Thursday, February 26, 2009

A 21st Century Global Acceptable Use Policy for Schools

Last Fall I sent out a survey on my Twitter network asking K-12 teachers about cell phone use in their schools. I received 100 responses on SurveyMonkey (Wow! Imagine how much more difficult it would have been to get survey responses from random teachers around the nation in 1995???).

Survey Says...
Of 100 teachers, 97 of them said that their school had a policy that highly restricted cell phone use during school hours (either banning them completely or restricting their use to non-academic times). Yet in the same survey 40 of the teachers said they were using cell phones in learning, and 87 teachers said they would like to use cell phones for learning in their schools in the future. While this is not a scientific survey, it was just a quick random survey of educators on Twitter, the results do speak to a need for a change in acceptable use policies.

One of the reasons teachers tell me they are not interested in using cell phones in learning is because their schools' acceptable use policy does not allow cell phones in the classroom.

Probably the most common question that I have been asked by teachers who are interested in using cell phones in learning is, "how do I go about changing my schools' acceptable use policy to include cell phones?"

While I have often given some suggestions, I recently came across Uni High. Uni is a school in Urbana, Il that has propsed a new, more cell phone friendly AUP.

Here is a blurb of the new policy proposal

Mobile Device Policy

Students may have silenced mobile devices on their person. The use of communication features on cellular devices during instructional time, or in a disruptive manner in the school atmosphere, is prohibited.

Each teacher has the right to allow the use of mobile devices (e.g. cell phones, laptops, iPods, personal data assistants) during instructional time.

The use of cell phones in the hallway is prohibited, as it is considered a disruption to classes taking place. Nondisruptive cell phone use is allowed in the stairwells.

Students are permitted to use mobile devices, including cell phones, in the student lounge for the remainder of the first semester of 2008. This is a probationary period after which SFAC will make a recommendation to the administration and the faculty for future use of mobile devices.

Students may continue to use mobile devices in the stairwells of Uni.

I think this policy is an excellent example of a policy that can keep structure and restaints around using cell phones inappropriately, while as the same time give classroom teachers the option to use them in their teaching and learning.

Now a few things on my wish list to go along with the aup for cell phones...
1) Teaching mobile etiquette, safety, and legalise
2) Training teachers on academic uses for cell phones (lets' give our inservice and preservice teachers the professional development they need to effectively integrate cell phones).

4 comments:

Chris said...

Good post Liz. I loved the anology you drew with the automobile... you're right, there are plenty of "bad news stories" about cars - accidents, pollution and so on (I once heard that some people have even had underage sex in a car! Shocking!) but we STILL don't ban them from our roads. Why? As you point out, becuase we focus on the positive things... convenience, speed, transport, etc. Good point you make.
I also just wrote a post about some of the positives of cellphone use that you might find interesting... http://betch.edublogs.org/2009/02/27/computers-in-their-pockets/
Keep up the great work with moving the mobile phone debate forward!

karli said...

Going back to something we talked a little about last year - what about adding to a cell phone in education wish list: a way for teachers/schools to use cellphone in education without depending upon using student's personal phones? You may have talked about this more, and I missed it, but even after we can use cell phones in schools - in many circumstances should we be asking parents to pay? I have students with cellphones - but I usually give them mine to use because I want them to be able to text/play with the new technologies without worry about minutes, texting, taking and sending images, video etc.

I've seen some discussion of selling cell phones/plans to schools - maybe this would promote a more positive view of using cell phones as a tool - rather than worrying that if students are allowed to use their phones in certain classes that they would use them other times when it is disruptive.
I know that I would feel more comfortable because I hate to put the burden on lower income families - and feel responsible if students rack up higher bills because I have encouraged them to use their phones differently.

Yesterday I had a high school student complaining that she didn't have a mic to record audio onto the voicethread she was working on. I handed her my cell phone - problem solved to, her surprise/shock. She loved it.

Chris Betcher said...

I actually think that if schools were to provide them, the would lose their ... I don't know.... impact? power? effect? Not sure what word I'm looking for here, but to institutionalise the phones to the point where they were included in a student's "book pack" of things for school would, I think, tend to make them less disruptive (and I mean to use the word disruptive in a good way.)
Part of the magic right now is that each kid has intense personal ownership of their device, and most are highly emotionally attached to the phones. If the school provided the same "school issued" phone to every kid then the school would expect (quite rightfully) to be able to manage, control, limit, filter, etc what kids do with it. Magic gone.
I like the pirate-like, almost illicit, disruptive nature of the phone and would not like to see it get so institutionalised.
But that's just me...

karli said...

Using a variety of cellphones would certainly expand everyone's experience/appreciation for what different phones, carries, apps etc could do. My concern is solely with how to have students experiment/utilize cellphones as tools without parents having to pay beyond their usual rates. I have a lot of students with cell phones but they are frequently on very limited plans. So? Now I have students use my phone...but that's just one phone. Everyone using the same type of school issued phone certainly sounds boring..especially when the models and apps change constantly - I am just asking how to utilize personal phones with out the cost trickling to the parents (if they are even able/willing to pay for a phone plan)?

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