Tag: Acceptable Use Policy

Meeting with Ed.D. supervisor: conceptual ecologies, productive concepts, and hypozeugma

I met via Skype with my thesis supervisor, Steve Higgins, a couple of weeks ago to discuss the process of finishing off and submitting my thesis. It currently stands at around 34,000 words but, given that I wrote 17,500 words of a mobile review in little more than a week, it’s not the actual getting close to 60,000 words that’s the issue: it’s the overall coherence.

Skype’s persistent chat history is fantastic; I can remember reading recently of a company that’s committed to promoting Open Source products, but that uses Skype (which is proprietary and closed-source) internally because of exactly this feature. I use it to note down important points in the conversations Steve and I have (as well as recording the audio of the whole conversation) so I can go back to it later. Here, then, are my thoughts prompted by revisiting that Skype chat history:

Where’s the value(s)?

One of the many problems I have with the concept of digital literacy is that it’s an inherently value-laden proposition. It is, as Steve puts it, and ‘intentional concept’ in that people want to achieve things through its adoption and promotion: consensus, change, and the like. It’s like bandwagon-jumping rather than hitchhiking.

Problematising policy

In an attempt to make my thesis of practical value, I had intended to apply my findings to the policies in various countries. However, Steve and I are agreed that moving this section (with a slightly different focus) to near the beginning of the thesis makes more sense. I’m now going to analyse policies relating to ‘digital literacy’ in various countries, show how they are problematic, and then go on to my Pragmatic methodology.

Digital AND Literacy?

If we imagine a Venn diagram with ‘Digital’ in one overlapping circle and ‘Literacy’ in the other then it would appear obvious that ‘Digital Literacy’ is the intersection of these two. However, as has become clear in my research, the information literacy community seem to have taken over the ground that includes everything other than the intersect. This muddies the waters massively.

In order for ‘Digital Literacy’ (in terms of the intersect) to be of added value then there needs to be something particular about it that isn’t covered by ‘Digital OR Literacy’.

Hardness and methodological rules

Before our meeting, Steve sent me this from my former Philosophy lecturer at the University of Sheffield:

The pragmatist principle is defended as a methodological rule [author italics] and Peirce hopes to show, on the basis of a systematic theory of signs, that it is an adequate rule for its intended purpose. A pragmatist analysis of hardness, for example, would tell us what is involved in believing that something is hard. … Clarification of a concept using the pragmatist principle provides an account of just what commitments I incur when I believe or assert a proposition in which the concept is ascribed to something. (Hookway, C. (2002) Truth Rationality and Pragmatism, p.60)

If I’m using the Pragmatic method, therefore, I need to explain the ‘commitments incurred’ when expressing the concept of ‘digital literacy’.

The local and the global

Pragmatism is predicated upon the idea that truth is what a community of inquirers would settle upon after a long period of time. There are, as Steve points out, both ‘local’ and ‘global’ communities of inquirers which has an impact for the meaning of terms such as ‘digital literacy’. It is likely, therefore, that the conclusion of my thesis will reconsider the policy documents presented in the first half of the thesis, explaining that what is ‘good in the way of belief’ in one country/area (local) is not necessarily good or useful elsewhere (global).

Conceptual ecologies

Words and vocabularies change over time. It may be, therefore, that at one point in time ‘digital literacy’ is/was a functional metaphor that, through a ‘creative ambiguity’ provided a negotiable space for dialogue. Taking a ‘conceptual ecologies’ view allows for the consideration of ‘spaces not boundaries’ (to quote Steve) – engaging with the concept of digital literacy may change your view of the world, and in turn change your view of the concept.

Productive concepts

Just because an ambiguity or a concept creates a metaphorical space for discussion and debate doesn’t make it useful. Like the f-stop controlling the aperture of a camera lens, larger and smaller amounts of creative space can be created through the use of metaphor. The debates in these spaces, however, have to be useful and of value to be considered ‘productive’. Any two words could be mashed together to create such a space, but it is the resulting conversation that is important.

