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...


  1. What about linking from your blog to other web sites- like maths games, reading activities and other blogs??? Are there guidelines as to what sorts of sites are appropriate. (Some I don't link to because of inappropriate advertising- eg Podomatic). WE have no support for getting a pro account.

    I wonder what you do with blogs/podcasts made by teachers that have left your school and moved on to other things.

    I have a feeling of personal ownership of our class blog and definitely my Edublog. Are you planning to develop any policies/guidelines to cover that.

    Last year the teacher that took my class wanted to take over the blog and I wouldn't give her the usernames- mainly I didn't want her mucking it up but also she wouldn't know what is there anyway and I thought it would be better if she developed her own content. Was I being selfish! I made another blog for her to get her started.

  2. Hi Allanah, Thanks for your reflections on this. I think one of the major ideas I have in developing the next round of thinking in regard to our cluster school policies is that there are two very significant parties who need to be involved; school leaders and people who are completely aware because it is what they DO (like you).
    Not sure if this is a general, rhetorical question or if you are asking about our cluster specifically, but I will answer about where we are currently thinking...
    Yes, we are addressing the appropriateness of sidebar linking - and that includes other blogs too!
    Our belief is that the students (and content that includes them) actually belong to the school - the old 'in loco parentis' thing. So by asking that usernames, passwords are lodged with the school, the content remains under the school's umbrella when a teacher leaves.
    One of the things we are thinking through is closing a blog (for example) to comments when a teacher who made it leaves the school IF no-one else wants to take over the monitoring of it. In effect it becomes a stand alone website, so the students can revisit their content in future years, but no-one has the burden of moderating it.
    I agree with you, that when a teacher has given a significant amount of personal time to a blog, it is unfair to ask them to hand it over to another person when they could start their own. HOWEVER, I take my hat off to a teacher at Glenbrae School who when she left handed over the user/passwords to the next teacher so the children could keep publishing. In fact Sandy in Room 18's 'Room 18 are Hiring' has done that too. I say it is a bit like a dairy owner selling the goodwill along with the dairy :)
    There is so much more to be thought through than is covered in the netsafe policies schools rely on!

  3. Hi Dorothy

    I have read your post with interest as I am currently reviewing our netsafety policy. The issue is bigger than I had thought so thank you for raising some interesting points for us to consider.

    I look forward to reading your future posts on this subject. :+)

  4. Hey Dorothy,

    Thanks for a great post. You've identified some great issues that are in the process of being overcome.

    Personally I believe the class blog belongs first and foremost to the class - it is not "mine" simply because I am the teacher. The kids have ownership of it, decide what goes on it and what they share and display. For this reason the blog also belongs to the school.

    We don't do the whole "hand over usernames and passwords" to the next teacher at my school. Every single school blog has our master staff account (accessed by senior staff and my ICT team) as admin on their blog alongside themselves.

    This ensures the school has complete control of the ownership of the blog should a teacher leave. It simply wouldn't be fair to the class for the teacher to "take" the blog and all of the students' hard work with them too. Similarily we don't have to ask for staff members' user names and passwords either using this method. They would simply remove themselves from the blog and we could add the new teacher without any interruptions to the class' sharing with their whanau and community.

    I guess it comes down to which party feels the "ownership" for the blog. Our expectation has always been that it belongs to the students. If teachers want their own space then setting up an edublog for their personal/professional use would possibly be far more beneficial.

    Good luck in resolving all of these issues. It is so positive to have so many people committed to ensuring our 21st C learning environments are "safe and sound"

    Regards, Rachel

  5. All of our blogs are supposedly linked through the school web site. That way children can still review/reflect on what has gone before. With our class blog now being five years old there are still children who are now at college that enjoy coming back and seeing where they were when they were at primary school.

    Next term we are holding a 150th school reunion and our blog has proved to be a valuable resource to troll through and see the sort of things we were doing as we were beginning our journey on the web. A lot of those activities would have been lost had they not been recorded and catalogued on the blog.

    It would have been a shame for it to have been deleted just because the teacher had moved on.

