Looking at the Responsible Use Agreement (RUA) from a couple of schools was interesting. Its something I had gone over with my students two years in a row, but I honestly had not thought much about it. It always fell into part of the “we have to do this to start the year” pile of documents and things to sign. Taking the time to really read through it and think about the information and how it was presented was interesting. I was disappointed with how negative the RUA from our school read. A big list of things you cannot or should not do. A perfect way to get students to listen, right? Yeh, no way.
So I partnered up with Matt Fron for this project, who I had previously engaged with through #AfricaEd as well as other blog posts in COETAIL, to see what we could do to make this user agreement a little more user friendly. We each asked our students what they thought about the existing agreements and if they read them before they signed them. The responses were not startling. Very few of the students had actually read the entire agreements, even though they had all signed them. None of them were overly impressed.
But is that really any different from us? How many user agreements have we checked off with out even glancing thru. They are so full of legal lingo its hard to focus and read even a quarter of the way through them. To be fair, even the people that write them even say they rarely read them completely.
Its an interesting thing working with someone you’ve never met in person. Its hard to know how they work, when they work, heck, if they work. I have to say, that this was definitely a positive experience though. Shared Google documents and folders make collaboration easy, allowing each of us to work when it is convenient, check the revision history and leave comments directly on the document.
I don’t know if asides are legitimate parts of blogs, but I’m going to take one here. I’ve been a fan of this we don’t have to meet to work together process for years now, and am constantly working on my colleagues to utilize it within the school to work more efficiently. I also still have to sit back and giggle or shake my head from time to time in amazement of the power of the internet. Its amazing the work that can be accomplished across distance and time.
Through our collaboration and investigations we managed to make at least the initial part of the agreement more positive and readable to students, but as Matt inquired with the “powers that be” they informed him that some of the stale and negative language needed to be there for policy and to allow for follow up if rules were not followed. Fair enough.
We also created a poster using Canva (also allowing asynchronous collaboration) to be displayed in classrooms to encourage students to think about their digital footprint and online presence. I believe the simple, positive phrases and images create an attractive and effective poster. Each phrase matches with a sub-section of the document and the included QR code links to the RUA document itself for further information.
It is proven that positive reinforcement is much more beneficial than warnings or threats to students, so why do we so often provide them with threatening documents in case they fail, instead of positive documents that assume they will succeed?