Friday, April 29, 2011

Tech policies... Helpful or Hindrance?

policyTechnology can provide the means for anyone to use, change, remix, create, publish, and share all kinds of content.  As a result, many people of all ages are finding that technology can provide the means for which they can make a difference in the world.  Some examples include establishing online fundraisers for friends in need, writing on websites, blogs, or social networking platforms to share ideas, and showing off creative talents in hopes that a future employer will see them.  However, sometimes the policies that schools have in place can prevent students from using technology in these kinds of creative ways to make learning meaningful and relevant.

 My district is working on revising our acceptable use policy, and I think we are getting close.   It is hard to write policy that is broad enough to include new technological advancements that have not yet been discovered, and not so limiting so that teachers won’t want to use technology because it is so much extra work.   From what I’ve found in my research, many districts across the country need guidance on how to update existing technology policies.

 Some districts feel they need to block nearly every site that involves any aspect of social networking  in order to comply with CIPA legislation (Child Internet Protection Act).  In my opinion, this is not the answer, as our students will not learn how to interact and be safe on these types of sites in a supervised environment; instead they’ll be figuring it out on their own, sometimes with bad consequences.  Another law to consider when creating policy is the Protecting Children in the 21st Century, which requires schools to educate students about appropriate online behavior.  We can tell students how to act appropriately online, or we can help them learn to be responsible online citizens in an online environment.  It's not hard to guess which will work better.

 CoSN created a document, Acceptable Use Policies in Web 2.0 and Mobile Era, A Guide for School Districts, that was very helpful to me as I worked to understand all the implications of updating tech policy.  This document outlines the laws which must be followed, and provides tips and links to good examples.

Once we have our Acceptable Use Policy (which may be called a Responsible Use Policy) in place, we will work on providing recommended practices for staff as they use the Internet for personal reasons.  The purpose of this document will be to educate. 

I've been studying educational policy as part of my work as a Fellow in the Educational Policy Fellowship Program.  I have been doing a lot of work and study about all matters relating to educational policy.... politics, legislation, needed changes, funding, attitudes, stakeholders, and more.  I didn't know that policy could be so fascinating!   I feel fortunate to be able to apply what I'm learning to the real world, working to update our district tech policy!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Take-Aways from Washington DC Trip

I attended the Educational Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP) Washington DC Seminar the past four days. EPFP is a a 10-month in-service leadership development program sponsored by the Institute for Educational Leadership.  The  program is designed to provide a forum for exploring public policy issues, link participants to key figures who shape and influence the process, and develop new leadership skills for education and community leaders. 

The Washington Policy Seminar I just had the pleasure of experiencing focused on key issues and policy initiatives that are being heavily debated at this time. It couldn't have been a better time to be in DC to get a glimpse of how the government works as government officials work to agree on the budget to prevent a government shut down.  We heard opinions from a wide variety of perspectives (Democrats/Republicans/Senators/Representatives/DC Staff/Political Analysts) about what was actually occuring from minute to minute, and it was fascinating.   I will certainly read/listen to and watch the news from a different lens from now on.   There are so many factors our legislators must consider when making their decisions... and I believe that the general public is basically unaware of many of the hidden intricacies of any given issue and doesn't really understand the need for give-and-take to make the best decisions as the founders of our nation intended.   I have a new appreciation for the work that our legislators do and  have a better understanding of all the steps that are necessary in order for any work to get done.  I also believe that my voice is an important one that needs to be heard, and  I have established connections that will enable me to do this.

From the top-notch EPFP Washington Seminar speakers:

  • Alan Berube, Brookings Institute:  "Educational leaders must confront the demographic data from metropolitan areas."  Metropolitan areas that are growing at a fast pace are ethnically diverse and embrace the needs of other cultures.  They also have the greatest percentage of people with 4 year college degrees.

  • Norm Ornstein, American Enterprise Institute: "When looking at areas to reduce government spending, we must separate spending that is an investment in the future from those that can be reduced."

  • Stan Collender, former staffs of the House and Senate Budget Committees: "One of our biggest problems is that people believe that education only benefits the person educated."

  • Judy Schneider, Senior Analyst, Congressional Research Service: "Congress is not driven by policy alone; instead it is driven by policy, procedure, and politics."

I appreciate the opportunity to be involved with EPFP.   Thank you, MACUL, for sponsoring me.  Count on me to volunteer for the advocacy committee!