    Allanah K

  6. @ MrL I will be interested to see what you come up with when you have 'reviewed' your netsafe policy. Do share :)
    @ Rachel We are certainly on the same wavelength here. If your bottom line is, 'it's about the kids', then a whole lot of this stuff can be quite easily resolved. As you say, it is easy for adults to have their own edublogs or whatever.
    At my school we operate in the same way, with a master staff account to own the spaces online. However, when you begin developing policies with a cluster of schools you start having to write some generic statements which apply to a variety of situations and philosophies and then leave it to the individual schools to tweak some of the details like that.
    One of our issues (it can't be said it is a problem!) is that when you have been early adopters teachers have flown off trialing all kinds of things online. eg when we started podcasting in 2005 even the folk at RED struggled to conceptualise what we were talking about - so we had no guidelines!
    Thus, we now have the data base idea I mention in the main post for all the historic online accounts and are moving forward with the master staff accounts and dual ownership where possible.
    Dual admin access to all accounts that allow this (lots of the smaller web 2 tools don't) is a straight forward solution. Though, I must admit that I empathise with any teacher who has 'trust' issues when they pour vast amounts of time into an online space and have to include another admin user. I went through this myself when I added the master staff account to the KPE blog :) "What if someone inadvertantly messes up my layouts", deletes posts etc...
    I do think there is something a bit odd about anyone who wants to take a student blog to another school though when they leave. Doesn't feel right to me. What do you think?
    Thanks for your contribution to this thinking.

  7. Hi Dorothy
    You raised some really interesting and very valid points I think. I've also read the feedback from others with interest - I think there are some terrific ideas included there.

    This leads me to my thought for the evening - What would be appropriate in the case of early adopters/lone bloggers? What I'm getting at here is where you have the situation that I have been in at both my current & previous schools, where there is only one teacher in the school blogging with their class(es). I quite agree that the work belongs to the children, that you are representing the school (although I have never identified my school in either blog due to a number of reasons) and that the classroom teacher should maintain their own personal blog for their own sharing/reflection. In this type of situation it is not a school wide thing & in some cases the lone teacher is in the position of trying to convince the powers that be that this is something positive & valid. When you're the only teacher blogging I wonder if anyone else would take it on if you left, or if it wouldn't bother them one way or another? I suppose since every school, and for that matter every teacher, seems to be at a different stage in their journey & levels of adoption/integration that this raises even more questions.

    When it came to my last years blog I obviously didn't want to just delete it - but I continue to keep an eye on it. I'm still close to my old school & maintain links with them so this makes things easier. I like the idea of closing the blog for comments and leaving it as a stand alone website - I hadn't thought of that. I don't have to worry too much about kids being identified in the future as there are no photos of children or names on that particular blog.

    Just another thought to add to the discussion I guess.

  8. @Allanah We have been around about the same length of time in this environment and I too enjoy seeing kids at college getting pleasure from their work in 2005 still being available online. Because I work with the local College as well in the cluster I really enjoy letting Year 10's know that someone has left them a comment on work on their primary school blog as happens occasionally. That is at the heart of our literacy cycles belief (- the literacy opportunities continue as long as the work remains online).
    It is going to be very interesting in another decade to see where this 'historic' online work with students ends up.

  9. I agree with Alanah. Our student blog belongs to all of us, me & the students. I recently moved schools and some of my former students have kept in touch with me by visiting our old blog. It would have been a shame for it to have disappeared.

    I don't think students should lose their blogging experience but maybe it isn't such a bad thing for a new teacher to start a new blog with them. Personally I would prefer to start a new one than continue one that someone else has started. Maybe it's something to do with shared identity.

    I think this is an area that many schools are going to have to start to address, but there is no easy answer or one size fits all solution.

  10. @keamac I must say that your situation from last year has come to mind as our cluster has been working through this.
    'Lone bloggers' - I like the term!- are in a different category again, particularly as some are flying right under the radar and in a few cases snr management have no idea it is even happening. I know that this was not your case though.
    In my initial post I concluded with a statement about policies protecting teachers as well as students, and folk in your situation have to be as ethical as possible to protect youselves!
    I do think that the ability to remove commenting and create a read only website for posterity and enjoyment is the best solution I have heard yet to teachers leaving a school and moving on.
    There does seem to be a mood of awakening around the country about online policies and I think a number of principals who have been pretty unaware are starting to smell the coffee and realise that they need to get a bit more informed than simply requiring students to carry around an internet license so they can tick the NAG for ERO!

  11. I think closing off comments as a teacher leaves is a great idea. As I haven't changed schools since I started blogging it hasn't been an issue but I kept the blog ticking along when I had the year off knowing that I would be back and want to continue. Should I continue with the blog next year I would sit about in the Christmas holidays and take all the labels off so that the next year's intake could start afresh and build up their own links and learning resources as appropriate.

