Cramer and Hayes (2010)

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Cramer, M. and Hayes, G (2010) Acceptable Use of Technology in Schools: Risks, Policies, and Promises. IEEE. (accessed 22-08-2012)

Despite students’ strong connection with the digital world and media environments and these systems’ potential to improve learning, they’re rarely used in US schools, where students spend a significant percentage of their time—more than 1,200 hours annually.

In formal school settings, teachers, admin­istrators, and other stakeholders must nego­tiate a complex set of issues when addressing the use of mobile phones and other portable networked devices. Efforts to integrate technol­ogy in schools include investment in curriculum development and difficult purchase and instal­lation decisions. In addition, numerous legal and policy issues contribute to the risk/ben­efit assessment.

Pundits and researchers argue that mobile devices and social media applications promise “anytime, any­where learning” and support new pedagogical approaches for an age of connected learners. Even if schools adopt mobile phones and as­sociated pedagogies, developing con­tent and effectively integrating it in the curriculum might be a slow pro­cess. As previous technologies have shown, the device can often be much less important than the development of content and practices to enable learners to reach educational objec­tives in new ways.

When considering the use, misuse, and control of mobile phones and social media in schools, we must also consider education’s role in socializing young people. Students’ engagement with educational materials, including social media and pervasive computing systems, is an individually constructed experience that helps them learn about the world around them.

Students have been left without access to many of the technolo­gies that are familiar in other aspects of their lives but not yet considered ap­propriate in the context of schooling.

Mobile phone bans have been in schools for more than two decades, and local control and acceptable-use policies are becoming commonplace in US public schools. However, these policies are often more like “unacceptable-use” policies, focusing on how students shouldn’t use mobile phones and the consequences for breaking the rules. These stringent guidelines leave little room or desire for innovation in teaching or learning. The technological landscape has changed dramatically, and researchers have be­gun to demonstrate benefits to learning through these novel technological solu­tions. The next step toward a truly connected youth is bridging the gap be­tween in-school and out-of-school tech­nology use, both in policy and practice.

Relevant stakeholders must ensure that school guidelines are flexible enough to protect students and faculty while supporting innovative practices. Whereas the contracts must retain their legal base, schools can benefit from ex­ploring possible additions that outline practices that aren’t just acceptable but encouraged in the school environment. For example, policies could let students engage with mobile phone services and social media to manage the school day and organize homework, tests, and activities. In addition, policies could let teachers exercise discretion when experimenting with mobile devices in lesson plans.

Policies should remind stu­dents and parents of the ongoing nego­tiation between the desire to use tech­nologies and school objectives, as well as perceived versus actual risks. The future depends on educators, designers, and researchers working together to build adaptable systems and construct usage policies that make sense in formal learning environments.