Course 2 Final Project: Empowering Use Agreement for Elementary

Need

This project couldn’t have come at a better time.  Our eLearning coordinator is in the process of revamping the approach to technology in our whole school.  Last meeting we looked at our current AUP and we decided we wanted different AUPs for the different school divisions (upper and lower). I was pleased to read option 1 for the final project. Now, the question was finding someone to work with.  

Option 1: In a small group that contains at least one cohort member outside your school, create a Responsible Use Agreement (RUA) or Responsible Use Policy (RUP) for your division level (Elementary, Middle or High School). You may start from scratch or use a framework from some of the resource that are covering in the course or from what your school already has in place. Include a reflective blog post describing choices you made in developing the RUA/RUP i.e. choice of language level, topics covered, issues of focus, describe how it would be shared with students etc.”

Process

I started on Twitter and then went to our Google+ COETAIL community. Blair posted a sign up sheet so I added my name to that. The next day I had an email from Meghan Highfill asking if I wanted to work with her.  I was glad to find a partner that wanted to work on the same option, so I replied to her and we set our plans in motion.  We began exchanging emails and both had some of the same ideas for where we wanted to go–a visual policy with a positive feel. The first thing we needed was some baseline data.  What did our school communities know about our existing AUP?  Was it helpful?  What stuck out in their mind?  Megan created a Google Form to send out to classes, parents, and teachers. After about a week or so we looked at the data.  

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What stuck out to me was that 42% of our communities didn’t remember even signing the AUP. I highlighted some of the eye catching responses based on the members of the community in the infograpic below.You can see for yourself, but I felt the comments overall were very negative or uniformed, the exact opposite of what we desired. As we’ve learned in previous weeks the Internet doesn’t have to be scary.

Untitled Infographic (4)Our next step in the process was to plan and work out the details. Up until now we used email and Google Docs, but I guess I am a little bit old fashioned because I wanted to Skype to lay the groundwork.  We had to figure out a time to meet, with Megan is in Indonesia and me in Brazil a little flexibility was required. Thankfully Megan is an early riser so we met her with a cup of coffee before work and me with a screaming baby in my arms before bedtime. (Shout out to Megan for being so understanding!)

 

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One of the many emails throughout the process

It was great to Skype, we were both on the same page and had done research prior to talking.  We decided what we liked on AUPs we researched and what we didn’t and then decided upon some must haves–linked to a mission, focus on the positive, include graphics that are correctly attributed, an reflective activity paired with the AUP, and a legal statement. I felt very strongly, and Megan agreed, about tying it to a mission. Again, Megan was super gracious and we used my school’s mission because she was leaving her school next year. The reason I feel so strongly about linking it to the mission is because my school has a new mission this year and any chance I find to make it come alive I try to do that. By linking the AUP to the mission the students are aware of the attributes of our mission they are demonstrating while using technology. I liked Megan’s idea of including graphics for younger students and our EAL population (both students and parents). Megan also had a great idea for a short activity for students to do with parents to reflect upon how they can follow the AUP. This builds a stronger connection between school and home and hopefully will foster further discussion. Lastly, we felt we had to include a legal statement in case an incidence occurs.  

After Skyping we both set out on our assigned tasks.  I created a draft of the AUP and then we both worked on it over the course of the next week.  We wrote comments back and forth to each other and made revisions based on the comments. We remixed some sources to fit our needs: Campbell Hall Technology Values, linked to IB learner profile, this one with visual clipart, former COETAILer Shannon’s. The overall creation of the document was pretty seamless. I think it helped that we had a clear vision of what we wanted.

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Commenting was an easy way to collaborate

Final Product

I am pleased with our final product. We ended up with all of our non-negotiables included and even came up with a positive title, Empowering Use Agreement (thanks to week 4 in this course).

We created the EUP and now is where the real work begins.  Most schools have AUP/RUP and the likes, but I think where we fail as schools is making them living and breathing documents. Now I have to work with my principal, teachers, eLearning committee, parents, and students to make sure this doesn’t get buried in incoming emails or under papers on a desk.  I have a feeling this will be a continuous process, but if it is done correctly I think it will EMPOWER our students, teachers, and parents. Hopefully in the next couple months I will have updates.

