Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Separation Between Personal and Professional

The other day I was asked to join several other administrators at central officer to review language for an acceptable use policy. The policy in question was for teachers who are provided district technology. At the high school, a majority of the professional staff receives a laptop as part of a teacher laptop program. Additionally, we have teachers who are part of 1:1 iPad and iPod Touch programs and have received a device from the school district. I am not sure if those in charge of the task thought it would be a quick and easy process. However, an examination of the acceptable use policy instigated a longer conversation about expectations and common understandings regarding teaching and learning.

I will admit, for good or bad, that I prolonged the process. Initially the acceptable use policy stipulated that teachers could not use district issued devices for personal use. Devices could only be used for school related endeavors. I objected to this delineation in usage for educators. I shared that I would not recommend teachers to sign this policy and that I would also feel uncomfortable agreeing to this policy as well. I saw the policy as limiting and counterproductive to what we hope to achieve if the language in the acceptable use policy played out.

It is well agreed upon that educators need to follow personal interests and passions. I have shared on numerous occasions through posts and podcasts that a teacher’s personal interests should be infused into the classroom. Creating a policy that restricts following personal passions handicaps educators from creating a rich and rewarding experience for growing learners. Often times a personal pursuit can compel educators to reflect upon their profession and the individual needs of students. Furthermore, a personal interest can serve as a gateway towards developing a media technology rich classroom. As someone who works with teachers to rethink the high school experience, I consistently encourage teachers to follow personal pursuits and often use this as an in to further conversations about how technology can facilitate the rise of student-centered global classroom.

I understand the numerous concerns that lead to this meeting. In difficult economic times, funds cannot be wasted. Funding has to be rewarded. Beyond the counter points, I had a hard time thinking about the separation between what is professional and what is personal. The line between personal and professional has been blurred in the 21st Century. Through vehicles such as Facebook, Youtube and Twitter personal and professional pursuits bleed into one another. In fact, this might have always been the case for educators, but access to information is more transparent than it has ever been. Learning is conducted in the open and shared amongst personal, professional and anonymous acquaintances.

In the end, the language was changed to encourage ethical and responsible use. I know I feel better about the change and the freedom educators have to explore. Curious to hear and see what other districts have come up with. If you have any thoughts please share.