I want to use collaborative technology with students but… I don’t know what our policy is (part 3 of 4)

In a recent post, I pointed to places within the Common Core (CCSS) that beg for teachers to design activities that integrate collaborative technology, especially using the Internet, into lessons for students as early as 6th grade.

This is the third of four blog posts addressing a few of the most common reasons teachers cite as to why connected classrooms are a good idea in theory, but not something they can implement:

Impediment #3:

I can’t take them online during school because our policy doesn’t allow it.

Baloney.  I’m venturing a guess that you haven’t looked into it and are simply assuming that your parents, your leader, or your Board thinks the Big Bad Wolf is waiting just beyond your Firewall.  He’s not, first of all.  Once you’ve stopped fearing the unknown, you can baby step into taking your students online by doing the following:

  • Pay no attention to your nay-saying colleagues.  Remember, as you encounter disbelieving scoffs and raised eyebrows, what a well-developed claim includes – reference to specific and relevant evidence: your colleagues will be wont to offer that to you.
  • Start conducting research.  Your goal is to read all policy documents regarding instruction of students, student interaction, and the protection of student privacy and identity.  They’re on your school’s website, probably in the Administration or Board or Education tabs.  Your goal is to determine how you know which parents have asked for their students’ work not to be published and their photos not to be taken, what (if any) paperwork needs to be on file before students work online, and what steps you are supposed to take to ensure student safety online.

I want to explicitly mention that the purpose of this research is more than simply CYA: putting your students online is authentic learning, but includes authentic consequences: while the Big Bad Wolf – a metaphorical unknown evil – might not be waiting outside your firewall, a non-custodial parent, or a teenage student’s deranged ex, or even the Copyright Police very well may be.

  • If, after conducting this research, you actually find that no clear policy exists, talk to your direct supervisor about your intentions, their connection to the standards, and frame your question and conversation carefully: What is the procedure for alerting parents that students will be collaborating online?  not How do I get permission to for students to blog?  Being purposeful about asking for his or her help in facilitating this good work rather than permission to pursue it is critical to gaining support as you move forward and face the last remaining hurdle to student tech-enabled collaboration.

In closing, knowing your district’s policy, not relying on others’ interpretations of interpretations of policy, is critical in finding the space to do innovative work.

Read yesterday’s post about integrating collaborative technology even when the school-issued computers are less than ideal.

What other impediments keep you from integrating technology into your lessons?

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