What is the Intent of the AUP?

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I wrote my AUP with two of my colleagues also in this COETAIL Cohort, Matt and Justin.  As we are all in the high school, we decided to try to upgrade and refine our current acceptable use policy, which has not been revised in some years.  We have presented our result to our current Director of Technology for feedback, in the hopes that we can adopt this, or a revised version, for the following school year.

In meeting about the AUP, we discussed a series of options.  Most of the samples we researched were wordy, sounded like legal documents, and contained a series of rules and regulations.  We figured, if they are unreadable to us, surely, they are unreadable, and therefore off-putting, to students.

I had just been looking at some sample school handbooks, and I like the way Taipei American School has laid out their Student and Parent Handbook.  Therefore, we looked at their AUP and really liked how it was centered on their school values.

At the same time, we are completing our self-study year for reaccreditation, and so we decided to focus our AUP on our Mission goals as well.  We wrote this document to reflect our school Mission and Beliefs and to represent the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law.  Hence, to the extent possible, we phrased things in the positive, focusing on what students should do rather than what they should not do.

In addition, we decided to define Digital Citizenship and incorporate the parameters this way.  In essence, this is a document meant to teach students how to be responsible Digital Citizens.  We also feel it is important to teach students that digital citizens create as well as consume.  Hence, our AUP is really a guideline for how to live with and use technology in this technology-laden world.  Hopefully, this is the first step in creating greater awareness of what digital citizenship is and how we can more fully support each other as digital learners.

Collaborative AUP for High School

Digital Citizenship = Global Citizenship

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A few days ago, I had an interaction at work in which I was visibly upset, more so than I have been since my early days of impassioned response, and those days, I attribute to youth.  This is not to say I am any less passionate, but rather that now, with maturity and perspective, I am more able to see all the murky gray that surrounds any situation.

In reflecting on why I was so upset, I realize that it had nothing to do with what was actually said in the meeting, but rather the expectations I had in going into the meeting.

I write this as I reflect on the following question, a question which seems to have a clear black and white answer:  Whose job is it to teach students to be safe online?

In essence, it is our job, everyone’s, all the adults.  Yet, that is a very unsafe assumption because the question should actually read, how do we teach students to be safe online?  And when?

As an administrator, I deal with issues centered around online safety and cyberbullying.  While they may be occurring in high school, many of these things actually started in 5th and 6th grade.

It is far too easy to offload responsibility.  I can imagine any of the following responses to the question:

  • The parents should teach it…
  • It should be taught in elementary school, middle school…
  • High school is too late…
  • We don’t have time in our curriculum…
  • We should start a separate 21st Century Skills class…

Who  is right?  No one and everyone.  Such is the beauty and problem of the world.

The fact is this: we should all be teaching digital citizenship because in today’s world, digital citizenship is global citizenship.  We should not create a separate unit that we teach once and expect students to know.  We should not relegate it to some random age grouping.  We should be constantly reminding students as we go through our courses.  We should not assume knowledge and say that “it is not my responsibility – they should have learned it before.”  At whatever age we teach, we must always meet a student where he/she is, and move that student forward.

In Outliers, Gladwell writes about the 10,000 hours.  He states that for anyone to become an expert, that person must engage in the activity, must practice for 10,000 hours.  If we go with this now widely accepted principle, is it any wonder our students have yet to reach mastery?  Be it with research citation, writing process, linear equations, or three point perspective, we must remember that we are experts and our students are novices.  Hence, they need practice.

Whose job is it to teach online safety?  Digital citizenship?  It is our job.  All of the adults in that student’s life, be it a parent, a grade 1 teacher or a senior English teacher, should be surrounding that student, providing inputs and supports for success.

Just as I should not have assumed intent in my recent meeting, neither should we assume knowledge in students.  We must embrace the notion that these are our children, and it is our responsibility and our privilege to teach them more than content.  It is our privilege to support and influence them as they move forward in life.