    The issue is going to come up soon though as we have nearly used up our data allowance on Podomatic. Will I start a new Podomatic account?- probably- as I didn't mean for it to have the current (allanah) address as I didn't realise that it was going to get viewed by anybody much when I started it, mainly I just plugged away and learnt oganically how it might fit with classroom practice.

    You can't close comments on that even if you wanted to. A couple of months ago it got spammed big time and it took a couple of hours to clean it up.

    We rarely view the podcasts in that form anyway so it is not too big a problem but I still wouldn't want to see it vandalised. Unless there was some body there tending it it could fall into disrepute overnight.

    God forbid- what if the admin teacher died or retired?

    It is going to happen! Hopefully the retiring part not the dying part!

  12. @Pam Looking back through the thread I see my poor grammar created confusion One of the things we are thinking through is closing a blog (for example) to comments when a teacher who made it leaves the school .
    I absolutely agree that a blog becomes a potential piece of history for evryone involved and I think they must be left up. However, closing off the comments seems like safe practise.
    I am uncomfortable with the thought of a past staff member using the blog from a previous school to communicate with ex students. I have seen a teacher at the end of last year leave as the final post the URL of his new class blog for this year and an invite for students to particpate there. Somehow that feels more ethical to me. However, as this is new ground I am very keen to have my thinking challenged :)

  13. To follow that thread of thinking then how would you feel about a student skyping with a teacher out of school time.

    The parent of the child no longer in my class asked me if it would be all right if the child skyped me from time to time for explanation and clarification- that sort of thing.

    I said that would be fine. And from time to time we chat on Skype- generally about things happening at school and links to his encourage his guitar playing.

    The child in question has been taught by me and was aware of some cyber safety issues as they pertained to a year four child at the time of being in my class.

    Is this to be frowned on? Should I discourage such out of school conversations? I try and encourage such interactions and use of such Web 2.0 tools in the classroom and the child is using me an 'expert voice' for home help!

    What are you views on this one?

    Allanah K

  14. What a huge amount to think about! And I just started blogging with my class, I think, to find out how it all worked.
    I have been thinking about the issue of ongoing ownership, having continued the blog from last year to this.
    It seems to me, it's for the children, their families and friends and co-created by the current class and me, as their teacher.
    I think I could cope with passing it on to an incoming teacher. I would be pleased if the children felt enough ownership and involvement to expect that to happen.
    I have been wondering how the end of the working life of a blog should be managed and I think the idea of a read only blog sounds like a good solution.
    I'm following this discussion with great interest.
    Tina Donnell (I guess my room 2 google account is an ownership indicator)

  15. It does worry me that all it would take in New Zealand is for one tragic/terrible incident to take place through blogging to set everything back ten years. I do see some very informal blogs and that worries me. I've always been someone who has tried to remain professional online (its not really in my nature) and I have seen, as I am sure we all have examples of students who have been putting themselves out-there. For instance a couple of weeks ago I saw a Waikato student leave a comment online that gave their blog address and their gmail account address. Thought that was shocking.

    As for ownership I believe that the school needs to discuss with the teachers strongly and clearly before work is undertaken so that everyone knows who it belongs to. As long as work is undertaken with that understanding that's fine, what people shouldn't have to go through is a tug of war, for better want of a term, after someone has left. If people know that beforehand then that's fine, I don't think anyone wants to go through a situation where they do a huge amount of work and then to be told in retrospect to 'hand it over' after the fact. Ha ha. Ouch.

  16. @Allanah The ramifications get curlier the more you think about 'What ifs' don't they. I think there was a very significant phrase in that Skype scenario you posed... "The parent asked me..." Doesn't that say it all? If the parents are involved to that degree you have moved the situation from a school issue and taken it directly into the parent/child/family and they are responsible for setting the boundaries. That is very different from a teacher and student networking on Bebo and the parents unaware or uninvolved IMHO.
    @Tina Thanks for sharing your thinking here too - and good on you for starting blogging with your class. I think that talk of 'handing over your blog to another teacher' is VERY different if you are leaving the school from if you are stayng at the school. If you are staying at the school, my own opinion is that the blog should stay with the teacher who has put so much work into it if we are talking about the end of the school year. Particularly in big schools like I am used to where the kids will be split up amongst several classes the next year anyway. I am getting the feeling from the conversation around this post that a few of us are agreeing that the right thing to do if a blog has come to an end for a variety of reasons is to turn it into a read-only website (close commenting).
    @NZWaikato A very good point you have raised. It points to the fact that way too many schools have no policies in place at all about the things we are discussing, and sometimes the school leaders are barely aware of what is happening online in their own schools. In an 'ethics vacuum' it is a big call for a classroom teacher to have to decide what is the right thing to do. I like the way you have phrased the 'tug-of-war' over a blog. I think we may be seeing more of it before real awareness is prevalent in our schools.

