Posts Tagged Instructional Technology

Opening the Floodgates? Making the Move from Acceptable Use to Responsible Use

(Cross-posted at Bold Visions and BYOT Network and cowritten by Jill Hobson, Director of Instructional Technology and Dr. Tim Clark, Coordinator of Instructional Technology – Forsyth County Schools)

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We’ve written previously on our decision to implement a Responsible Use Procedure rather than an Acceptable Use Procedure. And while we’ve shared some of the philosophical reasons why we believe in the idea of a Responsible Use Procedure, we’ve not spent much time on strategies to make that move successfully.

Grappling with and being ready to break from a long list of things that users shouldn’t do and moving to a shorter (and more memorable) list of responsibilities is both a philosophical and operational shift that takes consensus building. And it might seem like this would be opening the floodgates of disciplinary issues without the necessary “rules” to shore up necessary response. We have found that through consistent communication and ongoing training those things are not happening.

These strategies have been essential to our successful transition.

Engaging the Stakeholders

Is everyone swimming in the same direction? Are you involving members of your Safety, Academics, Student Support, Special Education, Educational Leadership and Technology Services departments? Did you consider all levels of school leaders? Don’t forget to include Media Specialists. By being inclusive and transparent throughout the process, stronger support can be garnered.

Educating Everyone

Don’t drown as people start considering their worst fears. Take a look at the research, blogs and tweets about responsible use. SEDTA’s Broadband Imperative is a helpful white paper as is Grunwald and Associate’s Living and Learning with Mobile Devices. Look at other school systems’ policies on responsible use. A few that were particularly useful in our process were Katy ISD, TX, Canyon School District and Holy Spirit Roman Catholic Separate Regional Division. Check out this post from Katrina Schwartz on MindShift: Teach Kids to Be Their Own Internet Filters. NPR’s All Tech Considered blogged about this issue in “For The Tablet Generation, A Lesson In Digital Citizenship” as well.

Focus on Digital Age Skills

The vision for instructional technology within our district is embedded within the FCS Learner Profile. This profile describes the attributes of students attending and graduating from a Forsyth County school, and digital age skills are reflected within those hallmarks.  When highlighting how the responsible use of technology is an essential digital age skill rippling through each student’s path to success, it is possible to achieve a growing groundswell of support and buy-in throughout the district.

Review Data

What are the statistics on current issues with “appropriate use” in your district or school? What percentage of students is being reported for inappropriate use? Is there a surge of issues or is it a small minority of students (maybe 5 percent or so) and the imagined problems are bigger than the reality. Maybe the “rules” are being written for the 5% of students who may make poor choices rather than the 95% who will usually make appropriate decisions.

Incremental Changes

Are there ways to ease up on filtering (for example, unblocking YouTube for teachers and then later for students) to test the waters? What about allowing students to use devices before and after class as a first step (like in the lunchroom or between classes)?

Technology Rules Shouldn’t Be Separate

In Forsyth we were able to take some of the most important ideas from our Acceptable Use Procedure and have them flow into the Code of Conduct. For instance, we had an AUP rule about not vandalizing computer equipment. So we incorporated that statement into the existing statement about not vandalizing school property. Since we already had a statement in Code of Conduct, we didn’t feel that we should have a separate and different rule for technology.

Provide Learning Resources – For Staff and Students

By providing videos and other resources to educate staff as well as students on the new procedures, we were able to ensure a consistent message throughout our schools.  Whether you develop your own materials or rely on those from places like Common Sense Media, consistency of message is essential.

When we started on our implementation of BYOT about six years ago, we would never have been able to predict that our community would embrace changes to our Appropriate Use Procedure as they have. We’ve gradually seen the rise in the tide of support as we have all been able to understand how much our students need us to model being a responsible digital citizen and learner.


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Learning to TRUST with Responsible Use

(Cross-posted at Bold Visions and BYOT Network and cowritten by Jill Hobson, Director of Instructional Technology and Dr. Tim Clark, Coordinator of Instructional Technology – Forsyth County Schools.)

BYOT_babyWhen do you begin teaching responsible use? It should start at birth. Many parents begin creating the child’s digital footprint before the child is even born by posting the ultrasound photo on social media. Ideally when the child enters school you would expect a child to know how to share, take turns, listen to other opinions and know the difference between right and wrong and some understanding of social norms for public and private behavior. In reality we realize that some children come to school unprepared with some of those social skills and so we nurture and model and teach appropriate behavior until these become internalized.