Learning is Asking the Question, Not Finding the Answer

In a recent blog post, John Merrow writes, “Schools today must provide opportunities for young people to create knowledge out of the swirling clouds of information that surround them 24/7.  You went to school because that’s where the knowledge was stored. That was yesterday. Think how different today’s world is. Today’s young people need guidance in sifting through the flood of information and turning it into knowledge. They need to be able to formulate good questions — because computers have all the answers.”

Sir Ken Robinson is one of my favorite speakers.  In this video, he urges us to shift paradigms because school is the one place in this ever-shifting world that has remained largely constant over the past 100 years.


Heidi Hayes Jacobs discuss this in Curriculum 21.  She examines the roots of our present education system as designed by “the Committee of Ten, appointed at the meeting of the National Educational Association in 1892” (8) and who “recommended that all students—whether college bound or work oriented—should be taught the same curriculum…an academic program predicated on English, history, civics, mathematics, biology, chemistry, and physics on the high school level” and that “schooling would take place over 12 years—8 for the elementary grades (in which we now include middle school) and 4 for high school” (9).

When I first read this a few years ago, I was truly shocked.  To see it so blatantly written, that schools are largely doing the same thing as was determined, not in the last century, but in the century before, is pause for reflection.

A teacher I respect immensely recently stated that he believes schools will never take anything off a teacher’s plate; rather, as change occurs, schools continue to add to an already full plate.  Another colleague responded that while this may seem true, hopefully, what was added a few years ago has become ingrained and automatic.  That is the hope, and yet, with a full plate, where is the time?

I recently developed a leadership workshop framed around a series of essential questions.  The goal here, aside from modeling the UbD ethos which we use as a school, was to highlight that the question, and the dialogue surrounding the question, is far more important than the answer, particularly since the answer varies drastically based on the perspective and the situation.  As leaders, this is the essence of what we must know.

Reflecting back on the opening quote of this blog post, teaching questioning is not new.  Socrates was the master of questions.  However, as Jacobs points out in “Socrates Fails Teacher Evaluation,” we seem to have gotten waylaid in the 19th century model of finding the right answers.  This was a good model for its time.  Now what?  When we think about teaching in first grade, we need to be able to envision, not just what students need today, but what students need 15 years from today.  At the rate the world is changing, this is becoming a far greater challenge, and yet, it also poses exciting opportunities for growth.  In all that we do as educators, we should be asking what tomorrow looks like and seeking to merge tomorrow with yesterday and today.  That is what will be relevant for children.  And ultimately, it is they we serve, for without them, we don’t exist.

Why Not Give It Away?

Almost immediately upon posting “A Fine Balance,” I started asking myself why I was so concerned about my Facebook privacy, particularly after viewing Everything is a Remix, Part 4: System Failure.  In this video, Kirby notes that we are fiercely territorial about our own creations, but often “forget” this when we ourselves want to borrow.  At the extreme is Disney, who shamelessly “borrowed” many of their stories to create their classic cartoons, and yet refuse to allow kids to draw their own version of Mickey Mouse to place on a cake (see opening scene of Shirky’s SOPA video).

In “A Fine Balance,” my own thoughts center on both sides of the extreme, depending on what I myself own.  This is slightly perturbing and I believe cause for deeper reflections.

I have just attended the ECIS Annual Leadership Conference, a phenomenal conference about Forming the Future.  As I reflect upon everything I have learned over the past few days, two things resonate.

  1. Love
  2. Trust

I first saw Dr. Ned Hallowell several years ago at a NESA Conference in Thailand, and I was thrilled to see him again recently.  Among his several titles, he has written one of my favorite books for teachers and parents, The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness.


The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness

In this phenomenal book, he talks about five key principles that affect adult happiness, the first being to create a sense of connection.  Dr. Hallowell states that, “Nothing promotes success more powerfully than the force of connection,” and that “at its most basic, connection is love.”  Yet, this is a highly undervalued commodity, and in our society today, we are far more confortable with conflict than we are with the vulnerable state of love.


Perhaps, it is that we lack trust.

Dr. Andy Hargreaves recently wrote a book titled Professional Capital, in which he talks about social and human capital.