Zeugma

Steve introduced me to the term Zeugma during our conversation, but then wondered whether ‘digital literacy’ was, after all, an example. I think he may be on to something and, given further investigation, think ‘digital literacy’ may be a hypozeugma:

The hypozeugma, also called an adjunctio in Latin, is a zeugma where a verb falls at the end of a sentence and governs several parallel clauses that precede it.

On the other hand, ‘digital literacy’ may be a full-on Syllepsis:

Syllepsis, also known as semantic zeugma, is a particular type of zeugma in which the clauses disagree in either meaning or grammar. The governing word may change meaning with respect to the other words it modifies. This creates a semantic incongruity that is often humorous. Alternatively, a syllepsis may contain a governing word or phrase that does not agree grammatically with one or more of its distributed terms. This is an intentional construction in which rules of grammar are bent for stylistic effect.

Literacies of the digital

The idea of ‘literacies of the digital’ may be a better expression as it makes clear (as opposed to with ‘digital literacy’) that digital is the noun. Literacies of the digital could well be everything apart from the intersect of the two-circle Venn diagram mentioned above. Steve and I discussed whether ‘digital participation’ was the intersect, or whether such a concept was ‘read-only’. I would argue that there needs to be a critical element to this participative element of literacy.

I’ve certainly got some more thinking to do on this… :-p

Acceptable Use Policy – feedback required!

I’m in the process of putting together the Acceptable Use Agreement (AUA) that students at the (3-18) Academy will sign in September. Although everything’s subject to change, I’d like to base on principles and make it as short as possible, rather than have some monolithic document that people sign but never read. The latter state of affairs means that although the Academy’s back would be covered from a legal point of view, it would have little or no effect on thought processes and behaviour modification.
This is not my first foray into the world of the AUA. I discussed Acceptable Use Policies (AUP’s) on this blog last year in AUP 2.0.

blocked

BLOCKED by ~Devastis @ deviantart

As Director of E-Learning at Northumberland Church of England Academy, I don’t want a situation similar to the one depicted above. I want clear policies whereby both staff and students know where they stand when it comes to internet access and filtering. As far as I’m concerned, resources should be available for teaching and learning unless a clear case can be made otherwise.

I’m in the process of putting together the Acceptable Use Agreement (AUA) that students at the (3-18) Academy will sign in September. Although everything’s subject to change, I’d like to base on principles and make it as short as possible, rather than have some monolithic document that people sign but never read. The latter state of affairs means that although the Academy’s back would be covered from a legal point of view, it would have little or no effect on thought processes and behaviour modification.

This is not my first foray into the world of the AUA. I discussed Acceptable Use Policies (AUP’s) on this blog last year in AUP 2.0 after some thinking about how access to the internet via mobile devices was likely to completely change the landscape. David Warlick, around the same time as I was doing this, put together the School AUP 2.0 wiki to collate resources and thinking from around the internet. That’s a useful resource and I’ve spent a good deal of time looking at the various options and permutations.

To my mind, the best AUA I’ve come across is Andrew Churches’ Digital Citizen AUA which he’s kindly released under a Creative Commons License. I’ve taken that and – after discussion with the Principal Director of Operations at the Academy – adapted it. This is how it stands currently for students in the Secondary phase:

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.

Those in the Primary phase would be asked to sign a slightly simplified version of the above with more age-relevant words included. The ongoing Google Docs reflecting how they currently stand can be seen here:

I’d really appreciate feedback, comments and ideas on the above! 😀

AUP 2.0

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post entitled Towards a Forward-Thinking Acceptable Use Policy for Mobile Devices. To avoid repeating myself, a lot of what I’m going to say here builds upon that post. As a result, you may want to read that first before you start here – or at least remind yourself of it! :-p

No-one ever works in a vacuum, and I don’t think anyone in the history of the world can claim to have had a truly ‘original’ idea. At least not in terms of being the sole agent involved with the idea from scratch. With that in mind, there must have been something brewing in the edublogosphere, as the week after my post seminal blogger David Warlick posted his AUP 2.0. In it, he introduced his School AUP 2.0 wiki, a fantastic resource for anyone wanting/needing to grapple with these issues.

