K-12 School Computer Networking/Chapter 17

Wikis, blogs, eBooks, and ePortfoliosEdit

The explosion of the Internet worldwide and the usefulness of its websites has been a turning point in societal exchange of information. In the educational field, websites are an excellent way for providing information and resources for both teachers and students. And the wide use of the Internet has caused many changes of standards and redefinition of terms and concepts and created the need for a level of technology literacy. And like all things technology based, a new version comes along and we must adapt once again. Enter, Web 2.0.

Web 2.0Edit

Web 2.0 is at term “describing the trend in the use of World Wide Web technology and web design that aims to enhance creativity, information sharing, and, most notably, collaboration among users” (Wikipedia). It differs from ‘Web 1.0’, the earlier use of the Internet, in that it is based more on interaction. Users are not just creating websites and retrieving information, rather users collaborate on different aspects, from websites, to image manipulation, to audio/video mixing. A self publishing mode has taken over users of the internet, particularly the youth, and people are becoming much more ‘social’. More communication is taking place and email is not the sole way to discuss or share information. For discussion of interests and popular topics, in addition to project based work, wikis and blogs are two very popular tools that are now widely used on the web.

It’s all just reading and writing, so why bother with these things?Edit

Technology changes so fast that it’s hard to keep up: blogs, wikis, Facebook, twitter, and you can bet that there’s more coming. Why bother trying to keep up when it’s all just reading and writing? Print books, paper and pencil, and maybe some word processing—shouldn’t that be enough of the basics to prepare students? The simple answer is no.

No, those basics are not enough. New technologies have extended and enhanced the definition of meaningful literacy practice. Texts are produced, distributed, and received in new ways. For students to be considered fully literate, they must develop skills to find, select, comprehend, evaluate, and compose information using new technology (Larson, 126). The skills students need to master reading online are different than the skills they need to read and retain information from a print text. Writing for wikis, blogs, and traditional paper require different voices, different understandings of audience, and different types of referencing. Students should have practice switching between these different types of writing with guidance, feedback, and support from a teacher.

“Electronic technologies are changing the forms by which people communicate with each other and understand the world. Changes in technology have and will continue to change the nature of literacy practices in society, and the cognitive and social skills needed to be considered fully literate” (MacArthur, 248).

Bottom line, we can compare incorporating digital literacy skills in the classroom to teaching a man to fish. Omitting these important skills from the classroom is equivalent to telling a man that a thing called a fish can be caught and lives in the ocean (which the man may or may not have experience sailing but has definitely seen on TV). One man will clearly succeed and the other is likely to starve. Students need to be exposed to these communication technologies in an environment that lets them practice and develop important new skills. The basic skills have changed and students need to master new skills to be considered fully literate and to grow into effective communicators.

Adding to the basics, not replacing themEdit

In making the argument that basic literary skills have changed, it is important to stress that these changes do not replace tried-and-true literacy practice. Some people view digital forms of reading and writing as a threat to the hierarchy that places print books and academic writing at the top. But it’s not a case of pushing the king off the top of the hill. New literacies can be, and often are, intertwined with traditional literacy practices (Larson, 122). Learning with technology does not replace or diminish current standards. Remember after all, “writing itself is a technology” (MacArthur, 248) and it’s continuously being updated. Learning with new communication technologies actively engages students in important literacy practices and prepares students for the new ways that texts are produced and received.

Digital technologies have broadened the definition of literacy and require practice and development of skills that support and build on traditional academic literacies. Incorporating these technologies into classrooms is necessary for developing fully literate students. As educators and technical coordinators in schools, we must strive to encourage the connection of new and traditional literacies in the classroom while making time for activities that involve on-screen reading and for-screen writing.


Larson, Lotta C. “Electronic Reading Workshop: Beyond Books With New Literacies and Instructional Technologies.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 52.2 (2008): 121-131.

MarArthur, Charles A. “The Effects of New Technologies on Writing and Writing Processes.” Handbook of Writing Research. Ed. Charles A. MacArthur, Steve Graham, Jill Fizgerald. Guilford Press, 2008. 248 – 262.


What is a blog?Edit

A Blog, in its simplest form, is a website that is an online journal. A combination of two words, web and log, a blog allows a ‘blogger’ to create postings on any subject. Blogs are different from a written journal in that upon first entry, the last posting is viewed first -- reverse chronological order. On the technical side blogs are ‘a hierarchy of text, images, media objects and data, arranged chronologically, that can be viewed in an HTML browser” (Winer).