The key to both of these is types of capital is that we need to operate with the goal to “bring together the community to work together because it is the strength of the community that makes a difference.”  Hargreaves goes on to state that, “teachers who work in collaboration and engage in professional dialogue operate in teams with high levels of trust which results in increased student achievement.”

If we zoom in on this example in the world at large, can we not say that an increase in trust would increase our human achievement?

Steve Barkley, who has written Instructional Coaching with the End in Mind, defines collegial teams as those in which teachers work together and their decisions are highly influenced by each other.  He states that, “until a school becomes collegial, it will not reach maximum student achievement.”  What do we need to work collegially?


My original question still looms.  Why the concern about my Facebook privacy?  Do I really care if strangers see a picture of my daughters?  Yes and no.  It depends on what they are doing with the picture.  I will be highly flattered if someone shares a picture of my baby because she is adorable and highly disturbed if someone were to try to sell it and make money off of it or worse.  I have to trust that the picture will be used for good before I can be comfortable releasing the picture.

And therein lies the concern.  We are a society consumed with conflict, so much so that we are trying to stop sharing on the web.  I am all for sharing if we can operate from a place of love and trust.  And therefore, I am revising my view of online privacy.  At the risk of sounding preachy, and as my gurus above advocate, we must get to a better place, a place where we are working together for the common good.  A place where love and trust are the norm.

A Fine Balance

Photo by Kat Redfern

I live in a society where privacy is visual.  Women physically cover to maintain privacy, their right to say, don’t look at me.  Does this give them privacy or just the illusion of privacy.  Can we ever not be seen?

This is the same question we pose when discussing Internet privacy.  On the one hand, I am enraged to hear that Facebook is trying to own my photos because I posted them to their site, even after I delete them from the site.  On the other hand, I am even more enraged to hear about the SOPA and PIPA bills, which in essence, are trying to stop the social networking power of the Internet.

Clay Shirky on SOPA and PIPA

It’s interesting to consider the contrasts between consumer and creator.  Over the last twenty years, it has been popular to lament the negative impact of technology.  Adults complain that

  • students play video games all the time at the expense of playing outside
  • kids are constantly on social messaging sites at the expense of real person interactions
  • children watch too much TV
  • and et cetera

In reality, and if we look at Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy, we are becoming more creative as a culture.  SOPA and PISA prove this.  Why else the backlash of fear from the media industry that has led to these bills?

What a shame, that as we move forward into the 21st Century, where schools are re-thinking educational frameworks and valuing creation and innovation as key 21st Century Skills, we have Big Business in the form of media enterprises, trying to stop our innovation, our ability to create and share, because they want us to remain mindless consumers, production line workers who come home to “veg” out in front of their own creation and industry.

We are living in the 21st century.  Creativity and innovation are the attributes of future success.  What if we worked cooperatively to achieve this?  What if we weren’t so consumed with who owns what?  What if we could adopt a culture of respect so that privacy and ownership could exist jointly with collaboration and sharing?

Whose Footprint Is It?

As an administrator, I often deal with disciplinary issues that expand into the digital world. In fact, one of my most recent incidents involves Twitter, Photoshop, and shared passwords. Without saying anything else, I am sure you can imagine what havoc these three things combined might wreak on the social lives of teenagers.

Therefore, I really enjoyed reading about teaching children how to create positive digital footprints. I loved the example of the father who wished as much for his child to have a digital footprint as he did that it was positive.

“One of my worst fears as [my children] grow older is that they won’t be Googled well. … that when a certain someone (read: admissions officer, employer, potential mate) enters “Tess Richardson” into the search line of the browser, what comes up will be less than impressive. That a quick surf through the top five hits will fail to astound with examples of her creativity, collaborative skills, and change-the-world work. Or, even worse, that no links about her will come up at all” (Educational Leadership).

The last line in this quote is particularly thought provoking. It says, that in this day and age, having a digital footprint is as essential as ensuring it is positive. Hence, rather than use scare tactics to try to keep kids offline or censor social media, as is the norm these days, we must educate children about proper use. The stakes are high; mistakes carry far more weight once online than in the past.

