What is an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) and why is it needed?

An AUP is a document designed to protect a school incase a student goes somewhere on the internet s/he shouldn’t.  With an AUP in place, a school can say the student violated the agreement, which the student (and parents, if the student is a minor) is required to sign before having access to computers at school, can place sanctions on the student for said violation and then walk away as if nothing happened (until the next time it does).  To some, this is a cynical view, to others it is the way it should be.  However, there is a different way.

According to Education World, the number one goal of an AUP should be student safety. All students should feel comfortable while in school, just as employees should feel comfortable while at work.  That level of comfort includes while online.  While rules and sanctions are needed, they are a reactive approach.  The less often they are necessary, the better it will be for all parties.  The best way to ensure that is by being proactive.  If the school promotes a sense of with freedom comes responsibility into the students, then many issues are solved by never occurring.  Thus, a better term would be a Responsible Use Policy (RUP).  Regardless of the name, Education World states that such policy should contain at least 6 elements.

  • The preamble is the reasoning behind the policy.

  • In the definition section, key words are defined.  Also, any terms that might cause confusion need clarified.

  • The policy statement lists what is covered by the policy and the conditions under which student usage is approved.

  • The acceptable and unacceptable uses sections provide examples of appropriate usage and places limits and prohibitions.

  • The violation/sanction section informs what to do in case of a violation of the AUP.

Unfortunately another important component is a waiver/release that must be signed by the student (and parents of minors) that protects the institution in cases where students violate the policy.  One way to neutralize this cold, legalistic document is by writing the policy in a more student-friendly, warm tone.  The only AUP I found that met these requirements was by the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh Charter School.  However, it focused a lot more on unacceptable use than it did on acceptable use and was rather lengthy. The North Hills School District, while lacking a definition section, was a much more student-friendly policy with clearly defined acceptable and unacceptable uses.

Regardless of the tone, the Tech and Learning Blog list a few guidelines that should be followed when creating these policies.  The policy should be focused on people and behavior, not gadgets and media, otherwise, every time a new device is introduce, the policy would need to be rewritten.  Therefore, they should be an all-inclusive brief yet, concise document.

The Art Institute of Pittsburgh has a two page document (the previously mentioned Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh Charter School has a 17-page document).  Their creation should not come from the top down but, they should involve all the affected parties. This again goes back to the aforementioned philosophy linking freedom and responsibility. Sadly, many schools, like SciTech, take the top down approach.  Finally, they need to be customizable to specific populations.  The language needs to be age appropriate to the students.  A policy for first graders, while similar in intent, would not be a good fit for high school seniors.

References:

Art Institute of Pittsburgh. (n.d.). The Art Institute of Pittsburgh student housing network policy. Retrieved from http://aipstudent.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Tech-Waiver.pdf

Education World. (n.d.). Getting started on the Internet: Developing an acceptable use policy (AUP). Retrieved from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr093.shtml

North Hills School District. (n.d.). Policies. Retrieved from http://www.nhsd.net/policies.cfm?pid=26902&searchwords=

Pittsburgh Public Schools (n.d.). Pittsburgh Public Schools acceptable use policy, information security policy and password policy user agreement and parent consent. Retrieved from http://www.pps.k12.pa.us/cms/lib/PA01100449/Centricity/Domain/89/aup_student_agreement.pdf

SciTech. (n.d.). Introduction to the technology & laptop program. Retrieved from http://discoverpps.org/resources/522f3f84aa681/SciTech%20Technology%20AUP.pdf

TechLearning.com. (n.d.). Tech Learning TL advisor blog and ed tech ticker blogs from TL blog staff. Retrieved from http://www.techlearning.com/Default.aspx?tabid=67&EntryId=4355

Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh Charter School. (2013-2014). The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh Charter School technology use and CIPA policy. Retrieved from http://ulgpcs.org/ourpages/auto/2013/3/22/29092556/ULGPCS%20IT%20POLICY%202013-14.pdf

Module 6 Summary and Reflection

Module 6 involved the presentation of a synchronous lesson.  My partner for this project was Marci Smith, who is also a math teacher.  Based upon her suggestion, we chose to do a lesson on transformations.  Our main synchronous learning strategy was the solo fishbowl. This strategy lend itself well to the lesson because it allowed students to practice sketching their transformations and receive immediate feedback on how they were doing.

