AUP’s, Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about AUP’s lately.  Our school district is at the very beginning stages of reviewing its current AUP and I am happy that that process is beginning.  Like many school districts around the country, our current AUP is outdated, was designed prior to the web2.0 explosion and its noble purpose was to protect our students.  We are however, at a time and place where we need to rethink its effectiveness and question whether it is hindering or helping our ability to adequately educate our students.  Which brings me to how I started this entry, I’ve been think quite about about AUP’s lately.

Karl Fisch recently wrote about this.  In his June 22nd post, he wrote about his school’s current protocol of using the first initial and last name to identify student work on the web.  He noted that with all of the information available about students, especially high school students, in newspapers, television reports, a student’s current presence on the web, then it isn’t too hard to determine the student’s full name and identity.    Then he added this…

But the reason for this post is that this got me thinking again about the whole idea of a student’s digital footprint. I talk a lot about how we should be discussing this idea with students and that whatever they publish – whether on a blog or a wiki or Facebook or MySpace or Twitter or. . . [fill in your favorite site here] – that it very likely will be able to be found later by a potential college, employer or spouse. I also talk about how we shouldn’t just be talking to students about not putting potentially compromising stuff out there, but that they should also be building a positive digital footprint, so that when they are Googled – and they will be – that folks will find really good stuff about them, that they should think of this as part of their digital resume/portfolio.

But if that’s a reasonable thing for them to be doing, then isn’t a policy of first name last initial (or especially the unidentifiable display names) actually counterproductive? Shouldn’t we instead be asking our students to use their full names to build their B-D (Birth-Death) digital footprint/resume/portfolio? I’ve long argued when talking about Internet filters that we should educate our students on how to be safe, ethical and effective users of the Internet instead of blocking everything, but now I recognize that I’ve completely blown it in this area.

In addition to being incredibly introspective, Fisch’s greater point about teaching our students how to build their digital footprint triggered my thinking on this.  I questioned, if we think that our students will need to know how to collaborate in a digital world, should we not take on the responsibility of teaching them how to instead of allowing them to learn through their own devices?  I think back to the late 1950’s and 1960’s and the space race.  Due to Russia’s success with Sputnik and America’s belief that it was behind their nemesis in their area, an emphasis was placed on teaching math and science to students.  A need was identified and we responded.  In the 1970’s and 1980’s, schools began teaching health education, including educating adolescents about the relative dangers of sex, drugs and alcohol (okay I played off this for the title).  This change was partly due to the proliferation of these  activities (and increase in sexually transmitted diseases, drug abuse, and later drunk driving fatalities) in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.  Again, we identified a need and responded to it.  Fast forward to 2009.  Do we not have a need?  The world is flattening.  There is a need.  What is our response?  At this point, it is to block and leave our kids to figure it out on their own.  That is irresponsible.  We didn’t do it with Math and Sciences or Health Education, so why are we doing it now?

At our PLP Bootcamp in Philadelphia earlier this month, Will Richardson shared his concern that his children would not be “googleable”.  He wrote about this concern in a November 2008 article in Education Leadership:

As the geeky father of a 9-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter, one of my worst fears as they grow older is that they won’t be Googled well. Not that they won’t be able to use Google well, mind you, but 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. I mean, what might “Your search did not match any documents” imply?

Well, my kids probably think I’m geeky, so if being geeky results in them being collaborative, networked digital citizens, I’m okay with that.  Ultimately, however they, along with 5,500 other students attend schools within the district which I work, so I know that our current AUP will not serve their needs, thus the need to change.

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6 Responses to AUP’s, Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll

  1. Tod Baker says:

    Hi Tony,

    I see the AUP as a force behind the school’s vision for the use of technology to support teaching and learning. It’s really a vision for literacy and how we approach teaching and learning that drives the policy. The need to protect children, although very important, follows the need the to build the right kinds of literacy skills. If we do that, the digital citizenship (safe, responsible, and legal uses of technology) will fall in place.

    So, I submitted my first draft of our new AUP and one of the first comments on it was, “Where on this policy does it say what we do to protect students?” good point, I thought. I was so wrapped up in writing an AUP that upholds our vision that I left out the piece about protection. What I’m learning is that we need both pieces now — protection and vision. Your old AUP just needs a little vision revision I’m sure.

    Good luck.

    • tbaldasaro says:

      Hi Tod,

      Great point. School principal’s will tell you that their number one responsibility since Columbine is the physical safety and well being of their students. That is much easier to control than “internet” safety. Changes to the physical plant, new visitor protocols, and limited access to the building can provide administrators with much of the security needed to ensure the students are safe.

      When we talk about internet safety, however, well that’s much more delicate. Unfortunately, we almost need to expose our students to the “dangers” that the internet can bring in order to take full advantage of it as a learning tool. That is why I believe we need to change our culture relative to our use of the web. Instead of blocking and limiting, we need to open it up and teach our students to understand the power of the web as a networking and learning tool.

      Thank you for sharing your experience with your AUP. As our district goes through the process of revisiting our AUP, I’ll be sure to keep an eye on how things go.

  2. Pingback: AUP Driven by Vision not Protection :: Watch Your Bobber

  3. Sarah Campbell says:

    Tony: here are two good resources for re-writing AUPs 1) Digital Citizenship in Schools, ISTE. The message is basically that AUP’s now tend to just say what cannot be done with computers, rather than teaching how to use technology, or how to become/be a digital citizen and 2), “Adding student leadership to your Technology Plan. Meeting the needs of all stakeholders” by Dennis Harper, Ph.D.

    • tbaldasaro says:

      Sarah, thanks for your comments. As we write our new AUP this year, I’m sure that your resources will come in handy!

  4. Pingback: RUP Moving Forward « TransLeadership

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