By being an avid blogger one is classified as being part of the ‘blogosphere’, the social networking community of blogs. And there are many different communities to be a part of. There are blogs for pretty much every subject. Everyone has their very own late night talk show where they can rant, rave, share, and discuss their interests. Also, there are blogs that aren’t just written posts. We have video blogs, picture blogs, and even audio blogs (podcasts), where the blogger will publish some different type of media on their site. But, written blogs are often most common.

Blogs have often been compared to discussion board in that they both allow for interaction between students, as well as the teacher. However, the main difference between blogs and discussion boards is the level of ownership. Within discussion boards students interact with each other and share ideas, but no student has control over the content of that collaborative space. Blogs on the other hand allow students to take the reins and have control over the content. At the same time, students can collaborate with each other, as blogs allow for students to comment on the work of the other. This tool allows for both individualistic creativity as well as collaborative cooperation.

Why Blogs?Edit

Literacy is an integral part of a student’s education. Students must have the ability to read and write to express their opinions and ideas. Oftentimes in the class there may be students who are a bit introverted, or others who have a hard time expressing themselves in front of the class verbally. Blogs provide these students with a platform to contribute to a discussion that they may not necessarily contribute to inside of the class. The reflective nature of blogs gives students comfort and ease in expressing their ideas that may not be possible immediately in a classroom. Students can develop confidence in their ability to formulate and opinion and may be more vocal in class at a later time. Students still feel engaged in the class and are less likely to get unmotivated because they can now contribute in their own way. At the same time, students can have much more experience writing and teachers can access student development over time from their constant blog posts.

Composition of Blog PostsEdit

Certain standard features are available within all blogs:

  • Post Title: A post is an entry on the blog. Users have the ability to name the post anything they choose.
  • Time Stamp: Each post is stamped with the time that it was created, enabling visitors to know when information is posted, and keep track of how often posts are made.
  • Links: Links allow the blogger to connect their posts to other websites and even connect their blogs to other blogs that are on the web.
  • Comments: Bloggers allow visitors to leave comments about their posts. Comments are also time-stamped and visitors can communicate directly with the blogger on individual posts or in general.
  • Archives: Allows a blogger to store information on a month by month basis within the year. All posts for that time are grouped together, allowing for easy retrieval.

Since we have discussed blogs, it is imperative for us to talk a little bit about podcasts. 'iPod' and 'broadcast' are the two words that were combined to create the name 'podcast. Podcasts are audio files that are uploaded to a web page for download. Essentially it is blogging with audio. Podcasts can have their own sites or can be incorporated into a blog. There is some confusion about the name 'podcast' as it implies that one needs to have an iPod. Anyone who has an mp3 player or a computer can listen to a podcast. Users can use RSS feeds to receive notification when a new file has been uploaded to the site and can download it to their mp3 player or their computer for listening. Users can choose to download the new audio or stream it from the website. A link is provided with the notification that will take you to where the file is stored. Instructors can use this for new course announcements. Language teachers can use this tool to give assignments for students to practice listening skills of a second language. In collaboration with blogs an instructor can get a certain concept across to a student and have them respond with their opinions while they are outside of the classroom.


Wiki Who? Wiki Why? Wiki How?Edit
Wiki Wiki Bus

What to wiki?? Oh, that’s not one of the options. Well neither is ‘who’ or ‘why’, but definitely ‘how’. ‘Wiki how’ is a component of the very popular Wikipedia. Wikipedia is an online line encyclopedia that has collaborators from all parts of the world. It is the most used wiki online, so much so that it is now used as a verb, “Wiki it”, when telling someone to look for information on Wikipedia. So what is a wiki anyway?

The word ‘wiki’ is Hawaiian for ‘fast’. It has been suggested that ‘wiki’ means ‘What I Know Is’” (Wikipedia). A wiki is ‘a software tool that allows users to freely create and edit hyperlinked web pages using a browser” (Ribble and Bailey). Most wiki interfaces are similar to word processing program interfaces with options to modify font size, color, style, etc. Wikis allow you to edit pages, create new pages, and add links to rich media files. The great thing about wikis is that if you make a mistake or want to add something that you previously saved, you can always revert to a previously saved version. This is a wonderful feature that is different from normal websites. With wikis, you have a constant history of everything you have changed and can retrieve it at any time.