Since Marci has taught this lesson much more recently, she adapted her plan to a synchronous environment.  I handled much of the administrative work in Adobe Connect by setting up our layout, adding polls and creating the whiteboards for the fishbowls.  We split up the instruction of the lesson into four main parts:  the introduction activity (taught by me), the main lesson (Marci), the fishbowl activity (me) and self practice (Marci).  In order to be prepared, we spent two nights going through the lesson in mock fashion on Adobe Connect.

Overall, the lesson went well.  Working with Adobe Connect for a second time, I found that it was easier than the previous time.  We ran into an issue where Marci was not able to stay connected and I had to start the main teaching portion, but she was able to get reconnected and pick it up without missing a step.  We did prepare more than we needed for the time allotted, but we had planned for what to eliminate without compromising the key points of the lesson.

Reflect on assessment of learning outcomes in online environments. Consider the following questions in your reflection:

  1. What are appropriate assessment strategies in synchronous and asynchronous delivery methods?

The best type of assessment strategies in the online environment are formative ones: assessment that occurs ongoing throughout the course.  This could be informal assessment in the form of immediate feedback during a live lesson (such as our solo fishbowl activity discussed above) or more formal assessment using a rubric.  In the asynchronous environment, reflection post such as this are extremely useful tools to assess a student’s level of knowledge.  Students should seek out feedback from their fellow students.  This form of assessment helps to create the collaborative community that drives much of the virtual classroom.  Students should provide feedback on how well the assignments met their learning needs.  Finally, in order for online learning to have any value, the students must realize that their participation in all activities is vital.

  1. Does this look different than assessment in traditional classrooms? How and why?

The biggest difference between the online and the traditional classroom is in quizzes and exams.  While online classes can administer quizzes and exams, to rely on them to the extent they are in a traditional classroom would be faulty.  While test security measures can be created online, assuring that the student taking the test is the actual student of the class can be, while possible, an impractical feat.  While a student could get someone else to do his/her work in the online environment, the time involved would make it infeasible.

Reference:

Pallof, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online learning communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom (2nd ed.).  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Module 5 Summary and Reflection

Module 5 Summary and Reflection

In order to create my synchronous lesson evaluation, I decided that it would be pretty presumptuous of me to think I could top Chickering and Gamson’s 7 principles.  I started with them and researched the internet for expanded information to create the specific points to look for when evaluating a synchronous lesson.  Finally, I used this  SynchronousLessonEvaluation to review the two lessons below.

Photoshop

  • Was the strategy used appropriate for the content/material being covered?

This was a hands-on tutorial on using various Photoshop features.  The instructor gave the student the opportunity to choose which features she wanted to learn about.  The instructor demonstrated the tool and then the student was given control to practice.  This was the right strategy to use.

  • Might another strategy have been more effective? How? For example, if direct instruction was used, can you think of another instructional strategy that might have been more effective, or just as effective – like a cooperative group activity. Or perhaps the lesson didn’t need to be delivered live at all.

This lesson could have been done with more students with the cracker barrel strategy. Prior to this lesson, certain students would be assigned a tool to instruct in a given virtual room.  The other students would then move around the rooms and learn from their classmates how to use the tools.

  • One of my objectives is to get you to identify instances when content delivered asynchronously might be more appropriate given the time and energy involved in developing and delivering live instruction. Another is to start thinking about some alternative ways to deliver instruction. Even if the strategy was totally appropriate for this lesson, can you think of a way to improve the lesson with the addition of other activities involving alternate instructional strategies?

The lesson could be done asynchronously by recording the instruction and having the students view the video and practice what they learn.  However, by having the instructor there in the synchronous environment, the student is able to get immediate help if they are having difficulties.  Personally, I would rather have the synchronous learning for this topic as I know how frustrated I would get if I could not get the tool to work right.

Icebreaker

  • Was the strategy used appropriate for the content/material being covered?

This was an icebreaker activity where students meet other students.  Pairing up in breakout rooms to ask each other questions is very appropriate.

  • Might another strategy have been more effective? How? For example, if direct instruction was used, can you think of another instructional strategy that might have been more effective, or just as effective – like a cooperative group activity. Or perhaps the lesson didn’t need to be delivered live at all.

This lesson could be done asynchronously, but if time is available for the students, it is better handled in a live environment.  I feel the icebreakers in the courses in the MET program take up too much time; time that could be added to some of the longer, more content-related projects at the end of the course.  Instead of breakout rooms, the activity could have been handled in a whole class setting.  This wouldn’t necessarily be more effective, but just as effective.