This raises another point. If we are responsible for our own digital footprint, who else has a say in it and what impact do others have?

Recently, I was reviewed on ISR. I hesitate to draw attention to this fact, as I don’t really want emphasize it or sound defensive, and yet, this example is too relevant to dismiss. Needless to say, the review was not positive. I have never considered ISR a particularly credible site, and when I read the review, I thought, “Wow, someone (past or present) is really angry with me.”

For me, this was cause for reflection and while the review stung a bit, I used it more as a lesson because I never wish for anyone to feel what this person who wrote the review feels. It is a good lesson in intent versus perception, and as I advocate on this blog, we should look at things from altering perspectives. So upon first read, I decided to approach this negative review from a positive angle: to ensure that my actions do not communicate these qualities and to ensure the message received is the same as my intent. It has been a great week for self-reflection.

However, after reading the series of articles on your digital footprint, I re-googled myself this week. As of March 23, one of my hits is this ISR review (you can’t actually access the review unless you are a member, but my name is there nonetheless). I am now less okay with this review than I was upon first read.

A pilot friend of mine was appalled that a site such as ISR even exists and allows anonymous reviews. In his field, there exists a similar quality review site, but anyone who attempts to review another person in such a way is automatically kicked off the site with privileges revoked.

While not thrilled about the review at all, when I knew the review was on ISR, I was okay with it. I feel that most people take this site with a grain of salt. However, now that this is public and part of my digital footprint, I begin to question the ethics of all of this. Why does someone else get a say in my digital image? Where is the fine line between disagreement and dishonesty?

Thus, I go back to my original question: If we are responsible for our own digital footprint, who else has a say in it and what impact do others have?

Creating a Community of Engaged Learners: Course 1 Final Project

As an educator, my goal has always been to create an engaged classroom, and in my classroom, we are rarely silent.  Rather, we work together, collaborate, communicate and gain understanding.  As an administrator, I hope to emulate this goal as a school.  A successful school is an engaged school, with faculty coming together to share ideas, collaborate and communicate with one another.

The RSS Reader was definitely a hit for me in this first course, so much so, that I hope to inspire our entire faculty to utilize this powerful tool.  To that end, I have written a UbD unit with the goal to get everyone on faculty using an RSS Reader within the next six months.  I cannot force this upon teachers.  Instead, I have to create an environment of engagement so that teachers want to participate.  This is the goal: an engaged faculty participating in the global community and utilizing the power of the web to enhance their professional practice.


Patient Problem Solving in Real Life

We recently had a bit of a communication mishap in our high school.  All intentions were good; we just didn’t communicate well, which led to a series of frustrations amongst teachers.  Luckily, all culminated in a fantastic celebration largely run by a group of students.

The Scenario:
We have started a tradition of giving back with our senior class, and over the years, this has grown into a senior advisory program focused on student leadership.  Each year, a group of seniors, led by a faculty advisor plan and organize events for the student body, and one of these events is our National & Liberation Day celebration.  This year, we got started a bit late, and so time was a huge commodity.

Despite the limited time, our students came through and organized an event better than ever.  This involved a multi-media presentation that included video, poetry, singing, speeches, skits, and an important guest speaker.  It also involved providing a luncheon for 600 people and traditional entertainment.  It is an understatement to say it was a big event.

The Miscommunication:
The nice thing about planning with students is that they don’t see limitations.  Their inexperience makes their imagination run rampant.  This can also be frustrating as they don’t have the experience to consider other factors.  Such as missing classes for rehearsals.  Or scheduling rehearsals at the last minute.  Or forgetting to inform the teachers of the students who needed to be out for the rehearsals.  Hence, the communication frustration.

The Result:
However, the seniors who planned and organized the event and the students who performed were engaged in real-life authentic tasks.  What they accomplished on this day was a truly authentic performance task that involved skills from almost every discipline: logistics, timing, management, planning, performance, translation, communication, problem-solving, and much, much more.

Dan Meyer, talks about patient problem solving in this Ted Talk.