Why Use A Wiki?Edit

“If we accept the premise that knowledge is an artifact created by a community of knowledgeable peers constituted by the language of that community and that learning is social and not an individual process, then to learn is not to assimilate information and improve our mental eyesight. To learn is to work collaboratively to establish and maintain among a community of knowledgeable peers...” (Brody and Wallace). A Wiki is a tool that embodies this concept fully. Students can share resources that they create, amongst themselves, in addition to annotating previously existing documents. Additionally, wikis promote more attentiveness towards writing. Students often do research papers of a certain caliber and know that the instructor will only see it. However, when a student is writing on a wiki there is more of a consciousness about what they are writing and how they are writing as their work will be viewed by many different people. It raises the bar to an extent and can encourage competition and instill the drive for perfection.

Really Simple Syndication (RSS)Edit

With all of the discussion of blogs and wikis, and the collaboration that both of them facilitate, we must realize that information may be updated on a daily basis. If someone is reading many blogs, or collaborating in a wiki with someone, it can be time consuming to online and check every single website for new information. This is where RSS feeds come in.

RSS started out being referred to as Rich Site Summary as far back as 1999 by Netscape. Several attempts at effective syndication were not reached until late 2002when RSS 0.94 was upgraded to RSS 2.0. At this point the name was changed to what we now use today. Technically, RSS “is an XML-based format for content distribution” (RSS Specifications). ‘Feeds’ allow the user to have specific content delivered to a RSS reader. All major newspapers now have RSS subscriber buttons on their website that allow visitors to choose which part of the newspaper they would like to receive updates about.

For educators this is a very handy tool. Instructors can be kept apprised of new projects that other schools are working on that is related to their subject area. Schools can set up a blog to have an RSS feed that will allow teachers, parents and even students to obtain new information pertinent to the school. This cuts down on mass emails and even paper distribution that a school may solely rely on.


What is an eBook?Edit

A user viewing an electronic page on an eBook-reading device

Available in several formats, eBooks are just what they sound like—electronic versions of full-text books. Students download the texts and screen-read eBooks on desktop computers, laptops, and handheld devices that include readers, PDAs, and some mobile phones. Similar to traditional print books, eBooks can include combinations of text and image. eBooks may also incorporate multimodal features such as animation, sound, music, video, and hyperlinks.

Students can purchase eBooks from online bookstores, borrow them from online libraries, or access them for free from several other online resources (Larson, 122). As long as the technology to view the eBooks is accessible to students, eBooks are easy to download and cost significantly less than purchasing print books; typically US$3.99 with no shipping and handling (Larson, 123).

Text editing tools enable students to mark passages by highlighting, underlining, or crossing out words. Students are also able to add text or audio comments, attach files, and manipulate the text size and screen layout. Traditional print conventions for navigating texts (such as table of contents and pagination) become less functional in eBook format. However, particularly useful ‘search’ features allow readers of eBooks to instantaneously locate specific words or phrases within the text and select specific pages to view (Larson, 123).

Students have reported enjoying the convenience of storing eBook on the computer without the worry of misplacing the hard copy. However, students also reported the following disadvantage of using eBooks:

• they were easily distracted while reading because of the internet access on the device they were reading from

• they lacked and missed the tangible interaction with a printed text

• some lost portability of texts and had to read in front of a screen in one location (Larson, 123).

While the issue of portability is lessened through the use of handheld reading devices, the first two disadvantages (distraction and difficult connecting to the text) highlight the need to practice and develop on-screen reading skills that are different from print reading skills.

Why eBooks?Edit

More and more critical reading is being pushed on-screen as emails, web-browsing, and social networking sites become dominate features in everyday life. Incorporated into the classroom, eBooks can help to develop important on-screen reading ability as well as promote reading comprehension, literacy development, and personal meaning making. eBooks can be used to build important critical reading skills that support academic literacy while engaging in digital literacy development.

Sample eBook Assignment: Electronic Reading WorkshopEdit

Incorporated into the classroom as features of electronic reading workshops (ERWs), eBooks help develop important on-screen reading skills in addition to developing the goals of traditional print reading workshops. Four common aspects of any reading workshop are:

1) Literature selection

2) Literature response journals

3) Literature conversations

4) Project response options.

