Monday, December 7, 2020

Advice for Home Computer Use

Probably not the best choice to leave a cup of coffee next to a running computer.

When I first started teaching, it was rare that one of my fourth graders had a cell phone. Now it seems rare when they don't - at least I expect them to say that have one.

Children today have increasing access to more technology than ever before. Which leads to a question: Who actually teaches them how to use the devices they have properly?

I am hoping to write out my thoughts here for how our school approaches it so parents can try to follow a similar approach at home. If children hear a consistent message and see that adults are working in tandem, they are more likely to follow.

“Digital citizenship education should be a community effort.

The impact will be more powerful when students have multiple trusted adults they can discuss issues with, and when they're hearing the same messages reinforced from both home and school.”

Technology Integration Facilitator, Paradise Valley School District

There are three pillars to digital safety. 


Teach physical responsibility

The first thing I am sure you talk with your children about when you hand them a device is the physical responsibility they have to them. 

A few guidelines I recommend are to:

  1. Use two hands when carrying the device.
  2. Always carry it when it is closed.
  3. Set it down without making a sound.
  4. Avoid touching the screen.
  5. Avoid leaving it on the floor. 
  6. Keep the computer closed when leaving it unattended.
  7. Be gentle with the keyboard.

Also ...
  1. Try to leave it in an area out of the sun.
  2. Pay attention to how charged it is.
  3. Keep your device and browser updated.
  4. Keep your device clean.

These guidelines are largely based on how I see students treat their computers. Following these guidelines will greatly increase the lifetime of your computer or device.

Build trust with your child

The second pillar is for parents to build a trusting relationship with their children at home. This starts from when your child first starts using digital technologies. It is important to sit with your child and watch them use the computer while you ask questions and explain your thinking out loud. 

  • While surfing the internet, you might comment on the ads you see. 
  • When searching, you might talk about why you clicked the search result you did. 
  • When checking your email, you can explain why you send a spam message to the trash without opening it and show them what to look for.
  • When your child is playing an online game, talk about who they are playing with and ask if you can listen in sometimes.
  • Have them use their computer in a place where you can always see the screen.
Inevitably, some parents will say they don't do these things with their child. Yes, it is ideal to start early, but you can start now if you don't already do these things. 

The goal is to have a relationship where they will come to you with problems they encounter online and not hide them from you.

Teach responsible communication

The third pillar is to encourage responsible communication online. 

I remember around the turn of the century, I had a friend who had a message board with his friends. We had a falling out. I ended up going to the message board and airing out my grievances. I didn't think about the same coming back to me from him and all his friends. 

Fortunately, that was a long time ago and that message board is not around, but it taught me to be respectful when speaking online and speak with a filter.

People need to speak more clearly and more kindly when using digital mediums to communicate. 

Some helpful guidelines are to:

  1. Talk with people extra kindly since words can be taken out of context.
  2. Teach them to tell you when something goes wrong.

Much of these ideas might seem obvious, and I know that you are already doing them at home, but taking these steps are a good way to prevent unwanted incidents from happening.

This is just the beginning of a series of posts on this subject.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020


Today I came across the post below. Since I have been thinking about the RUP, I was reading a blogpost with the AUP and student safety in mind. 

Concern about student safety while online and use of digital tools is undoubtedly valid. Every educator knows the best and the worst that the human mind has produced can be found somewhere on the Internet. We believe it is our moral obligation as educators to keep students safe, while simultaneously enabling them to create responsible digital footprints. Unfortunately, many school districts’ filtering policies were developed before the rise of interactive web tools, social media, and mobile technologies.

Thomas C. McMurray

A few years ago, I was taking the COETAIL course and the second module had us create an AUP (Acceptable Use Policy) for our school. It was great because at the time I was at a small school that did not have one. I was fortunate to be taking the course at the same time as a coworker in HS. So I ended up making one for the elementary students and he made one for the secondary students. 

Now seven years later I am being asked to do make one for my current school.

The first thing I did was to reach out to my PLN to see some more examples of what has already been made for international schools. (Why reinvent the wheel?) Then I took a look at what I made in the past (Good content, poor design). Then I gathered all the ones I had saved copies of as well as the old ones from my school (Overwhelming). Finally, I went back to the last one my school used.

This is not a post on the process of what I did nor is it a how-to about making one. I wanted to reflect on a few things I came across while doing this.

  • The different names for these policies - AUP, RUP, EUP 
  • My thoughts on what one should look like.

When I started looking into this, I didn't think much about the name a school uses for this policy. But putting this together, I have come across several different ways to call this document. A few of the most notable are:

AUP - Acceptable Use Policy - This is more a set of rules that focuses on what students should not do with technology. 

AUA - Acceptable Use Agreement - Similar to the AUP, but more inclusive since an agreement is less top-down than a policy. 

RUP - Responsible Use Policy - According to Thomas McMurray, "... Responsible Use Policies (RUPs) typically outline how students (and employees) should act."

EUP - Expected Use Policy - outlines the guidelines and behaviors that students are expected to follow when using technology both at school and at home. Seems the same as RUP.


I do think some thought should go into what you call the document. The name should reflect the school's vision. The xUP should be a natural extension from the vision. Hopefully, the school has a mission and a vision that the community lives so when there is a policy, they don't have to think too much because it would be such a natural fit. 

If a policy has to be long to explain all the nuance, maybe it doesn't fit with the overall mission and vision of the school.

I don't know, it's something to think about.

* The Tom I was referring to was myself. I just realized the Tom from above could be a reference to the blog post I linked to. That Tom can answer too.

And just in case you are wondering what OPP is, a little Naughty By Nature ...

Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Way We Talk to People

I have been thinking a lot about feedback this week. 

I went in to see a teacher's lesson. She is a specialist teacher teaching some kids who were in my class last year. They are a challengin group of kids and I just wanted to see how they were with her. When I went in, I helped kids I could help and took mental note of what was happening around the room. Afterwards, she approached me about what I saw and what I thought could be different, so I told her rather directly, while being polite, what I thought. 

I thought a lot about this interaction, wondering if I was too direct since I don't really know this teacher too well yet. But then again, she asked for feedback and has a desire to improve on her practice.

A while back I was in a an accredidation preperation session where we were asked to make something for the visit. Everyone got to work on what they were making. Another teacher came up to me and asked what I was doing. Her line of questioning led me down a path to self-doubt. Now maybe my idea wasn't good, but I think she should have allowed me to try out my idea and adjust myself. I ended up not finishing anything since I 1) lost all that time, and 2) was worried about her coming back to me and critiquing my work.

I am beginning to think that there are two kinds of feedback - bottom up and top down

Bottom Up Interactions

I look at bottom up interactions as those in which someone is seeking feedback as with this teacher. In these interactions it might be easier to speak more freely and directly. 

Top Down Interactions

In top down interactions, someone is not necessarily seeking out the feedback, but is getting it regardless.