Writing policy documents may seem like a boring or even pointless job, but an up-to-date and meaningful Acceptable Use Policy is crucial to, and underpins, everything we do in terms of educational technology. I’ve mentioned before how my school, like most schools in the UK, has a policy that outright bans students from having their mobile phones in school. Yet, all of them do, and use them blatantly in front of teachers at break and lunchtimes. Some, like myself, have even encouraged students to use their mobile devices for learning: SMS updates from Google Calendar and Twitter, for instance, taking digital pictures instead of writing down homework, or podcasts and revision videos on their MP3/MP4 players.

Such discrepancies are dangerous. It means that the teacher is not protected if anything goes wrong. That’s fine for me, with my gung-ho attitude towards authority and copyright legislation, but less so for the ‘average’ teacher who is already cautious about the benefits of using educational technology. We need to say what is acceptable and what is not in this Web 2.0, digitally-connected world. Students, as teenagers, don’t live in what most adults would call the ‘real world’ anymore; it’s a blended digital/physical world with no hard-and-fast distinctions. Heck, even I don’t live in the ‘real world’. Reality is socially constructed. :-p

It may not be possible to actually keep an AUP up-to-date about specific policies. Realistically, these things are only revisited once or twice a year at an absolute maximum. I know of some schools who have the same AUP from about 1994… 😮

So, instead of a set of hard-and-fast rules, we need guidelines. I really liked the idea Pamela Livingston shared in the comments section here of a post on Classroom 2.0. She reports that her school came up with the acronym ‘LARK’:

  • Legal
  • Appropriate
  • Responsible
  • Kind

I think that’s a fantastic starting point, and a base from which few AUP’s could really go wrong. It reminds me of Sunday School, about putting what you’re going to say through the various seives of being loving, kind… anyway – I digress! 😉

Earlier I mentioned that some schools haven’t updated their AUP’s since the early 90’s. That’s not to say that what they came up with then is completely irrelevant; it just needs updating and tweaking to reflect 2008 and beyond. Take, for instance, Dave Kinnaman’s 1995 essay (with lots of links!) entitled Critiquing Acceptable Use Policies. Kinnaman has updated this over the years to reflect the changing nature of schools and the digital world. He starts it off with a great quotation from Howard Rheingold:

This technological shock to our moral codes means that in the future, we are going to have to teach our children well.

Which is exactly how it should be: any AUP worth it’s salt should begin with what the educational instution is doing to educate the youngsters in it’s charge about such matters.

Dave Warlick’s wiki is probably the best place these days to go to look for sample AUP’s, as it pulls in tagged links from del.icio.us, diigo, etc. You could also try here. Every AUP must appropriately balance those things common to all Internet and educational technology users, and those things that are specific to the context of that particular educational institution and it’s members. I don’t think it’s ever acceptable to grab something that works for one school, college or university and expect it to just ‘work’ with yours; the AUP must be tailored to your specific situation.

At the end of the day, AUP 2.0 must be more a manifesto of what we want to achieve with educational technology than be about what we want to restrict and block. There are obviously websites, services and practices we want to ban outright – pornographic, violent and racist sites, for instance. Children cannot cope with the same things adults can. But it should still be the guiding principle of an AUP to allow as much as possible, used in an acceptable way as possible. Blocking things because of their ‘potential’ to be used inappropriately (Twitter? Bebo? YouTube?) is to avoid the issue and to abdicate our responsibility as educators in institutions that are supposedly about learning.

The AUP 2.0 for my school will hopefully follow in the near future. I need to persuade the Senior Management, governors and, indeed, staff that it needs to be revisited first! 😮

Further reading:

Image credit: Don’t Stop Questioning by contrapositively, Traffic Light Tree by Squirmelia & T-092-0197 by yanyanyanyanyan – all @ Flickr

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