  17. It is interesting to see such a healthy debate evolving here.

    There is an issue I suppose as always with Skype on at all times that Vladimir from the Ukraine might want to ring up and 'talk dirty' as happened to me once while I was first showing the staff Skype. The Skyping child and I discussed what he needed to do to ensure that that was unlikely to happen and what to do in case it did by some chance.

    I feel OK with it as I feel I am helping to mentor the child via Skype as he is no longer in my class and is keen to pursue his interests on line. Best to offer a guiding hand than to set him loose on the internet on pretty much his own to work it out for himself.

    In class we keep the internet exclusively for learning. Kids easily go exploring fueled by the self confidence they have learnt at school.

    I do often worry that one bad scenario- through bad luck or bad judgement will become the tinder that will light a fire that will smother some burgeoning blogs and bring the wrath onto to some teacher's head- see Al Upton as to what that feels like.

  18. Hi Dorothy, have had the RSS off most of the last 2 weeks, does not mix well with MS Report writing ;-). It has been valuable to come back to your post and read through the comments and responses…useful thinking about this in terms of my own organisation (in relation to learning contexts and learners) and some of the reading I have been exploring from others online...

    School Web 2.0 publishing policies

    Do you need a Corporate Social Media Policy? | Janet Fouts

    Really appreciate that individuals are sharing their ideas and exploration of this publicly, many thanks.

  19. Dorothy - Thanks for the comment on my now retired blog. I too am in education and at the moment work for the IEA as a literacy and schools advisor. I travel to IEA schools so am not often in Rabaul (I actually live at Takubar where the Rabaul International School is now located) hence my lack of time to keep my blog going. I guess you will be shocked looking at my photos to see the devastation in Rabaul after the eruption. We were down there last night having a BBQ on the old runway at the base of the volcano as it rumbled and grumbled. It was full moon and the glow from the crater was quite beautiful and exciting!!!! The area is like being on the moon so quite a surreal experience!!! Must away am looking forward to reading the articles in your blog.

  20. @Fiona I agree that some valuable ideas are emerging from the comments people are making. I am copy/pasting them into the Google doc we are using to organise our next version of the school policy! I really appreciate the links you left too because they have some great ideas. The comments following them give insight into such different perspectives tecahers bring to this subject.
    I think my next post - know your community- will add more clarity to this thinking too.
    @Jules It is SUCH a pleasure to hear from you. We worked for the IEA for 5 years at RIPS then Alotau IPS. The valuable things we learned in those years still inform our thinking.
    It is heart breaking to look at the photos of the volcanic devastation. We were sitting in our lounge in front of the TV in NZ watching the '94 eruption on the news and actually saw our house under ashes. It was sooo awful. We went back in '03....

  21. Hi Dorothy

    Thank you for our visit to your school last week. You offered a lot of inspirational information. This particular information caught my eye and it is great reading this so I can go back to management to outline a teachers agreement regarding student picture storage and usage.

    I have been so inspired that I have asked to reinstate our own TV broadcast but we will be utilizing our intranet site and fliggo.com to get our broadcast out to all.

    I would be very interested in viewing a copy of the agreement that is being drafted so we can see if your current agreemetn that we drafted this year covers all aspects.

    Keep up the fantastic work and you are an inspiration to all of us trying to get elearning implemented to it's fullest potential.

  22. @Cameron, Thanks very much for the feedback. It was a pleasure to meet your team and get some ideas from what you are doing too. I am pleased to hear that there were some 'take-outs' that you could implement quickly. It is actually quite rare to hear from visiting groups afterwards, so I will pass on what you have mentioned. Daily student television has been so effective in the school in a multitude of ways and I am sure you will find the same.
    You are welcome to have a look over our 'draft' policy. (Only draft because Netsafe are working on some new guidelines to reflect the new technologies, the advent of broadband, and the new CopyRight laws being introduced. So we will ammend our accordingly if it becomes necessary). Please send me your email and I will give it to you.