source … how much time will be afforded to addressing these issues in busy curricula?

So if we allow digital sources into student work, then we have to be clear as to which parts are being assessed against the usage policy and which against learning outcomes. At a time when teachers are often critisised in their use of technology, the policy that acompanies the device will to a large extent determine the way in which it can be used. We have come a long way in educational technology, but in reform and policy there seems to be an increasing shift of responsibility on children. I’m left wondering if we classrooms are ready for personal laptops in learning and teaching … and have put a 10 second poll online which I hope you’ll add your voice too (or leave a comment).


5 thoughts on “Policy and Risk in 1:1 Laptops

  1. Perhaps most policy comes from top level administrators who are concerned only about liability.

  2. Just to put my reply in context, I’m 62 and have been using personal computers since 1983. I’m pretty savvy about Windows but like my Mac better. I’ve never worked in geekdom.

    As I look around nowadays, it seems to me that a tremendous amount of policy is being written by people probably over 40 who have no idea of the real conditions of use of the technology by the young end-users whose behavior they’re trying to regulate. Much of it looks like locking the barn door after the horse is loose.

    Any policy today that says “students shall” or “students shall not” is probably missing the point that many bright 17-year-olds can compute rings around anyone as little as a decade older. One young friend of mine has told me not to leave my computer within reach of anyone in our youth group “because we can all hack into your private stuff — and will, if we’re bored or angry about something. And it won’t matter how much encryption you think you’re using.”

    I asked for a demonstration, and he was SO right!

    On the topic of copyright … we need to teach students how to evaluate sources. Wikipedia is often accurate, and occasionally spectacularly wrong.

    A very professional-looking website may be giving “data” that is actually taken off the top of the head of the webspinner, who may or may not be well-enough informed.

    When two “experts” disagree, how do you select which one to cite, and why?

    Considering that nobody I know who’s over 30 has any idea what the kids are using Twitter for …


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  4. You are right about many school administrators being very worried about liability. They are particularly scared of the new technologies and are writing very negative, and restrictive, policies about things they have very little first-hand knowledge of. I have spent quite a lot of time and energy trying to get teachers to understand what skills they want the students to learn and what technologies might be best suited to helping them do that. This is a slow process. Evaluating the tools and any information is quite a steep learning curve for some. In some cases they would rather not know/learn because it is too new or too much trouble. Understanding some basic internet activities, such as an information search, and copyright, creative commons and fair use, seems to be beyond some. I sometime look at the teachers despairingly when their answer is “all the copying is ok because it’s for educational use.”
    The students have proven, on a number of occasions, that, given stimulating/interesting work and clear guidelines, they can and do work well, without abusing any of the technologies, and enjoy the whole learning process.
    So are we ready? Well if teachers, and the education system, want to remain relevant, they had better start to get ready, and prepare to guide their students and help prepare them for the world they are going to live in.

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