Saturday, February 27, 2010

Acceptable Use Policies

This week in Capstone, we have been studying and reviewing different school system's AUPs.  It was interesting to examine my school system's AUP in a more critical light and from a different perspective than that of an employee.  What I found most interesting was the differences in AUPs from system to system.  Some were very general and focused only on violations related to email and other Internet filtering issues.  Some only generally referenced the new and emerging web 2.0 tools that students and teachers are now actively using.  While many outlined the ways the AUP could be violated, only some were specific in what the retributions would be if the AUP were violated.
I believe that the AUPs are worthwhile and necessary in ensuring that the proper and legal use of technology and online activity; however, what I keep coming back to is the limitations to fully integrating the myriad of available tools and resources that some of the filtering and AUPs cause.  After collaborating with my colleagues in the Capstone I class, I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of my school system because we do have a wide variety of technology options available and while filtering can sometimes be an issue, there are many sites and resources open to us that are not available in neighboring systems.
This does bring up what is becoming an age-old argument-- that of filtering the information so tightly that students do not have the opportunity to make positive choices because they are never faced with the choice.  I realize that school systems are required by law to filter Internet access, but are we doing an injustice to our students?  We talk about Internet safety; we are required to infuse it into our curriculum.  But in a closed, sheltered environment is much of that conversation trite and unreal?  If the students never have a chance to practice the skills we tell them are necessary to be good "cyber citizens," then what kind of education are we really providing them?  Certainly not a "real-world" experience that is definitely one of the current buzz words and rightfully so.
Similarly, the other CRS's throughout my division and I have been waging a long battle to have student email access.  The filter blocks all webmail, and their active directory accounts have an email account, but it is disabled.  We have been given a variety of reasons why, but it seems archaic to promote "21st century" skills of communication and collaboration when a student cannot electronically converse with their teachers in school, using school system provided resources.
I'm curious when these kinds of disparities will begin to fade.  I know we have come quite a distance, but it seems we still have a substantial journey ahead.

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