  • One of my objectives is to get you to identify instances when content delivered asynchronously might be more appropriate given the time and energy involved in developing and delivering live instruction. Another is to start thinking about some alternative ways to deliver instruction. Even if the strategy was totally appropriate for this lesson, can you think of a way to improve the lesson with the addition of other activities involving alternate instructional strategies?

A magnetic brainstorm, where students post words that describe themselves.  If you see a word someone else posts that fits you, you can increase the font size.  This would be similar to how tags increase in size the more they are used in a blog.

Module 4 Reflection and Summary

  • Use your checklist/rubric and assess one of your own postings from previous discussions. Did you meet the criteria outlined in your own assessment tool? What changes will you make in your expectations based on your own participation in online discussions?

I would say the post I chose did meet the criteria provide in my assessment tool.  There were three spelling errors, which would lower the Mechanics grade to 3-Good.  I pondered as to whether having no errors to get full credit is fair.  In a synchronous environment, having no errors would be a little too stringent.  In an asynchronous environment where one has the time to review and the availability of spellchecker, I don’t think it is unrealistic to expect correct spelling and grammar.

  • What changes might you make in your teaching practice based on what you now know about facilitating effective online discussions?

I don’t teach online, so all of this was new to me.  Certain things, like responding in a reasonable time frame and monitoring the discussion, were things that I would have expected as part of an online course.  The idea of starting courses with an icebreaker activity was something I wouldn’t have thought was needed.  I teach in an environment with a revolving enrollment.  I don’t really have a “beginning” of a course.  There are two 3-week break sessions that split the year.  Coming back from these can be a little rocky as the students get acclimated to being back in class.  Having some icebreaker activities might be a good thing to do.

Another concept that I might try to incorporate is a variation of student-led discussions. For my GED classes, I have a set of 50 lessons that I run through, in a set order.  What I might do is let students have some choice in the lessons to be taught.  One way is to give them 3- 5 options at the beginning of class and, using their handheld devices, choose which lesson they want.

Another option would be to choose a student and let him/her make the choice.  This might be a strategy to get some of my less inclined students to take more of an ownership in the lesson, maybe motivating them to want to be involved.  I tell them all the time that they will pass their GED when they choose to put in the effort.  Some students take awhile to realize that, but once they begin to take personal responsibility to learn, they inevitably pass.  If I can find a way to come to that realization all the sooner, the better it will be for them.

  • Summary

Once again, I struggled with how to begin this assignment (communication plan).  By the time I got through the readings, I noticed that the postings covered the same thoughts I had.  Instead of repeating others comments, I just commented on or asked questions about their findings.  I still wasn’t that much more aware of what I needed to include in my communication plan or what it should look like.  Then, James Russell posted if anyone wanted to collaborate on this project.  I immediately jumped at the chance, thinking that maybe others could help spur my thoughts.

Once we met to discuss, I was able to focus more on the assignment and it was more clear.  I found three previous students communication plans online.  Reading through them, I was able to develop an outline of topics to include.  By this point, I was kicking in high gear.  The only that could slow me down was the rubric.  Being a math guy, rubrics are tough for me to write.  Luckily, James took the lead on that.  I added a few thoughts to the final rubric.  When we had finished, I looked back and couldn’t believe we had come up with a plan that I thought was comprehensive and clear, especially considering my total cluelessness at the beginning.

Communication Plan

COMMUNICATION PLAN

This communication plan was designed through a collaborative effort of James Russell and Joseph Bodnar.

ROUTINE ADMINISTRATIVE TASKS

Check messages in reasonable time frame.  Conventional philosophy is to check daily and reply within 24-48 hours.  For me, I know that I personally like to get replies quickly.  My plan would be to make every effort to respond right away to messages received (as I would want), even if it was just to say I would look into the question and respond more fully later.

Provide ample ways to be contacted.  At the very minimum, provide a phone number and an e-mail address.  Other means include text and social media sites.  For more immediate contact forms (phone and text) provide time frames when you will be available.

Monitor student participation.  Closely monitor discussions for abuses (listed under Management Issues and Strategies).  By confronting abuses quickly, you can ‘nip it in the bud” (as Deputy Barney Fife would say).  Many disagreements occur over misunderstandings that get out of hand.  A neutral party intervention can allow for them to be resolved before that point.

Check social boards to keep abreast of concerns.  Social boards can be a great source for the teacher.  Participation is not needed.

Check tech help forums.  Monitor and provide students with assistance and resources to help correct such issues.

