Monday, April 07, 2008

Internet Use Policy - questions and items arising from draft #1

I think I may have been a bit pre-mature about using that definition of social networking. I do not think it was the best definition to use - maybe there could have been a better one than the one I used (anyone know of one?). Gary was right when he said that banning social networking sites also bans blogging - which is no good.

I know that a lot of these items in this policy came about as a result of issues that directly effected our school. We have had some issues and this is step one in making our school a more safe environment for students of all ages. This is going to be a trial run - until the end of this school year, and will be re-visited again at the end of this school year or at the beginning of the next school year. Of course there will be issues, and I never expected there to be a policy that is loop-hole and error-free. I appreciate your comment(s) and will use them to help modify as we go along.

We had a staff meeting today and I presented this draft to them. We came up with a few suggestions. One was actually similar to what Gary had said in his comment - Needing a different beginning to the social networking point. We had made the suggestion to fix it to read something like -"Social networking websites are allowed only for teacher directed learning, and are not to be accessed without direct teacher supervision." I believe this will clear up some of the technicalities of the wording - not 'dis-allowing' these websites to be used, but rather to have them used for specific purposes. As I have had talks with Allison, and others, we have come to the reality that these websites are not "bad" but just used in 'bad fashion' during school time. We can see the validity in using things like Facebook (or whatever) as a means of communication - such as fundraising, spreading the word about a specific event (ex - 30 hr famine), but that most times students are using it as a means to post or view pictures of themselves or others and see what happened at the party on the weekend (which is obviously NOT school appropriate!) or cyber-bullying. Therefore, the wording has been changed. Just like I said before, it is not to TRY and place restrictions but to try to combat some issues that have arisen in our school.

The consequences section was found to be good but we made it a bit more specific - for example we changed the wording to say 'one full school day' - instead of 'for the rest of the day', and so on. You can check out Draft #2 when I post it.

The last thing - which may not have to be implemented in your schools - but needs to be in our school, at least until the end of June - was a #6. This is something the staff wanted to try until the end of June because of the issues we have had. It included no unsupervised use of computers during student spares. If they need a computer they must get permission to go into a classroom where there is a teacher present to use a computer and only if it is for school related work. This just comes from students abusing the computers in the library and being unsupervised (minus our librarian) during spares. We are doing this as a trial run - thus it must go in the policy but it is likely that it will be taken out of the policy at the end of this school year.

Ultimately I believe the staff response to be very, very positive. They had made good comments and had valid points. It was good to get them all involved and present it so that we could all be on the same page. Students will not be able to play us off of each other if we are consistent, and this is the key to successfully implementing this new policy. I believe that this could work; it may need 'tweaking' but that is to be expected of any new policy. So a trial run, then possibly an amended policy for the new school year.

We want to keep it positive, but in some ways the issues we had dealt with makes it harder to make it a positive resolution. For the most part I wanted to focus on putting ownership on the student and put the responsibility into their hands. We need to teach them, help them and show them how to use the Internet as a proper tool, not a thing to abuse. We will hold a short assembly to introduce this new policy to the students and hold a short dialogue session about these things. Hopefully this can be a step in the right direction. Time will tell.