He poses an interesting question: What problem have you ever solved where you have all of the given information up front?  He also confronts textbooks, which have served to neatly wrap up a problem in an unauthentic way.  He quotes Einstein, who said,

“The formulation of a problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill.” 

Meyer also states that the content should serve the conversation, the conversation shouldn’t serve the content.

Despite all of this, we still run largely traditional classrooms with these same textbooks that package everything into nicely wrapped sections and chapters.  If we know that students need more real-life, authentic problem-solving tasks, why don’t we provide more?  Why are we so married to what we have always done?  Why can’t we let go of long lists of content that we MUST get through?

I think part of the problem is there is value in the content.  It isn’t a matter of just dropping the content in place of skills.  Ultimately, we have to find a more accessible way to help students learn the content and become more engaged learners.

Our National Day celebration didn’t fit into a nicely wrapped unit or lesson, but I can guarantee that the student organizers learned several valuable skills on this day beyond what they would have gained by sitting in a classroom learning content from a text.  I am NOT saying the content isn’t important; I am saying that what they experienced was of greater value in this particular week.  Now if only we could find a way for them to be this engaged and this successful without having all of the make up work to complete from missing class all week.  As Meyer states, we need more of the authentic in our classrooms every day.  It isn’t an option anymore.  It is something we must do as responsible classroom educators.

Shaping Change while Remaining Static

I have long felt that the office is the least technologically advanced place at school.  As an assistant principal, I can influence change by advocating Smartboards, considering the BYOD movement, and providing professional development options for faculty.  However, in all of this, I am not actually using any of the technology in my classroom, which so happens to be the school, not directly anyway.  It is entirely possible for a school to be tech savvy and provide great technology options for students while the office continues to run the same as always.  This is one of the primary reasons I embarking on this COETAIL journey.  I want the office to use technology as much as the students and the teachers.  I want to move forward and do new things in new ways, as Prensky advocates in Shaping Tech for the Classroom.

The office is a perfect example of doing old things in old ways.  Yes, we have moved to e-mail or Moodle as a primary source of communication, but we are still communicating about the same things: student affairs, assembly schedules, dress code checks, weekly bulletins, and mass thank you cards via e-mail, which I will argue is not progress at all as a handwritten card or a public verbal thank you is far more personal and meaningful.  We share a strategy of the week, which is meant to be thought-provoking and connected to learning we wish faculty to be engaged in at the time.  However, in some ways, I think e-mail has desensitized information sharing.  Far too often, e-mails go unread or misunderstood.

We do have great database systems, but these are also used in old ways.  We store information, generate reports and yes, these things may get done faster and we may have quicker access, but in the end, I am sure we not using the programs to their greatest potential.  Perhaps e-mailing detailed attendance reports to parents on a weekly basis hovers on old things in new ways.  Perhaps.  It does enhance communication and allows for greater communication on a more frequent basis with a greater number of students.  However, information is still delayed.  As I write this, I wonder if there is a way to tweet a parent each time a student arrives late or is absent.  That would really keep them informed, day-by-day, hour-by-hour.

Moving our Learning Colleagues Program for new teachers to Moodle is probably one example of doing old things in new ways.  The meetings and discussion are totally online, enabling teachers to share on their own time line as opposed to weekly or monthly meetings.  I would love to move more meetings online, especially committee meetings where work can be produced using Wikis and other file-sharing technology.

I bought a Mac and then an IPhone 4 because I want to start creating weekly podcasts.  Time has been my greatest barrier…well, perhaps, no.  Perhaps it is my lack of skill and practice, which do take time.

However, even creating podcasts is not going to dramatically change the way the office is run.  It might be a more digitalized and advanced newsletter, but it is still a newsletter, and those have been around for hundreds of years.

I love my RSS feeds and those have greatly enhanced my professional reading and knowledge in just a few short weeks.  I am currently creating my unit plan to involve getting all faculty to use an RSS feeder.  This is a small step in the right direction, but I want to use this leap year to leap before I look.  I welcome any ideas for how administration can run new things in new ways.  What does that look like?