ERWs incorporate technology into all four aspects of reading workshop, including above mentioned blogs, and provide multiple opportunities for new literacy practice and integration of technology. ERWs use the following technologies to fit in each of the four aspects of a reading workshop:

1) Literature selection- eBooks

2) Literature response journals- blogs

3) Literature conversations- synchronous or asynchronous online discussions (threaded discussion groups, chat rooms)

4) Project response options- technology-based projects, such as internet publishing, YouTube videos, multimedia presentations.

ERWs help prepare students by integrating new digital literacies for on-screen reading and for-screen writing with traditional academic literacy skills.

External Links:Edit

http://www.ebooks.com/ (The world's leading online source of ebooks, with 130000 popular, professional and academic ebooks from the world's leading publishers).

http://clickbankmall.t83.net/ (A great online source of ebooks and other digital products, which also offers opportunities for writers, programmers, etc. to get listed on the site free).

http://www.netlibrary.com/ (Public (free) and private (for paying members) collection of eBooks for reading online. Registration required).


MobileRead Wiki is a wiki devoted to eBooks and eBook devices including eBook software, libraries, and full lists of sources and comparisons for eBooks and eBook reading devices.


Larson, Lotta C. “Electronic Reading Workshop: Beyond Books With New Literacies and Instructional Technologies.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 52.2 (2008): 121-131.


What is an ePortfolio?Edit

A portfolio, electronic or paper, is an organized collection of completed work. ePortfolios were born out of faculty-assigned, print-based student portfolios dating back to the mid-80s. In print portfolios, as well as today’s ePortfolios, students collected their work, received feedback, selected examples to showcase, and reflected on what they learned. (Lorenzo & Ittelson, 4). Definitions of ePortfolios vary, but typically all involve the development of a digital space to archive student work where they, their classmates, their teachers, and their parents can see and potentially add comments. ePortfolios have become increasingly popular for student-use, teacher-use, and corporate-use as a way to track learning and development. ePortfolios can be used as records of students’ learning experiences as well as tools to develop students’ digital literacy skills.

An ePortfolio is a digital collection of artifacts. These artifacts can include texts, graphics, videos, audio files, and other multimedia elements. ePortfolio artifacts are archived to a website or other electronic media such as a CD-ROM or DVD. Student work can be added, commented on, and reviewed in a variety of custom ways. There are seemingly limitless ways to managing and organizing ePortfolios. Several companies, including BlackBoard, WebCT, SCT, Nuventive, Concord, and McGraw-Hill, either have or are currently developing ePortfolio tools (Batson, 2).

More than a simple collection work, an ePortfolios can also serve as an administrative tool to document learning over time. ePortfolios encourage personal reflection and involve the exchange of ideas and feedback. Concisely defined ePortfolios are a “personalized, digital collections of work, responses to work, and reflections that are used to demonstrate key skills and accomplishments for a variety of contexts and time periods” (Lorenzo & Ittelson, 3).

Why ePortfolios?Edit

ePortfolios make students' work organized and searchable as well as transportable and lasting. They offer a better tool for us to manage, review, reflect, and comment on student work. Teachers and administrators have recognized that ePortfolios have the potential to:

• Create a system of tracking student work over time, in a single course and over several years

• Aggregate many students' work in a particular course to see how the students as a whole are progressing toward learning goals

• Integrate digital literacy skills around current curriculum learning goals

• Encourage continuity of student work from semester to semester in linked courses

• Help students become critical thinkers and aid in the development of their writing and multimedia communication skills.

ePortfolios give students the opportunity to create a digital showcase of their academic work and digital literacy skills that can be presented to a variety of audiences, including parents, funding organizations, college admissions committees, and prospective student employers.

Components of an ePortfolioEdit

An ePortfolio can include a wide range of information. Some common components are:

• Personal information

• Personal values and interests

• Goals and plans

• Coursework – assignment & projects

• Self-reflections

• Peer comments

• Instructor comments

• Presentations, papers, and multimedia projects – final & draft versions

• Recognition – awards and certificates (Siemens).

Questions to consider:Edit

An ePortfolio archives successes, failures, and struggles in a students learning experiences. It is a compilation of work-in-progress and taken out of context, could misrepresent intended meaning. Like any web resource, ePortfolios are subject to security and privacy risks.

In addition to security and privacy risks, other questions to think about include:

• Should an e-portfolio be an official record of a student’s work?

• How long should students’ ePortfolios be saved, stored, and accessible?

• Who owns the ePortfolio?

