Education groups weigh in on digital media use policies

Technology has great potential to enhance student learning and teacher instruction, but it also requires the necessary support from all angles, noted National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel.

“Educators must be provided with professional development in digital technology in order to learn how best to engage students in and out of the classroom using these tools,” he said. “This is also an opportunity for parents and school personnel to work together to teach all students responsibility and how to make good decisions regarding the appropriate use of mobile devices.”

While compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act and eRate guidelines is essential, the report urges school leaders to take several things into consideration as policymakers work to craft acceptable and responsible use policies that reflect today’s technology-infused world:

  • Banning is not the answer: Until recently, many districts have banned the use of social networking sites such as Facebook. As schools across the country have begun reconsidering their policies and opening the doors to social media, a few high-profile cases with negative consequences have prompted states to consider imposing statewide bans. So far, such efforts have been met with resistance and have led to efforts to find a more balanced approach.
  • Rethink and revise the district AUP (Acceptable Use Policy): Many school districts are moving in the direction suggested by the shift described above–dropping the bans and, instead, focusing on policy goals that go beyond the narrow set of website access issues that were the primary focus of many earlier AUPs.
  • Take the opportunity to educate students: New FCC eRate requirements reinforce what many educators already believe is the key to online safety and security: adequate student education. A number of schools across the nation, as well as some organizations, have developed programs on digital literacy and safe Internet use to help students learn how to use social media and other Internet content in a safe, effective, and appropriate way.
  • Emphasize professional development: Professional development for all stakeholder groups is key to the effective support of social media and mobile technologies in the classroom. Today’s technology-related professional development must emphasize not only technology integration and continuous improvement, but also the ethical, legal, and practical issues related to social networking and mobile devices in the classroom.

“The first generation of policy making around communication technology in schools has been built on a foundation of fear, and it’s time to push ‘reboot’ and institute ‘Policymaking 2.0’ built on facts and research instead. Education is something we do ‘with’ students and not something we do ‘to’ students,” said Frank D. LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center.

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