by Brian Bridges
How Acceptable is Your Acceptable Use Policy? How does your technology plan address copyright, fair use, and Internet safety, particularly in these times when a variety of Web 2.0 tools are empowering students and teachers? How will your school’s culture be affected by your new policies?
Unnoticed by most educators last fall, was a new law, AB 307, which requires districts to add two new sections to their technology plans. Future plans will need to demonstrate how students will learn about Internet safety, copyright, plagiarism, and illegal file sharing. While the requirements don’t take effect until July 1, 2008, we recommend that districts revisit both their technology plans and their Acceptable Use Policies to address not only AB 307’s requirements, but also Web 2.0 tools that educators and students are beginning to use. During this school year, take advantage of a variety of CTAP and other online Internet safety, copyright, and fair use resources to help you formulate your new policies.
Specifically, the law states that technology plans should express how schools will, “…educate pupils and teachers on the appropriate and ethical use of information technology in the classroom, Internet safety, avoiding plagiarism, the concept, purpose, and significance of a copyright so that pupils can distinguish between lawful and unlawful online downloading, and the implications of illegal peer-to-peer network file sharing.”
Many CTAP regions are offering workshops or have posted resources online to assist districts with adapting their cultures to the new law. CTAP Region 4 has developed a Cybersafety page that has a variety of free resources and online tutorials. The Cybersafety page addresses six components, each with separate resources for educators, parents, and students: Personal Information, Social Networks, Cyber Predators, Intellectual Property, Inappropriate Content, and Cyberbullying.
The nonprofit web site, iSafe offers free Internet Safety courses geared toward specific audiences: students, parents, and educators. Once you create an account, you may choose from live, interactive web casts, or in-depth and-demand videos that progress you through their curriculum.
The Commonwealth of Virginia, which passed a law similar to California’s, has created an excellent guide, which can be accessed through their Department of Education web site. The Guidelines and Resources for Internet Safety in Schools contains separate advice and web links for parents, students, teachers, administrators, and school boards. It also includes an extensive list of web resources as well as standards relating to the ethical use of technology. California districts would be wise to review Virginia’s Internet safety standards as they craft goals and objectives for their revised technology plans.
California’s Education Technology Planning: A Guide for School Districts, which is the foundation document for district technology plans, has been updated by CTAP’s Program Management Committee and will soon be available. Newly created sections pose open-ended questions to guide writing teams as they craft objectives and activities.
However, the new requirement to educate students about copyright, illegal downloading, and Internet safety shouldn’t be taken as an open-ended invitation to turn off the Web 2.0 tap or to scare students and educators into abandoning their rights. As the Electronic Freedom Foundation reminds us, “…giving students a healthy dose of caution is different than making them “scared straight.”” “…students must receive a fair and balanced perspective from their instructors.” This would include informing them about both their rights and their responsibilities. While students should be informed about copyright restrictions and the implications of illegal downloading, the fair use guidelines provide classrooms with broad rights to utilize resources within the four walls. How districts approach these new requirements will impact school cultures as well as the teaching and learning process. We would advise you to conduct careful research and consult your stakeholders as you craft these new sections for your technology plan.
Finally, many thanks to Bonnie Marks, Director of CTAP 4, for serving as Coordinating Council Chairperson for the past year. We’ve all benefited from your leadership.
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