There are times in one’s career when they get home and say, “I have made a difference in the lives of kids today.” Last night was one of those times for me.
After a year of planning, and several months of intense research and writing, I joined several members of our AUP development team in proudly presenting an updated RUP to our Joint Board’s Policy Committee. If passed, this new policy, modeled after David Warlick’s layered approach to building an AUP, would create three major shifts relative to connective technologies and their use in our district.
1. Students in our school district would be able to access “Web 2.0” technologies. This would include blogs, wiki’s, social bookmarking sites, social networking sites, twitter, image sharing sites, etc. etc. The current AUP does not allow any student information content outside of our network servers. (when I told my wife about this, she said, “You need a policy to just to write in a blog?” At first I was insulted, but as I thought about it, I realized that her disgust wasn’t in the policy per se, it was in the fact that kids can’t do this already.)
2. In an effort to help our students build their digital footprints, the new policy eliminates the mandate that no student information be given over the internet. Our current AUP mandated confidentiality. We believe that if our students are to build a digital footprint, they couldn’t do so anonymously, thus they need to either use their real name, or close handle.(This is where we will need to do a lot teaching!)
3. The new policy, using Warlick’s layered approach, gives more authority over the use of web 2.0 technologies to the school buildings, thus allowing each school to have autonomy over fostering developmentally appropriate use and access. What may be appropriate for high school, may not for elementary school. The current AUP is a “one size fits all” policy.
I am pleased to announce that after two hours “wordsmithing”, clarifying, and presenting, our proposal was unanimously accepted by the Committee. To be fair, we still have some work to do as we now need to present to individual Boards for approval, but overall, we are pleased that the Committee saw merit in our philosophy, understood the “tectonic shift” that is occurring in education and was courageous enough to support our work. As a result of last night’s meeting, we anticipate individual Boards to accept the policy as well.
As I was driving home from the meeting, I reflected upon what had just happened and I realized that the work our committee has done to rewrite the policy, and will now do to educate our community about the policy, is truly impacting the lives of kids in our schools. While many policies have very little to do with education, this RUP truly empowers our teachers to shift their practices toward those that more consistently meet the demands of the 21st century. In that way, we have potentially touched the lives of thousands of students who are enrolled in one of our 11 schools.
As many of you know who have been following me on this blog, I will not be returning to my job as Assistant Superintendent – in part because of budget cuts. But, knowing that I was part of a group of dedicated educators hell bent on making connective technologies as ubiquitous as paper and pen in this district is very satisfying. As one of my colleagues said, this will be my legacy – a comment to which I am deeply and profoundly humbled.
I have written about the concept of Desire Paths in the past, but last night was the first time I feel as though I helped pave a new sidewalk for our kids, one that will help them get to where they are going in a more efficient, more desirable, and more relevant way for them. Last night was the first time in a long time that I felt as though my actions made a difference in the lives of kids. Damn! It felt good.