Saturday, February 2, 2013

Writing a Tech Policy

Or maybe I should say, "What NOT to include."

First, throw out all of your current policies and previous work. They were all written long before the Internet became the Internet -- the rules and culture have changed.
"Parents must sign before you will be allowed on the Internet/ borrow a 1:1 device."
And if they say "No" or if they just don't get the slip of paper? You are providing this kid with an education and a lot of it requires the Internet. Don't make threats you can't keep. If a "No" isn't an acceptable answer, then don't give the choice. (The parent's giving the kid a different device is obviously acceptable).

We are now at the point at which education without connection is well-nigh impossible. Primary purposes of 1:1 tech are to replace the textbooks with a tablet/chromebook and to allow the kids access to information unrestricted by access to a workstation. How is a policy that deprives a student of a textbook or Google apps reasonable?
"Failure to adhere to this policy will result in the revocation of access privileges."
Evil, evil child.
With this clause, you would give petty people the power to persecute. A kid reads his other email account and you ban him from the network? You find a kid is playing games? Reading hacker websites? Shopping websites? Instead, look at why he's wasting his time that way. Punish the behavior in some other way than by banning access to the Internet or simply ignore it - reading Facebook isn't the end of the world. Not paying attention is a problem, regardless of the form it takes. 1:1 device policies that contain a similar revocation clause are equally pernicious - how can you justify removing access to textbooks, Moodle, coursework, Google accounts, etc.?

If the kid is at home, then bug off. The school needs to stay out of personal business as much as practicable. Don't turn on the camera to spy on them. Don't wander through student folders. Don't read student email.

Until you have to. Then have a set policy detailing exactly under what circumstances the administration will examine documents. Lock out by password; two or more adults look through; student and parents are officially informed of positive or negative results. Don't leave any clause in the "contract" that permits anyone in your district to spy, eavesdrop, open student files or any other invasion of privacy without the same due process that adults demand.

Bullying is illegal. So is harassment.  Neither offense depends on the medium and both can by committed by students or by the school. Punish the offense, but realize that a forced disconnect is (A) impossible in light of the many cheap and readily available tools, like cellphones, and (B) isn't addressing the issue. .
"The Board believes that the benefit to students from access to electronic information resources and opportunities for collaboration far exceed the disadvantages."
What disadvantages? This is old-time thinking; "big, scary Internet will rot his brain if he doesn't fall victim to a sexual predator or download a virus that will wipe out the entire school, and allow a hacker to destroy us." We're in the 21st Century and, as much as I decry the ra-ra boosterism, I know that anyone who refers to them as "electronic information resources" doesn't really understand them.
Access to the Internet via our network provides connections to other computer systems located all over the world. Users and their parents must understand that the school district does not control the information available on these other systems. Some of the information is controversial and may be offensive.

Gatekeeper is an anachronism.
Yeah, but the bigger issue is that the majority of it is incorrect or biased. Stop the CYA and get out more. There's not a teenager alive who was harmed by the sight of a boob. Acting the over-protective nanny is obnoxious and rude.
"Do NOT access, store, create, consume, or share unauthorized or inappropriate content on your device."
If the school owns the device, then the school should press the reset button occasionally. All student data should be in their Google accounts anyway, or in a cloud storage site set up by the student; the device is irrelevant. Furthermore, schools need to back off the "must control everything" aspects of technology. Personalization is inevitable. Any student with a brain will set up a cloud storage, second gmail account, anonymous blog, or similar way to store things out of reach of the administration -- since you can't pry through it all, then back off the draconian attempts to micromanage what little you do have "control" over.
"Device use for monetary gains is prohibited."
Why? What bloody difference does it make if the kid gets a little entrepreneurial? In fact, I would welcome it. This may have been an issue once upon a time -- prevent teachers from slacking off and earning money while being paid by the District, but the students should be required to try and make some money, in my opinion.

Here is all the policy you really need:
By signing this document I and my child understand that computers and/or the 1:1 device are provided for “educational purposes” by the taxpayers of this town in the belief that such provision is worth the expense. We agree if my child knowingly breaks school rules, or state or federal laws, appropriate disciplinary action will be taken. 
Plain, simple, workable.
Said no student ever.


  1. Great post. I think you and I are closer on a number of ed tech issues than you might care to believe! ;)

  2. Thought you'd like that! ;) Keep up the great blogging. And, of course, keep pushing back on me. That's how I learn and grow!