• How are ePortfolios evaluated in a manner that is both valid and reliable?

Other implementation questions that involve hardware and software requirements include:

• How will an e-portfolio system impact other software systems, such as an institution’s course management system (CMS), student information system (SIS), and databases?

• How many and what kind of servers will be necessary to hold increasing numbers of ePortfolios? What will be needed to maintain and back up these servers?

• What plugins, file formats, and browsers will be required or supported in any e-portfolio system?

• Is there an adequate staff to develop, deploy, and maintain the system?

• Will there be an infrastructure in place to properly train students, faculty, and administrators how to use the e-portfolio system?

External Links:Edit

A list of ePortfolio tools now available or in production:

• Epselen Portfolios, IUPUI, http://www.epsilen.com

• The Collaboratory Project, Northwestern, http://collaboratory.nunet.net

• Folio Thinking: Personal Learning Portfolios, Stanford, http://scil.stanford.edu/research/projects/folio.html

• Catalyst Portfolio Tool, University of Washington, http://www.catalyst.washington.edu

• MnSCU e-folio, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, http://www.efoliomn.com


Batson, Trent. The Electronic Portfolio Boom: What's it All About? 2002. 3 April 2009. <http://www.tc.columbia.edu/cis/newsletter/ospiminiconf/The%20Electronic%20Portfolio%20Boom.pdf >.

Lorenzo, George; Ittelson, John. An Overview of E-Portfolios. 2005. Educase.edu. 3 April 2009. <http://educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI3001.pdf>

Siemens, George. ePortfolios. 2004. 3 April 2009. <http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/eportfolios.htm>

Uses & BenefitsEdit

See a video interview discussing usage of blogs and wikis in education. http://www.youtube.com/v/GC6WsBQW6T8

There is a need for digital literacy in our current information age. Students must have a degree of know-how to maneuver around a computer and basic software. Tools like blogs and wikis not only encourage and facilitate literacy standards that schools must adhere to but also support basic computer literacy that students will need as a foundation for future learning.

In higher education, wikis can be used to facilitate communication between teachers in a university that are teaching the same course. Instructors can share developed learning material, links to materials on the web, articles in journals, articles that other instructors have written and discuss the student reaction to the course subject. This increased communication can assist departments in developing programs that are tailored to the students’ interests and offer courses that will increase enthusiasm for the subject and perhaps student enrollment.

A wiki can be used to have students begin a portfolio for the year. Students can each be given the responsibility of creating a history of their work over in a certain course, or many, over the semester and collaborate with their classmates. Students can post notes, create study guides, post their media projects, images and create a whole year experience. This can be left for the next year of students who can add on to this wiki, or even begin creating another.

In a K-12 environment which may often be smaller institutions, a blog can be a great facilitator in increase teacher morale and increase the interaction between the school and the surrounding community. Like some corporations that have an ‘Employee of the Month’ program, schools can have a ‘Teacher of the Month’. A blog can create a platform for teachers in the school to recognize the work of their colleagues. Teachers can post things that they have witnessed (positive please) that illustrates what it means to be an educator. At the end of the month an administrator can determine which teacher should be chosen. A blog can also be used for school announcements and for hearing the voice of parents and others in the surrounding community. This, however, should be careful planned out as to not have an open forum for school bashing.


Due to the very nature of blogs and wikis, that allow a user to have much control over content, it is imperative for instructors to monitor and guide posting on these tools. Students should be given the chance to explore and to be creative, at the same time there are elements that the instructor aims to have the student embody. For this reason it is necessary that a structure is created for students when using blogs and wikis. Students should be aware of what they will be graded on and what things the instructor is looking for when reading their posts. Below is a sample of an assignment for a blog and wiki:

Sample Blog Assignment: Poetry Reflection

  • Read the poem on conformity located here: http://www.commongroundconsulting.org/values/conformity.cfm
  • Answer the following questions: (Your post should be at least 2 paragraphs)
    • What feeling did you have after reading the poem?
    • Have you ever felt like this?
    • What things can be done to prevent someone from constantly feeling this way?
    • Do you think writing helps you overcome or express certain feelings?
  • Comment on two of your classmates posts (at least 1 paragraph)

Sample Wiki Assignment: Media Analysis (Students may choose to work together)

