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.

Ellict Empowerment

Photo Credit: Search Engine People Blog via Compfight cc

How do you empower students?  That has to be in the top 5 questions teachers ask themselves daily. However, we now need to ask how can we empower students to use technology to make a positive impact in their world? Our world is growing smaller and smaller, and our students can see this in their daily lives, so our schools must make the connection as well. My fear is that our students see technology divided–school use and home use.  With the rise of 1:1 programs and bring your own device this separation is less, but as educators we need to close the gap. After watching the TED video about Martha (and others) and reading about Richard’s Rwanda I was blown away by the ability, drive, and creativity of these kids. I immediately tweeted about it to share it with my PLN. Since then I have been trying to think of ways to empower our students.

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So how do we do it? Working in an elementary school my approach differs from upper schools, but not entirely.  The first thing I think we need to do is give students choice and voice. Adora Svitak shares it is important to give students decision making power in her article 5 Ways to Empower Students. One way I’ve done this in my role this year is in the Dynamic Learning class.  Students have the choice to research a passion of theirs and a voice to share it with their peers.  Eventually they will strengthen their voice by sharing with other students at Lincoln in Argentina. I had the students complete a reflection on Google Forms and one student shared that he like having choice because “ I got to do something that I wanted and not to do something I didn’t want.”  He went on to say that he learned about hedgehogs but also how to use browser and PowToons. To me the most powerful thing he learned was, “ I learned about being not afraid in front of audience, and I have good enough english.” Then there was a student’s comment that she loved having choice because “I have the power.” Amen to that.

Another way is the Hour of Code coming up next week (this year they have awesome themes–Star Wars, Minecraft, and Frozen!).  For the past three years my class has participated in it.  This year since I don’t have my own class, I shared the information with our technology teachers. A couple of them are going to participate with their classes and I am going to go in and take pictures and ask students about their experience, then post them on Twitter as well as share them on our Schoology page.

We need to embrace use of technology and devices.  While this can be hard to do at some schools because of lack of resources, we can be creative about how to get devices in their hands.  Adora Svitak said, “When students use their devices during class time to access learning resources that they can also get at home or on the go, we see that learning doesn’t just happen within the four walls of a classroom.” Bring Your Own Devices is one way around the financial issues. Last year my team proposed this and thankfully our principal was on board, the learning completely changed and evolved because students were constantly and easily finding answers to their questions and moving forward at their own pace.  

Another way to empower students is to involve them in real issues.  All semester long our elementary students have been working in multi-grade groups to learn about empathy in our social emotional curriculum. Students are now working on a real issue problem at our school.  They brainstormed ways we can show/teach others to have more empathy at our school. Their topics range from taking care of our (beautiful) campus to welcoming new students to showing respect to the cleaning staff. Groups are currently shooting footage and editing videos for a school PSA that we will post on Schoology. It has been amazing to see students super engaged, but also to watch the different students stand out because of their strengths. From first grade to fifth grade the students feel their role, whatever it may be, is important to the project. I will be sure to share the videos once they are complete.

Lastly, and at more of school wide level, next semester I would like to have a social media campaign for our school community to connect to the mission and also for students to share a little about their personal lives. After reading the Forbes article What Makes Your School so Special? I was struck by how often we belittle students by not asking for their opinions or input. Students are the heartbeat of any school and we can harness that energy while empowering them. In the article a student from Wittenburg University said, “All my friends were posting. I wanted to post my story. It keeps you connected to your community.” Just like this student, I’m hoping students (and parents for younger students without accounts) will feel drawn to participate because it is the thing to do.

For our social media campaign there is a dual purpose, we have a new mission this year so one outcome will be for our community to become more familiar with our mission and promote our hashtag (#wearegiants). The other reason is to encourage students to share their personal hobbies and ways that they are a GIANT (our mascot) all the time, not just in school, which will hopefully empower them. I had been thinking about this for awhile, but after watching the Martha video and seeing that most of these kids created amazing things outside of school I began to think how our students have loads of talents and things they do at home that we never bring into school. Maybe this campaign will be the connector from school to home. I hope it will allow teachers to see a Tweet or an Instagram post and begin to see that student differently, or their friends will look to them as experts.