Many, if not most schools have a policy where students of all ages are expected to sign an acceptable use agreement. Students from year 1 upwards are required to sign these agreements. The language used in the agreements is very rarely suitable for the younger students and they struggle to understand them, let alone read them or sign the document.
The problem with this is in my opinion two fold. First the students are so young that they are unable to comprehend what they are signing. The concepts that are detailed in the acceptable use agreements are beyond the experiences of the students. The students are essentially told to sign the agreement, and do not understand what they are signing. So what is the value of this?
The second problem is, in my opinion, that the parents are asked to sign that they accept the rules, and are never present to supervise the actions of their children or students. Further in the absence of parents, we are the teachers are parents in locum. So it comes back to us being responsible
So I have to question the value of these documents. So what is the alternative?
Well, I have talked about this with several colleagues, and I think the best alternative is actually what we operate with the digital citizens, partnership.
I think our agreement about acceptable use would involve all three aspects of the community, parents, teachers and students. The approach would start with a clear statement of what we, as a school can and can not do. This would include restrictions and monitoring, students education and training, and our expectations. It would also cover what we can’t do, like be watching every student every minute of the day, stop children from sneaking in and using computers or from opening multiple windows and applications and switching rapidly between them.
The second part would be what we expect from the parents and what we can do to support them in this. This would outline the expectations and suggestions for home computer access and use. It would also explain the cyber-safety evenings and parent support mechanisms.
The third part would cover the expectations, behaviors and outcomes from the students. It would cover the vision of the student as a digital citizen appropriate for the age of the child.
The document would then be signed by all three parties not as as legal agreement, more as a memorandum of understanding, understanding that this is a learning journey.
This would be a positive documents that models the partnerships that we need to develop to develop students who are ethical, moral contributors to our digital world.