Acceptable Use Policies are a necessary and important document – contract – for teachers in any school because it is imperative that we are protected from the potential danger working online can bring. Following an intense scrutiny of safeguarding and child protection at our school, we published a strict and comprehensive Staff ICT AUP. For example, staff should not connect with any pupil on facebook until one year after they are of school leaving age, and only then with caution as through siblings and friends it can connect you to current pupils.
However, two years on we have included in the new ICT strategy a review of this policy to incorporate a section for innovative teachers who want to employ a new service without seeking formal permission via the various committees in place to oversee the use of ICT. For example, I have been managing Sixth Form coursework using a project management tool called trello, logged into through pupils and teachers Google Apps for Education accounts. Or, should a teacher want to investigate and explore the use of edmodo in teaching and learning, they need to go about this in a risk-aware and cautious way without their enthusiasm being thwarted by bureaucracy. Equally you do not want to let every teacher engage pupils via services, that facilitate private and untraceable communique, without being aware of the risks involved. The common sense approach is simply not enough in this day and age.
There is extensive discussion of the issues involved and some research collated here on Scott McLeod’s blog, which also demonstrates that this issue is not only a concern for my school. Check out the links on Employee AUPs for material specifically relevant to this area.
We are proposing a clause to the ICT AUP whereby a teacher can sign up to be an ICT innovator and thereafter explore the use of such services with only an email being sent to a designated person. It might be that usernames and passwords, for the accounts being used, need to be shared which will allow monitoring of some sort. This will all be discussed in detail with the school’s child protection officer and the relevant committees. The priority is to enable teachers and pupils to exploit the innovations that specific web services can provide in a protected and safe way that does not impede the momentum of the creative spark that initiates the process. Our core purpose is to empower users who want to use technology to enrich teaching and learning.
If you have any thoughts about this, please do comment. Once the AUP is written, I will share it on a new blogpost.