For example,we live in an era where parents have some model for the “sex talk” because most people participated in such a conversation(s) as a child.  There are multiple books and blogs and other resources to help parents with how to handle this issue.  But who among us as parents has a model for ongoing digital citizenship conversation? Most adults have developed their knowledge of social media through experimentation without guidance, yet we wouldn’t want our kids to learn about sex in that way! So, this is an area where the school has a responsibility to step in and join with families in the work of teaching digital citizenship.

From the beginning of a child’s school career, learning about responsible must be an everyday, ongoing, just in time experience. Where would a school find resources for this kind of instruction? One powerful tool for schools AND parents that we recommend is Common Sense Media.

In addition it seems that when issues occur where a young person makes a mistake, the initial reaction leans towards banning whatever device, app or website was involved as a solution.  While this is a quick way to deal with the immediate issue, it misses the larger need to educate students on how to live in a world of the open Internet.  Students need to learn what it means to responsibly make use of these tools.  And it means that we need to know what to do when we end up in the wrong place, when we mess up, or make a poor choice.  How do young people learn to “course correct” without some guidance from the adults in their lives?

Forsyth County Schools has begun to address the way we deal with issue by moving away from the traditional Acceptable Use Guidelines that include a long list of “thou shalt nots” and has replaced them with the FCS Responsible Use Guidelines.  These guidelines include 5 statements outlining behaviors all members of the FCS community will exhibit regarding digital citizenship. We started to recognize that we had been focusing on the 5% of students who might not follow directions and were making all of the “rules” to deal with their issues.  Our goal in transforming the Acceptable Use Guidelines into Responsible Use Guidelines was to focus on the 95% of students who are going to do the right thing.

The district will begin its sixth year of its Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) initiative in the 2013-2014 school year.  At the onset of implementing BYOT, it seemed necessary to control the devices and applications the students were using in order to ensure safety.  There was some concern about what would happen when students brought their own technology tools to school, and the district leaned heavily on its filtered network as a measure of control.  The big A-HA moment came when students brought devices to school and generally used them responsibly and safely, and the few issues that arose were identified as behavioral concerns to be addressed rather than being technology problems.  The district outgrew its one-size-fits-all Acceptable Use Guidelines and began its quest to develop the new FCS Responsible Use Guidelines.  Some goals of this effort were to have consistent home-school communication and support; to provide some flexibility to local school communities; to teach digital citizenship within the context of students’ personal devices,; and to encompass the growing diversity and different expectations of our learning community.

Here is a poster that we have developed to express the five traits and expectations of the new FCS Responsible Use Guidelines embedded within the overarching concept of TRUST:

We TRUST that the new school year with the new FCS Responsible Use Guidelines will have a renewed focus on digital age learning and citizenship.  To review the FCS Responsible Use Guidelines, please visit

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All Aboard the BYOT Train

Guest Post by Cassie Shoemaker @CShoeITS3
Instructional Technology Specialist – Chestatee Elementary School

Train3As an Instructional Technology Specialist at a Title 1 elementary school, one of my roles is to coach teachers on how to integrate technology into the curriculum.  In our current digital age, this is not optional.   Classrooms must reform to prepare students to become successful for careers of the future.  We are already 13 years into the 21st Century!

So how do we get all teachers on board?  The first step is to build community within the school and within each classroom.  This is the foundation to getting any program to work – especially something as new as Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT).   Everyone should be comfortable learning as they go, and knowing that mistakes are okay, as long as knowledge is gained from them!

Train1The next step is to focus on instruction – technology should always come later!  Providing professional development on higher order thinking, project and inquiry based learning, differentiated instruction, flexible grouping, driving questions, different levels of technology use, the 4 C’s of digital age learning, etc… is the most important step to ensuring that technology integration is being utilized to enhance instruction and take kids to places they’ve never been before! After educators have solid instructional skills, technology integration will truly be effective.

Providing professional development opportunities for teachers such as using the latest tech tools, doing walk throughs into other classrooms to see BYOT in action, and having people walk through their rooms and provide feedback are essential!  Having administration, other teachers, and instructional technology specialists walk through classrooms and give honest feedback and suggestions has been a huge catalyst for change!  Train2Let teachers know it is okay to learn from the students.  Encourage the students to show what their devices can do, while the teacher focuses on the curriculum.  Teachers who focus on the devices and feel like they must know how to use it before allowing it into the classroom will always be swimming upstream.  Devices and software change constantly.  Teachers must accept that and let that fear go.  Educators will be amazed to see how much easier t eaching becomes when control shifts and students are allowed to have choice to be the experts of their own devices.

Technology in the classroom is one of the fastest growing movements that have ever occurred in education.  When it is utilized appropriately, children are truly becoming prepared for the real world, and isn’t that the purpose of school?  The BYOT train is only going to go faster, so it’s time to jump on, or risk being stuck behind while everyone else has reached new places!

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