Well, it’s official. We have a Technology Use Policy for Ukiah Unified’s teachers and employees.
This has caused a bit of a stir among some of the teachers at the high school, both in how it was implemented (we had to sign an agreement before we even read the book), and how the language seemed to impact the method of instruction to the kids. What do I think of it? Meh. It’s a technology use agreement; aka, use your freaking head and move on. But I’ll highlight some of the concerns.
First, Big Brother is watching. Years ago I sat at a Union meeting were teachers insisted that it was police state tactics that the District had the ability to monitor an employee’s Internet traffic. How can your employer actually justify monitoring THEIR network and THEIR e-mail for traffic that might impact THEIR employees? I tried to explain the whole, you know, “it’s not your private network” thing, but it didn’t go over well and I just sat and enjoyed the hilarity. The only reason I can see this as being a concern is A) You are somewhere you aren’t supposed to be, or B) You fear that the District will look to question your judgment. I’m not concerned with either. The closest thing to controversy might be using Facebook or Twitter during prep, and both I can easily justify educational use.
Second, and the much more interesting point, was this:
“Employees shall not develop work-related web sites, blogs, forums, emails, or similar online communications representing the district or using district equipment or resources without the permission of the Superintendent or designee. All such forums shall include a disclaimer that the district is not responsible for the content of the messages.”
I got a few calls and e-mails asking how it relates to my personal blog (this one), to which I responded, “It doesn’t”. My blog doesn’t represent the district or use district equipment, and I have a disclaimer that it does not reflect Ukiah High, and I use good judgment (although others would argue otherwise) on what I post. That means the blog is out of the realm of the Use Agreement. Note, I’ve talked to the District about my blog in the past so it isn’t like I am hiding anything.
But that detail goes beyond my blog to actual technology that supports student learning. The only technology supported officially by the District is Edline and Aries. What happens to the many teachers that use Class Jump? What about my Edmodo site, which is essentially a Facebook format designed for Education? There are teachers with Facebook pages for their classes and Facebook Groups that are designed around certain subject matter areas. What about conversing with students via Twitter, Moodle, Instant Messenger, Google Apps, or open source software like Diaspora? Does all that need District approval, and if so, who is the designee? These questions were asked to me because some wanted clarification and many teachers wanted to know if the agreement had some hidden meaning that could hurt the use of technology.
My answer was that the policy seemed pretty standard and I don’t see the District breathing fire at someone using Edmodo or Class Jump. I told everyone to use common sense, but that they should be free to integrate good technology into their classroom without feeling like cell phone polling was going to bring a Terminator to their door. It’s like anything else in education; document and justify everything that you do. If someone questions your practices, convince them that it’s the right thing to do. I use Edmodo because it’s damn good, period (thanks #sschat on Twitter). Anyone wanting to challenge me on it will be convinced in 30 seconds that its incorporation in my classroom is good teaching.
So I go about my business of doing my thing and integrating technology when it enhances my job. Just because I didn’t have a written Technology Agreement, doesn’t mean I haven’t been following the rules from Day One.