Creativity in the Digital Age

Several years ago, I read a book titled The Rise of the Creative Class.  As a poet, the title intrigued me.  Although, I don’t consider myself old, I grew up in a world where being creative was synonymous with the starving artist cliché.  Perhaps many still operate in that cliché, as, if you read Curriculum 21 by Heidi Hayes Jacobs, she discusses the idea that schools are still largely run in the industrial revolution fashion.  However, the world has changed dramatically in just a few short years with the development of the Internet and social networking sites, and this has led to tremendous changes in how we operate and live.  In fact, in The Rise of the Creative Class, the author discusses the idea of change, both technologically and culturally, in an interesting vignette.

Say you place a person from 1900 in the 1950s and a person from the 1950s in 2000.  Who would feel the most foreign, he asks?

At first glance, this would be the person from 1900 going into 1950, since the innovations in technology had totally changed the household in those years; cars replaced horses, household machines such as the washer and refrigerator replaced manual labor, and a myriad of other inventions existed.  Still, the author argues, society was much the same.  In a way, the 1950s was a time when we were “doing old things in old ways” and while it might have looked very different from the 1900s house, society still operated in much the same way.

In that vein, the author states, the man from the 1950s placed in 2000 would experience drastic culture shock.  Society would be completely revamped with equal rights, the Internet, and changed societal values and norms.  This he argues, is in large part due to the rise of the creative class, an economic movement in which we live in a world where creativity and innovation are valued and esteemed.  Of course, in this scenario, creativity is not limited to poets.  Creativity and innovation are important in every field.

Yet, in On Assessing for Creativity: Yes You Can and Yes You Should by Grant Wiggins, we see that teachers are still hesitant to assess creativity.  Wiggins argues that we can assess anything, and yet we fail to assess creativity, perhaps for fear of hurting students.  Some state that creativity cannot be assessed, but Grant gives us a rubric from which to work, and frankly states that creativity is a far less abstract skill to assess than organization in writing or even working collaboratively.  It seems that we fear assessing creativity, less because we can’t and more because of the connotation of the word.  Perhaps we still believe in the starving artist cliché.  Perhaps we believe that creativity cannot be taught, thereby labeling students as creative and not creative.  Perhaps, it is not something we value yet.

However, as evidenced in The Rise of the Creative Class, creative individuals are the new success stories and the economic powerhouses.  And, in Bloom’s New Digital Taxonomy, creating is the highest order of thought.

I believe creativity is an essential skill that we must foster in our students.  Part of it is my own bias as a poet; writing is therapeutic and good for the mind.  However, I also believe creativity is a skill that can be developed in everyone.  Julia Cameron has written a series of books, beginning with The Artist’s Way in which she takes readers on a journey to unlocking their creativity.  Everyone is creative, she states, and everyone can unlock his or her creativity.

This belief can be proven simply by observing young children.  Children play imaginary games.  They run away from monsters in the bathroom.  They make pretend soup and cookies and feed them to you via the air.  They pretend to eat the floor and then jump over big crevices in the living room.  They talk to their dolls and to themselves and to just about anyone.  In this imaginary world, children role-play and learn how to solve problems.

As children grow up, the creative child gets replaced, perhaps as the academic child, the athletic child, or the shy child.  Is the loss of creativity and imagination a natural phenomenon, or is it the way we organize schools?  The way we present information?  The way we assess knowledge?

If we value the creative process, if we teach creativity in problem-solving, writing, lab reports, and presentations as the essence of understanding, will we perhaps start to see the imaginative child re-surface?  Will we see students re-engaged with school?  Will fostering creativity naturally develop critical thinkers?  Curious learners?

Wiggins recounts an incident whereby he observed student presentations that were remarkably better than average.  When he asked why, he saw that there were only two criteria:

  1. Was it factually accurate?
  2. Did it keep everyone fully engaged the entire time?

In this example, the less specific the criteria, the more creative and engaging the presentations produced by “average” students.

We all have the same goal: to inspire students to succeed and do well in our contents and in our schools.  The means vary and I will argue that valuing students’ creativity, fostering it, and developing it, will serve to reinvigorate schools and will result in better understanding, more interesting results, and more engaged learners.