Smarter Clicking: School Technology Policies That Work!

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Christopher Wells

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    Preface

    We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.

    DouglasAdams (2002), The Salmon of Doubt

    Beware the Four Horsemen of the Information Apocalypse: terrorists, drug dealers, kidnappers, and child pornographers. Seems like you can scare any public into allowing the government to do anything with those four.

    BruceScheier (2005), Computer Crime Hype

    Technology has created a whole new realm of decision-making challenges, and as the quotes above indicate, technology is not the tame, managed tool that it was envisioned to be. Instead, technology is handheld and room-sized, invisibly available or connected with a wire, person to person or device to device. To make sense of our world, we create rules that are the basis of all policies and procedures. Technology policies and procedures often suffer from being too limiting or too nebulous, both of which are almost impossible to enforce. What do we as educators do to protect our students and staff members from the “four horsemen” that Bruce Scheier mentioned and still use technology to get the job of teaching and learning done, which is supported by Douglas Adams' quote?

    Rationale

    As a school district administrator for one of the largest school districts in the United States, I realized that the questions arriving on my desk were being heard around the country. Whether at conferences, through e-mail queries, during presentations, or written about in instructional technology publications, building useful—and effective—technology policies and procedures is a major source of concern for schools and districts.

    This book is the result of my work with students, parents, teachers, and administrators as we struggled with the emergence of technology as an essential classroom resource. Just like desks, school buildings, and cafeterias, technology is no longer a luxury but has become an essential resource throughout schools and district offices. The regulation of technology must be a top priority with many districts, because students and teachers are finding ways to use technology that are not supporting the core business of teaching and learning. Creating solid, useful, and simple policies and procedures is a time-consuming process, and this book provides guidance to streamline the process and make the development of policies and procedures as simple as possible.

    Audience and Approach

    Principals, administrators, and technology team members are the key audience for this book because these members of the school community either struggle with students and parents to enforce the rules and implement the policies. With this in hand, you will be able to construct instructional technology policies and procedures that are consistent with the school and district resources and supported by the school community.

    For administrators, this text will prepare you for the immediate future of technology in your school. Considering the types of challenges that administrators already face with cell phones and student-developed Web pages, there are practical suggestions for keeping your school within legal guidelines and ethical boundaries. There are also many short, clear descriptions of the types of technology you might be implementing in your school. Another component that might make your job a little easier is a clear review of the legal implications of school technology use, especially when challenged by parents or staff members on their rights when using school equipment. I have included tips for protecting your technology investment and practical guidelines for implementing instructional technology policies and procedures in your school or district.

    For technology team members, this book will provide leadership ideas to help you create a community of learning through technology, instead of an “electronic lockdown” where students and staff members feel restricted. As guardians of the school technology, your expanding role is essential to schools and districts, because your role allows teachers to connect rich resources to the learning process. This book's approach is to help you think through the policy development and implementation process thoroughly, avoiding costly pitfalls that jeopardize student and staff success. You can use this text to prepare for discussions around student data privacy, contribute the policy-making process, or communicate existing policies and procedures to the school community.

    Organization and Resources

    This text is organized with an initial emphasis on the importance of school technology policies and then the cast of school characters who will be part of the policy development process. The following chapters present practical steps and resources on the fundamental topics being discussed in schools around the country. These topics include data privacy, investment protection, acceptable use policies (commonly referred to as AUPs), Internet use. A discussion on the implementation of school technology policies and procedures follows, and the book concludes with an optimistic look at emerging technology.

    An additional Resources section of the text provides more specific guidance on some policies and procedures your school or district might need to develop or implement. AUPs, Internet access policies, and school Web page guidelines are presented in easy-to-follow outlines.

    If you are reading this book with a specific emphasis in mind, this topical guideline might be useful:

    Another resource in this book that you may find useful are the critical chapter questions at the beginning of each chapter along with the chapter focus. If you are looking for specific content areas, these questions are consistent with the essential questions many teachers use to focus class lessons. These questions are also the specific areas of concern to many school districts around the country and might be useful when you are having discussions around technology policies and procedures in your own school or district.

    Finally, it is important to know that a book like this may only serve to raise more questions. If nothing else, administrators and technology team members in schools and districts will be better prepared to answer the questions that are emerging throughout the world regarding computer use and technology management in the school setting. This text was never meant to answer all of the questions because so many of the answers depend on the readers' circumstances, such as school district positions, interactions with the school community, and funding levels for both school and district. Instead, the goal of writing a resource like this was to open the door to teaching and learning in a safer, more effective way through the appropriate use of technology. Much like Douglas Adams' sentiment, “stuff that works” in education should have a lasting impact for future generations, which is why discussions about the safe and wise use of technology for schools is so important.

    Acknowledgments

    Corwin gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following individuals:

    • Laurie Emery
    • Principal
    • Old Vail Middle School
    • Vail, Arizona
    • Richard Jones
    • Middle School Principal
    • Rochester Public Schools
    • Rochester, Minnesota
    • Toni Jones
    • Director of Secondary Curriculum and Instructional Technology
    • Deer Creek Public Schools
    • Edmond, Oklahoma
    • Donnan Stoicovy
    • Elementary Principal
    • State College Area School District
    • Park Forest Elementary School
    • State College, Pennsylvania

    About the Author

    Christopher Wells is the IT policies and communications director for Gwinnett County Public Schools, the largest school district in Georgia. With more than 160,000 students in the district, he responds to the diverse, creative ways technology is being used in classrooms. Christopher presents regularly and his enthusiasm for his topic material is contagious (even if the audience thinks that technology policies and procedures are boring!). By incorporating realistic examples and messages with humor, compassion, and vision, Christopher consistently engages diverse audiences and leaves listeners focused and energized on the development of new resources for students and teachers. In the past, he worked for Arthur Andersen, a global consulting firm, and developed and managed a global distance learning consulting practice. Prior to that, Christopher was a high school science and computer science teacher, developing curricula for biology, ecology, environmental science, oceanography, science research, and AP Pascal classes.

    Christopher is a graduate of the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Florida, earning his BS in science education and biology and an MS in computer education with an emphasis on instructional technology. He is currently a PhD student at Walden University's College of Management and Technology in leadership and organizational change. Christopher is still actively involved in several organizations that involve youth and the natural world, including a youth retreat movement for middle-school students and a sea turtle research project run on Wassaw Island, Georgia.

    E-mail Christopher at cwells@schooltechpolicies.com or visit his Web site at http://www.schooltechpolicies.com.

  • Resources: Priming the Digital Pump: Sample Documents and Templates

    The following resources are provided as starting or discussion points for district technology policies and procedures. They are not meant to be definitive but illustrative and may not fit within your school culture. Make sure to look online since many school districts have their policies and procedures online for review and are willing to share their policy development with other school districts. Groups such as the National School Board Association, regionally based technology support groups, and international associations (ISTE, CoSN) all are excellent places to start looking for specific information.

    References

    Conn, K. (2002). The Internet and the law: What educators need to know. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
    Miller, S., Adsit, K. I., & Miller, T. (2005). Evaluating the importance of common components in school-based Web sites: Frequency of appearance and stakeholders' judged value. TechTrends: Linking Research and Practice to Improving Learning, 49(6), 34–40. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF02763728

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