YikYak is a geographically localised anonymous twitter-like app gaining popularity. It allows users to post, without identifying themselves, to up to 500 users in the local area. It is quite easy for offensive and abusive messages to reach users quickly. The messages can contain inflammatory or personal references which can be disruptive to a local community. This poses many potential issues for schools across the UK. Also, be aware of the Yak game. Users post messages and exchange their beloved banter of all sorts, never knowing if the message is legit or spoof, or who posted it. The appeal of YikYak is that it plays no part in your digital footprint; no care is required in what you post. The police, apparently, can identify who posted an update, should things escalate sufficiently to get them involved.
What can you do about it?
When we first applied for a geofence, via the YikYak site, it became apparent they are USA-based and the geofence service seemed to serve the other side of the Atlantic only. We heard nothing back from YikYak, but had not seen any usage in our area. Upon further investigation (using the app) in the new term, activity had began and some of it was particularly unpleasant and identifiable to our school. However, a geofence had been initiated, but it failed to cover all areas of our school. So, I have sent another request including grid references and postcodes of our most peripheral pupil occupied locations. Fingers crossed.
The geofence makes the app do this:
To do this for your school, enter the postcode for the building into Google maps, and the grid reference appears in the address bar, so you can copy and paste it. Below is an example for 10 Downing Street.
Summer is here! And so policies get reviewed. Next year my school will introduce two class sets of iPads, a class set of Microsoft Surface Pros and issue an iPod Touch to every teacher in the Junior School. Oh, and BYOD to 220 Sixth Form students with WiFI flooded throughout the site. More about why this combination of gadgets another time, but it’s probably enough to say we are trying on a number of strategies to see which fits best and what works in our context
So, ICT AUP review. Why?
Technology use is changing (has changed!);
Social media has been causing our pastoral team some headaches;
We need to protect our pupils.
What are we aiming for?
A document that can raise awareness of expectations and present a starting point for discussions between teachers and pupils when something goes wrong;
Text that is accessible to all;
To build on the sense of kindness and trust that is part of the fabric of our school.
Where are we now?
Currently we have a five page AUP of which one page is a bullet point checklist. Pupils and parents agree to abide by this policy by the pupil attending school. Pupils do not read the AUP unless they are directed to do so in ICT lessons but these no longer exist.
What do we want to change?
We want to write a policy that is as useful to all participants as possible. There are always going to be infringements and it is how these are handled that we want to make sure is effective. At the heart of the policy is the aim to protect our pupils from the potential dangers of the internet and related technologies. Five pages in inaccessible. It falls into the Terms of Service (TOS) trap whereby everyone agrees because they have to, and very few – it seems to me – feel like they have signed up to anything of, or with, meaning. So, the aim is to achieve something meaningful, simple and useful.
Thoughts and issues
The policy needs to be about people. Not about technology. It needs to help individuals self-check their behaviour, and provide a point of reference for others to use when behaviours have an undesirable consequence. I will run the draft past our very active school council to collate their opinion, as well as the various teacher committees it has to filter through. It will be included in pupil planners; should they sign it? It will be disseminated as part of the registration rota in the ICT rooms, and at staff INSET.
1. Respect Yourself
I will show respect for myself through my actions. I will only use appropriate language and images both within the Learning Platform and on the Internet. I will not post inappropriate personal information about my life, experiences or relationships.
2. Protect Yourself
I will ensure that the information I post online will not put me at risk. I will not publish full contact details, a schedule of my activities or inappropriate personal details in public spaces. I will report any aggressive or inappropriate behaviour directed at me. I will not share my password or account details with anyone else.
3. Respect Others
I will show respect to others. I will not use electronic mediums to bully, harass or stalk other people. I will not visit sites that are degrading, pornographic, racist or that the Academy would deem inappropriate. I will not abuse my access privileges and I will not enter other people’s private spaces or work areas.
4. Protect Others
I will protect others by reporting abuse. I will not forward any materials (including emails and images) that the Academy would deem inappropriate.
5. Respect Copyright
I will request permission to use resources and suitably cite all use of websites, books, media etc. I will use and abide by the fair use rules. I will not install software on Academy machines without permission. I will not steal music or other media, and will refrain from distributing these in a manner that violates their licenses.
By signing this agreement, I agree to always act in a manner that is respectful to myself and others, in a way that will represent the Academy in a positive way. I understand that failing to follow the above will lead to appropriate sanctions being carried out.
It’s good but it remains prescriptive. EG: who am I to tell a pupil they cannot ‘steal music or other media’ with their own kit in their own time. School resources must not be used to do so. But in saying that, I’m drawn to another line of thought about swearing on social media sites. If a pupil swears on facebook, and their profile is traceable to the school, then this is akin to swearing at the bus stop in full school uniform on the way home. We have a zero tolerance on such behaviour. We do not trawl pupils activity online but when it does get brought to our attention we need to act to protect that pupil and the school. As I discussed with my esafety-guru mate up north Simon Finch recently, the laws governing esafety are immature and it will be a decade or more before they catch up.
So, what if we do publish a one sheet with reference to a back-up detail document with all the belt and braces on it. The latter is required for legal reasons. Should an exclusion be on the cards, the school is in legal territory and needs to be covered. For me though, this is not the main thrust of what we are trying to achieve. We want to protect participants from each other, from themselves, from strangers and dangers. We need a policy in place that actually helps young people understand these possibilities when they are using technology. Maybe we need two separate documents. An AUA and an AUP. The AUA is the forward facing easy-to-read one sheet and the AUP is the detailed document that is referred to in times of need. This is similar to the school code of conduct. We have a lengthy behaviour policy which is in all the handbooks, but it is based on the code of conduct, which was written by the pupils and teachers and is displayed in every classroom.
This AUP (or AUA and AUP) will be filtered through the school lawyers as part of the review process. It will need approval from the ICT Strategy Committee, the Senior Leadership Team and the governing body. I will publish any drafts I write on this blog. All comments on policy or process are welcome.
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.