The benefits of technology in education are obvious when a school ICT policy is development effectively. Here's why....
Why have a policy?
Amongst the many hats that you may wear as the ICT coordinator at your school is the one of the ICT policy writer. Although this may be part of your contract, it is essential that when you develop it that you involve a massive collaborative effort between your staff and yourself. ICT policies are important as they can guide lesson planning, inform teachers and students of what is expected of them and identify the resources needed. According to Harrison (1998), an effective ICT policy will:
- Publicly demonstrate the school’s intentions for children’s learning with and in ICT;
- Help make a case for funding;
- Give information on ICT to parents, governors and inspectors;
- Provide a framework for individual teacher’s planning;
- Aid coherence, continuity, progression and shape priorities;
- Assist in achieving uniformity and consistency in school decision making by helping to focus the minds of various decision-making groups such as governors, the senior management team, other subject coordinators, toward common aims.
School ICT policies should never be regarded as a static document. An important point to remember is that the school’s current policy can only be a snapshot of its intentions at the time it was written. It is for this reason that it is unwise to plan for several years in advanced. The ongoing development of ICT within society ensures that these policies continue to be ‘living documents’ that are incorporated into the daily workings of schools.
The development of ICT has also prompted the Australian Curriculum to embed its use throughout its Learning Areas. Teachers are encouraged to integrate ICT throughout their subject disciplines and the teaching of ICT as a 21st century skill or general capability is documented as an important part of their pedagogies. In Victoria, teachers are also required to assess student ICT capability as a general capability a move that will set a precedent for other states and territories in the years to follow.
The successful implementation of the ICT policy will play a large part in establishing the ICT culture of your school. It will consists of the realisation of relationships, beliefs, attitudes and ideologies of all those that work in the establishment. Additionally, your school’s ICT culture will play large role in determining the direction of the school.
Documenting your school’s vision for achieving ICT capability development and becoming an ICT capable school over a specific period of time will and should support and enhance its aims in terms of learning, teaching, management and administration. The completed policy should crystalize your thinking and ensure that you have covered all the necessary points.
Regardless of all the above reasons, the true mark of an effective and successful policy at a school lies in its ability to be constantly referred to and viewed by teachers in their planning. Written well it should aid coherence and ensure that progression and continuity is achieved throughout the school. There should be uniformity and consistent decision-making amongst staff to develop their capabilities as well as students in ICT.
What are the types of policies that you may write?
There are several different types of policies that may be written at your school. Some will need to be written individually while others can be combined. These include the following (Audain, 2014):
- ICT subject policy: With the changes to national curriculum in Australia, this may also be referred to as the Technologies policies which covers Design and Technologies and Digital Technologies subject. It is a general policy explaining the subject, aims, values, vision and organisation in the school;
- Acceptable use policy for staff: Explains what is acceptable in terms of adults using ICT in the school workplace. It might also include advice and protocols for using social media for purposes of teaching and learning;
- Acceptable use policy for students: Guidelines for how students should use ICT devices and resources safely. It will also include the appropriate sanctions which can be applied if there is misuse. Today, some schools allow for the provision of students’ own devices to be used and this may include mobile phones, laptops, and tablet computers;
- Digital citizenship/E-safety/Internet policy: This policy is written to safeguard students in school and has reference to the Internet, mobile devices and the learning environment. It is important that if this is part of what you have to write that it includes details on how cyberbullying and any other e-safety incidents will be tackled, recorded and actioned;
- Virtual learning environment/extended learning into the home: This is a policy that details how home/school learning throughout the school. It should cover how many times homework is set;
- Health and safety policy: This should detail how staff can be safe whilst using technology in the classroom;
- Communication policy: This would cover emails, messages, school social media use etc. It would explain the etiquette in the use of ICT for communication;
- Data protection policy: This will cover what will happen to sensitive data at the school;
- Use of digital media policy: Will cover what will happen to photographs and video of students at the school;
- Disaster recovery policy: What will happen if you need to restore data after power cuts or if you have to rebuild your server? What is the plan for how the data will be recovered so there is minimal ‘downtime’ of the network.