Reflection

This project and the process was awesome.  As I said before, it came at the perfect time for our school. I’m hoping that we can adopt it and start with rolling it out next semester. The process couldn’t have gone smoother, thanks to my rockstar partner, Megan. We started early and split up the work equally.

One thing I would do differently would be to find better more kid friendly graphics. As Megan said in her post, we felt limited because we wanted to use creative common licensed artwork/pictures, but kid friendly ones were hard to find. I think one way teachers can personalize this to their class and simultaneously teach students about creative commons would be to have their students find an image that represents the mission attribute in relation to technology.

Another thing I want to do is to make it into an infographic. I think we have a little too much wording, but I think if we could have been more concise in our wording we could have made a powerful infographic. I am still messing with the infographic, but it is looking a little crowded and more like a wordgraphic, so I won’t share it.

Our EUP is positive and almost idyllic, which made we wonder is it too empowering?  Does an AUP need to have a definition of what not to do and the consequences if a student breaks it? The Pollyanna in me wants to say no, but after reading this article I wonder if we should have been more explicit?   

I learned that when doing a collaborative project it helps to start early and leave lots of time for feedback and edits. It also helped me to be able to meet face to face, rather than just through email and comments on Google docs. Lastly, I learned that an AUP is a very personal thing to a school, so making a general one isn’t ideal. I’m hoping that this is a start and that over the coming years my school can tweak, add to, and make this Empowering Use Agreement their own.

Global Landscape

 

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Technology has significantly changed the learning landscape in my classroom. It allows for students to create things and share them like they never have before.  Last year my class created promotional videos for their non-fiction writing pieces and put them on Aurasma for parents and students to see in our Authors’ Aura Archive. Students that were never excited about writing jumped at the opportunity and dove in head first.  Some of my struggling writers glowed with pride when the Head of School scanned their video and book into his phone.  Parents that couldn’t make it in person were still able to read their child’s work through our blog.  All of these things couldn’t have been done without technology.  

Mystery Skype is another of my favorite things for my class to participate in.  I purposely step aside and let my students figure it out.  Of course there are times when it is painful to watch, but there are other times when I get goosebumps because of what they accomplish together. We probably do this around 5 times a year and it is amazing to see the growth in efficiency and teamwork. Just like Rebekah said in Middle School: Learning in the 10th Circle of Hell it is theirs. They take ownership of it and take risks, it empowers them.  They begin to see each other in different ways, the not so typical leaders in the class step up and give valuable suggestions or the shy quiet girl in class becomes our class comedian during the wait time.

Another change in the landscape is connecting with a class across the world.  While Mystery Skypes are normally a one shot deal, we have been fortunate to connect with one class repeatedly throughout the year.  Our kids became e-pals, we shared math videos with their class, and they shared their passion projects with us.  My students gained friends that were thousands of miles away.  When I was in fifth grade my furthest friend was a 10 minute car ride from my house.  Landscape changed.  I guess the author of Ofcom: six-year-olds understand digital technology better than adults was right with the statement, “As a result of growing up in the digital age, they are developing fundamentally different communication habits from older generations, even compared to what we call the early adopters, the 16-to-24 age group.”

One more way our learning landscape changed was to expand our read aloud through The Global Read Aloud. My students were highly engaged because they could share their opinions and thoughts about the book with classes from all over the world.  I mentioned it in another post, but we even got a tweet from the author, Jenni Holm. That right there made my reluctant readers buy in and start reading all of her books. We used Padlet to share our opinions and make connections with other classes, and even the parents could get in on the action.  

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There are so many other things out there that change the landscape of our learning that I want to try.  I have never used wikis with a class, sure I know what they are but I’m interested in how to use them effectively. This year I am working with a group of 2nd grade ELLs and this post on digital storytelling has me intrigued. (I’m going to try a simple version of this with Book Creator for my final project). I’m hoping they can share their stories with classes in our school, but also put them out there on the line.

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Everything out there is amazing and has changed our learning landscape, but I have found that when my class has a sustainable partnership that we continue to nurture and develop through the year it is way more beneficial.  It takes away the shimmer and the shine, and we start to work with the class like they are just down the hall from us. And that my friends is pretty amazing.