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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Evaluation of My School's Appropriate Use/Internet Policy

In evaluating my school’s internet and technology use policy, termed “Student Acceptable Use Policy/Rules”  in terms of how well it abides by the main points of the CIPA laws, I feel it covers most of the points.  Our policy is set up with “I” statements that refer to actions the students and their parents, who use school net book computers, will take, both in school and at home.  The students and parents are required to sign and return this form to school.   One item I note is that this is not a policy that covers all student use of computers and internet because it excludes the PK-third grade students who do not take their netbooks home.

The first CIPA category is about technology protection with the use of blocking and filtering of inappropriate or harmful material.  In our policy there is nothing in that states that such blocks or filters are in place.  On that topic these statements are included:
  • “When using the internet, I will only visit appropriate websites and engage in appropriate activities/communications.  Guiding Rule:  Anything you feel you need to hide from a parent or teacher should not be created, accessed or reproduced.”
  • “The school has taken precautions to eliminate controversial material from being viewed by users.  However, I [the parent/guardian] recognize it is impossible to restrict access to all controversial materials.  I will not hold the school/teachers responsible for materials acquired over the internet.”
These statements are to ensure students are not seeking out inappropriate or harmful material or behaviors that may get around the blocks or filters.  It shows that the school is using a system of filters and blocks to ensure safety as much as possible.

The second topic in CIPA refers to student behavior online specifically in social networking activity.  The above excerpts from our policy address this as well as:

  • “I will treat others with respect.  When communicating with others, I will use appropriate language and images...I will not reveal personal information about myself or others.”
  • “Screen names should be utilized for safety purposes; however, users should never set up false accounts in order to pretend to be someone they are not.”

The third topic is about monitoring online activity by minors.  School use and home use are referred to here.  
  • “Net books and printers should only be used in shared family spaces in the home.  Students should not take the computers/printers into a closed-door room.”
  • “I understand that my browsing history, software and e-mails are all subject to review.”

The next topic refers to interfering with or inappropriately using others’ information on the computer through hacking, copying, changing or sharing such information.  These statements address this:
  • “I will not read, alter or delete the files of other users.  I will  not reveal personal information about myself or others.”
  • “I will follow all federal and state laws.”
  • “I will credit sources I use.”
  • “I will only download and install legal and school-approved software, documents or games onto my net book...”
  • “I will only use appropriate and copyright-free music, video, photographs and illustrations in my projects and avoid downloading any illegal items.”

In reviewing this policy it is clear that teachers are responsible for applying several rules when introducing new technologies.  Here are some that come to mind:
  • Make sure, to the best of their ability, that all harmful or inappropriate material is filtered.  This means previewing the technology and exploring it thoroughly to  know all of its possible features that students might find and use.
  • Tell students what they can use and what they can not use with the technology.  
  • Instruct students, to report to a teacher, anything they find that is inappropriate, right away.  
  • Show the students how to give credit to others when they use something that someone else created.  
  • Give students access to resources that are allowed to be copied and used by them.
  • Model appropriate ways to communicate with others when using email or social networking sites.  A good strategy is to role play the consequences of “saying” things that they may not want published on the web.  

Our school policy does promote the use of technology in and out of the classroom.  It does this by imposing a series of responsibilities that students will do.  Its format is positive, with “I will” statements that hand the students the responsibility for appropriate use of technology.  This positive set up encourages students to be technology users.  The policy does not include any information about bypassing filters by teachers or adults, for particular, necessary circumstances and it also does not include all students (Pre-K-6) who use computers and the internet.  This document could be improved by revising it to be a more comprehensive schoolwide policy.  

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