The beginning of a school year is the time when the responsible and ethical use of digital resources in IB schools is presented as policy. However, implementation of the policy tends to be only formally addressed through limited approaches:
- Integration of IT in specific grade levels or subject areas. Often specific references are made to the use of digital resources in subject guides, Teacher Support Material or teachers use social media to support teaching and learning. The new ATL micro-website also makes reference to using in both the developing the 5 skill areas for Approaches to Learning and using technology as a strategy for Approaches to Teaching.
- Courses including DP Information Technology in a Global Society and DP Computer Science.
- Supervised CAS Activities which involve creative or service activities using digital resources. For example, students may use digital technologies in the production of a play or to run a school information system.
In these situations SOME IB students are guided in the appropriate use digital technologies for the specific purpose. However, the major issue is when, where and how do ALL IB students understand the reasoning behind:
- the responsible and ethical use of digital resources (digital citizenship) with respect to their own actions and the actions of others
- how the use of online services and social media could impact their future lives and the lives of others
- what action(s) to take if they encounter issues resulting from their use of IT and online services
These topics in some schools are addressed in school policies are not well-understood because they read like legal documents and not in the language that students understand. A comprehensive example is the Cupertino High School Student Technology Use Policy.
Students need to not only understand what the rules say, but also understand the rationale for the rules (i.e. why the school bands certain websites, why students are not allowed to use YouTube at certain times, why cellphones are used in class for only academic purposes, etc.).
ALL IB students need to be involved in discussions about the use and possible immediate and long term impacts of using digital resources and not just those students who are in specific classes or courses.
Moreover, follow-up guidance needs to be provided by schools for ALL teachers and parents regarding the above considerations. Often they are also not aware of the immediate and long-term impacts of students using digital resources including social media can be. News articles often cite the tragic outcomes of cyber-bullying, persons losing jobs due to plagiarism, employers and college admissions officers not selecting persons due to postings on social media and that digital postings can never be completely erased.
Many international school IT policies are available online and can be found by using a search engine. While these policies are informative in creating a school’s own policies, students need to be involved in developing responsible use policies based on their understanding and using language which they understand.
One key Edutopia article to consult on this topic is Developing a Culture of Trust and Transparency by Andrew Marcinek.
The following is an example if a student-developed responsible use policy and logo. The logo was developed by the students with an eye to represent that it is important when using digital technologies to keep a watchful eye on what we do as individuals and what others do.
After formulating the student use policy, the students checked to see if other students understood the policy and would undersign the document. The students were quite surprised at the extent of the support that they received for their initiative. Although dated, it may serve as a catalyst for discussion and student-developed responsible use policies in IB schools.