Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Web 2 policies for schools

Last week I spent a couple of hours working with the principals from our cluster of schools to update our existing policies around the way our students and teachers work in our Manaiakalani projects. It is not enough to call them internet policies because they also encompass the local television, public televison, and podcasts through iTunes that our students participate in. At the moment I am calling them policies for 21st century learning and teaching.

I am fortunate to work with a group of principals who are very supportive of the big picture idea of providing a 21st century learning environment. They also are aware that they need to keep up to speed with what is currently happening in their schools and in schools around the world who are working in this way. And that it is a big ask.

Two hours is not long enough to do more than scratch the surface of this topic, but the idea we did discuss in depth is the one I have depicted in the image below. When people start to talk about policies around blogs for example, the idea many seem to have is of a blog being like a book, a movie or even a webpage with all the elements contained within the page/screen you are looking at. So you write a policy about who can do do what on a blog, who owns the content, who moderates it etc and you are finished, right? No, you're not...

The beauty of a blog (and of course a wiki works in the same way) is the ability to embed elements from all the cool Web 2 tools we can lay our hands on. And this means student images, movies, and other content is possibly spread over a dozen or more accounts on the internet. The image I have created below is of a blog I started in 2007 for Korero Pt England, the KPE podcasts. I went through it and included all the sites that are currently feeding into the one blog....This means the agreement our schools develop needs to encompass students and teachers using or uploading student content to all these places - and the latest ones we will discover tomorrow.
As we have pointed out many times, the predator concerns are a minor possibility. There are far more likely scenarios of why we need to have a clear knowledge of where our student images and other content is being hosted. eg a parent walks into the school and says that due to an incident at home her children are now under a protection order and they can't have any images displayed online which may identify their whereabouts. Removing them from a blog or the school website should be simple. But if there are other sites hosting these images too they also may need to be accessed. As a facilitator I have worked with teachers who when you ask them to log into xxxx account online have forgotten their username or password, often because they clicked 'save my name/password'!
Some simple solutions we have agreed to;
All accounts are owned by adults (teachers or parents) and this saves us from concerns about the age restrictions as well;
All account emails used to sign up are the school domain ones if they are involving school students (so I don't use my xtra account or hotmail)
All usernames and passwords EITHER use a designated schoolwide username and password OR are kept in a secure database maintained by a senior manager of the school.

These solutions for 21st century learning and teaching are not intended to restrict the creativity and innovation of the teachers, but rather to protect them and their students.

This post is long enough. More discussion to come...