Make notes of students posts.  These will come in handy when providing feedback, interjecting questions and grading.

Check/update course links.  It can be very frustrating when students click on a link and the page no longer exists.  Regular checking of links, especially before the module begins, can help ensure students don’t waste time.

DISCUSSION FORUM STRATEGIES

Introductions.  The instructor and each student will post an introduction.  The introduction will include a favorite activity/hobby, something interesting they would like to share and identify a favorite lesson or activity they enjoyed or learned from during their school career.  Icebreakers are a good way of introducing oneself.

Learning Logs.  Students could keep a weekly log of activities, assignments, and readings they completed during the course,  similar to a learning log.  Each week the instructor would provide a list of expected work to be completed and during the week each student would create and update a post of work completed, struggles and obstacles overcome, what they learned, enjoyed or struggled with.

Forum Guidelines.  The teacher should provide detailed guidelines, including due dates, number of communications and type expected, netiquette expectations, etc.  Here is an example of a Netiquette page that could be used.

Student-led discussions.  Every student should have an opportunity to me the facilitator of a discussion.  The student should create their own question for other students’ responses and moderate the discussion by following the example of the instructor and this communication plan.  Here is a good starting point.

Quizzes/Scavenger Hunt.  To promote more reading of students’ posts, the instructor could take notes of key points made by students.  Using these notes, the instructor crafts a quiz or scavenger hunt for the students to complete, which would require them to read their classmates’ posts.

Groups.  If the class is large, it is a good idea to break it up into groups for discussion forums.  The groups can be permanent for the entire length of the course or they could change regularly.  Allowing students some choice in the group they belong to can help ease them into discussions.  There may be a need for the instructor to set the groups, but even then, a hybrid model would work well.  An example of this would be having students choose groups based upon the time zone they live in.  Each group would have a limited number of slots available per time zone.  This would force students to have to learn how to account for this issue.

Roles.  Role-playing can be a great way to have a discussion.  Taking on roles requires the student to think of an issue, not from their own point of view, but from that of another person – one that might be in total contradiction to their own.

Roles can also be used to group students.  Students can join a group by choosing a role in that group.  Then, the groups can be jumbled so that all the same roles are put in a group. This group would have a discussion to develop their points of view.  Then the student would return to their original group and participate in the discussion from that point of view.

Frequently asked questions.  This is a section that gets updated every time the course is taught.  When students have questions, they can search here first.  If the question is new, then it can be added on at that time and for the future.

DISCUSSION FORUM ASSESSMENT

Communication Plan Rubric

Online Discussion Rubric

4 – Excellent

3 – Good

2 – Acceptable

1 – Unacceptable

Initial Assignment Posting

Posts well developed assignment that fully addresses all aspects of the task.

Posts well developed assignment that addresses all aspects of the task; lacks full development of concepts.

Posts adequate assignment with superficial thought and preparation; doesn’t address all aspects of the task.

No assignment is posted.

Quality of Information in Post/Thread

Information clearly relates to the main topic and adds new concepts, information.

Information clearly relates to the main topic.

Information partially relates to the main topic.

Information has little or nothing to do with the main topic or simply restates the main concept.

Participation

Creates new posts and encourages others.  Regularly participates and responds to others posts.

Creates new posts, and comments frequently to others posts.  Aso, students who slightly over-post.

Does not create new posts and occasionally comments to others posts.  Also students who regularly over-post.

Only responds to the facilitator or students post at every opportunity without giving others a chance to get involved.

References

Two or more supporting examples are provided/referenced, information is well organized.

One supporting example is provided/referenced.  Information is well organized.

No supporting examples are provided/ referenced but information is organized.

No examples provided/referenced and organization is poor.

Mechanics

Appropriate language and tone used consistently throughout.  No errors in spelling, grammar, or punctuation

Appropriate language and tone used frequently throughout.  Fewer than 5 errors in spelling, grammar or punctuation.

Appropriate language and tone used occasionally throughout.  5-10 errors in spelling, grammar or punctuation.

Language and tone is inappropriate.  More than 10 errors exist in spelling, grammar or punctuation causing reading to be difficult.

MANAGEMENT ISSUES AND STRATEGIES (CONTINGENCY PLAN)

Over-posting/Under-posting.  These two issues are related.  Sometimes under-posting (student makes only the minimal attempt to post) is a result of students being intimidated by others who post many times (over-posting).  In order to control over-posting, students should be limit to one post and one or two replies before the first deadline.  Over-posting is included in the rubric (above), but students will be given an opportunity to adjust before having reduction.

