These past few weeks I had the privilege of collaborating with Claire Wachowiak. We both felt that our schools would benefit from revamped Responsible Use Agreements and embarked on a collaborative journey to improve and redefine this form for the 21st Century School. In my previous blog posts I’ve revisited the idea that something needs to change in the curriculum and/or the school’s technological vision to ensure teachers are providing space for students to understand and practice both Connectivism and Digital Citizenship. I’ve also explored the importance of properly defining ‘screen time’ so we can avoid Device Blaming & App Shaming and get on with using technology as a tool, not a replacement for the teacher. However, rather than wait for this much needed change to begin, we decided to see how we could embed some of these key networked and digital literacy outcomes (based on ISTE standards) within our revised Responsible Use Agreement.
Both of our schools have developed fairly standard Responsible Use Agreements, which address expected behaviours regarding the device and its content. However, I felt they failed to really define other important elements of the whole digital citizen. To go back to an important point in Jeff Utecht’s Reach: the line between Digital and Networked Literacies is a fine one. If we are to properly prepare students for the future, we need to ensure that students, parents and teachers are aware of Networked Literacies and the responsibility of becoming network literate as a digital citizen. As Jeff Utecht puts it: Networked Literacy is about understanding connections. In order to understand connections, we need to ensure EdTech is being used to facilitate these connections in the first place.
Extension.org is an excelent place to begin understanding more about Network Literacy.
Image: Screenshot from eXtension.org definition Network Literacy
The example below of an existing Responsible Use Agreement demonstrates the breadth of ‘responsibility’. It really focuses solely on information, images and personal details, but completely ignores the positive expectations for using technology for connectivism.
Futhermore, it’s easy for parents and students to sign and return, but they still may not be clear on the purpose of EdTech devices in schools and at home. Many parents simply tick the box that they will monitor their students’ use of devices at home, yet several incidents emerged this year that proved they had not followed these guidelines. Often, it is then left to the schools to educate and resolve issues that occur using school devices or platforms, outside school hours.
I understand this school’s choice to cover a wide breadth of expected User behaviours online and using the device. However, it focuses solely on the respect and property side of EdTech use, rather than encompassing all aspects of networked and digital literacy. Furthermore, we felt only including the parents and students in this agreement demonstrated an incomplete representation of all stakeholders in the child’s relationship with EdTech. Therefore, we also added a third and fourth stakeholder in the Responsible Use Agreement: The Teachers and Administrators.
Many teachers presume since the device is in the classroom, it will lend itself to autonomously teaching the children, and thus they will (through osmosis) become digital citizens. This is not the purpose of having iPads in the classroom…they are meant to be used as a tool, not as a teacher. If we expect the students to be using the devices responsibly, the teachers and admin need to be accountable for how the devices are being used, and ensuring they are being used as a tool to create and/or to practice specific networked or digital literacies. Common Sense Media provides a plethora of activities, iBooks, videos etc to engage students in these conversations as well as practice digital citizenship. Meanwhile, the ISTE standards provide excellent guidelines and benchmarks for students, teachers, admin and coaches to to practice, model and advocate for digital citizenship throughout the school community. It is also up to admin to be aware of the purpose of devices so they can remain consistent when issues arise.
We believe if all stakeholders sign the same document, while also referring to the ISTE standards, then a common language and common vision for EdTech use can be fostered within a school.
Here is our final Revised Responsible Use Agreement with ISTE Standards