Not all under-posting is a result of over-posting.  A student new to online classes may be uncertain of the whats, whens, whys and hows of posting.  The may be naturally introverted and uncomfortable.  Like over-posting, under-posting can affect the grade and the student needs the chance to adapt.  Both issues require careful guidance from the instructor.

Inappropriate posts.  Inappropriate posts will be deleted and the instructor will handle this on a case by case basis.  This could result in receiving a zero for participation in discussion boards.

Confrontational posts.  Confrontational posts should be avoided if at all possible.  It is important to keep in mind that what you write could be perceived by someone else as confrontational.  Please be aware of your tone and voice when contributing.

Misunderstood posts.  Sometimes the above three issues can be the result of a misunderstood post.  A good rule to follow is to respond outside the forum in a document. Then, come back after a little while and review what you wrote as if you were a different person.  Do you have questions about what you wrote?  Does the tone “sound” appropriate?  As a course moves forward and you develop relationships with your classmates, maybe you can share with one of them for their thoughts.  Remember, that the nature of asynchronous learning is that it is more time-involving, so you don’t need to post immediately.

Late posts.  To prevent students from posting at the very last minute, separate deadlines are created for initial postings and responses.  However, waiting until the deadlines to post doesn’t allow students to fully engage with their classmates and get the most from the discussion.

Poor quality posts.  A good rule to follow is to record your comments in a venue outside the discussion forum.  Then, before copy and pasting your post, wait some time (like the next day).  Go back and reread your comment.  Does it still make sense?  If not, adjust and then wait some more.  Another idea is to ask a classmate to review your post first and ask them if they have any questions.

Technical issues.  Technical issues can and do arise.  Please contact the instructor as soon as possible with an explanation and he/she will deal with this on a case by case basis.

“Vanilla” posts.  Often, students find it difficult to post comments that disagree with another student’s post (especially among older, adult students).  A requirement that students post a certain amount of opposing point of view comments is necessary.  A good rule of thumb would be 20-25% of the post should be taking an opposing view.  Even if you agree with a post, it is a good idea to post an opposing view.  By forcing yourself to try and look at the other side of the issue, you might find some valid points, allowing yourself a more complete understanding of an issue.

References:

http://aliciaedtechlog.blogspot.com/

http://bcraneedtechblog.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/edtech-523-communication-plan-for-discussion-forums/

http://barbedtech523.wordpress.com/communication-plan/

Wiki Reflection

For EdTech 523, I am asked to write reflections.  The first one involved reading  the following article:

Meishar-Tal, H., & Gorsky, P. (2010). Wikis: What students do and do not do when writing collaboratively. Open Learning: The Journal of Open and Distance Learning, 25(1), 25-33. DOI: 10.1080/02680510903482074.

The assignment is to reflect on the differences in the types of collaboration experiences I encountered in a “project” wiki vs. the “writing” wiki reported on in the article and how I might facilitate wiki collaboration in my own classroom.

I want to present my findings from the article.  Students tend to add and modify when writing in collaboration.  The most common editorial action is adding sentences.  Students rarely delete another student’s work.  Students take ownership in what they contribute and are reluctant to be critical of other students’ writings.  The wikis take on a threaded discussion format.  While all students contribute, most editorial actions are performed by a small group of students.  Just as few students do most of the editing, few items get most of the editing.

My experience with the wiki project was similar.  Everyone participated (as required), but some students took a more active role.  With the (planned) lack of direction, they lead the way in posting their icebreakers and provided the model for others to follow.  They also organized the wiki.  One student created a survey to gather the thoughts of the other members of the group.  This gave us a guideline of what the groups thoughts were without having a long, drawn out discussion.

If I could utilize wikis in my class, one of the biggest lessons I learned (as designed by the instructor), was to be specific in tasks.  We are a group of highly educated individuals, yet we felt uncertain of how to proceed with minimal instructions.  Imagine how our students would feel.  You want to develop independent, critical thinking skills, but people are naturally tepid when placed in a strange environment.  Therefore, I would introduced the wiki in small, guided steps and slowly evolve in to larger, more independent projects.

Here is the link to my icebreaker, “Student Crest“.

EDTECH 521 Reflection Journal

Here is a link to my EDTECH 521 Reflection Journal.  It will be updated weekly, so you can come back to this thread to view it.