  • Create a wiki that will be a study of specific American newspaper
  • Your wiki should include
    • History of the paper
    • Discussion of main writing style and any changes over time
    • Images of how the paper has visually changed over time
    • Links to an online paper
    • Discussion of any influence of this on the average American
    • Statistics of its readership and how the paper is accessed
    • An interview with an avid reader of this paper
    • A section for ‘Dissension’ & ‘Editorial’
    • One short article that you would submit for publication (min. 1 page)
  • Each student will comment on the wiki of another paper explaining why they are not a fan (Dissension Section)
  • Each student will comment on the article posted by a classmate (Editorial Section)


  1. This site is a blog itself and provides instructors with basic information as well as advance concepts that will enable educators to work on ways to integrate blogs into their teaching style. http://www.unc.edu/~zuiker/blogging101/
  2. Technorati Blog Central gives you a list of the top 100 blogs that are viewed on the Internet. http://technorati.com/pop/blogs/
  3. Word Press is a popular tool that is free and enables you to set up a blog within minutes. 60 thematic templates are available that help you create a look and feel that suits you and your site content. http://www.worpress.com
  4. Blogger is the most popular blog service on the web, with more than 8 million users. This is another free blog host, owned by Google, which allows you to create a blog in 3 steps. http://www.blogger.com
  5. Journal LXTM is a Learning Objects, Inc. tool that is integrated with the Blackboard Learning Management System. Instructors are able to integrate blogs into their Blackboard course, using this tool, and not have to use an outside third party service. http://www.learningobjects.com/journal.jsp
  1. A video explaining the basic function and use of wikis in a very ‘Wikis for Dummies’ manner. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dnL00TdmLY
  2. Pbwiki, as fast as it takes to make a peanut butter sandwich, is one of the top sites used to create wikis. Its interface is very easy to use, similar to any word processor and the support is excellent. http://www.pbwiki.org
  3. A comparison of the pros and cons of different wikis, and an explanation if which are the best to use and why. http://tpgblog.com/2008/06/17/best-free-online-wiki-announced/
  4. Teams LXTM is a Learning Objects, Inc. tool that is integrated with the Blackboard Learning Management System. This tool is extremely useful in that it has the basic functions of a regular wiki, in addition to useful assessment tools that allows the instructor to determine which student did work, how much they did, and what type of work it was. It makes collaborative work very easy for the students, and makes grading easy for the instructor. http://www.learningobjects.com/teams.jsp
  1. A video explaining the basic function and use of wikis in a very ‘Wikis for Dummies’ manner. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0klgLsSxGsU
  2. A basic tutorial introduction to RSS feeds and aggregators for non-technical people from Software Garden, Inc. http://rss.softwaregarden.com/aboutrss.html
  3. An excellent comprehensive review of RSS readers. http://www.therssweblog.com/?guid=20050721104556
  4. A very relevant book explaining what RSS is and how it can be used in education. "RSS for Educators: Blogs, Newsfeeds, Podcasts, and Wikis in the Classroom", by John G. Hendron

Acceptable Use PolicyEdit

What is an Acceptable Use Policy? An Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) (as applied to education) is a written agreement that outlines the terms and conditions for using technology in a school district as well as personal technology used on the school property during school hours. This document should be signed annually by all active members of a school District including employees, students and parents. A model AUP is provided by the US Department of Justice at http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/cybercrime/rules/acceptableUsePolicy.htm .

The AUP may include information on

• the instructional philosophies that will be supported through the incorporation of the Internet and technology

       within the school environment

• benefits associated with the incorporation of technology • a code of conduct detailing expectations, consequences and safety with regards to the use of technology • Ways in which students can use technology in accordance with the stated regulations • roles and responsibilities of technology employees • a statement regarding legal compliance. • a place for signatures

Instructional philosophy In this section of the document, the District’s instructional philosophy should be included as well as information regarding how the incorporation of technology addresses this philosophy. A school’s instructional philosophy should be developed independent of the AUP but, within the AUP, the ways in which technology will enhance the instructional philosophy should be discussed.

Benefits Benefits associated with the incorporation of technology in a school District should be included in the AUP. Such benefits include anything that is created by or facilitated by the integration of technology including teaching or administrative tasks. These may include (but are not limited to) the perks of e-mail, the necessity of gaining information from the Internet, and the utilization of interactive whiteboards (Smartboards) and other curriculum-enhancing technology. Also included is the access and exchange of information; communications; and the organization, analysis and presentation of information.

The code of conduct

Within this section, there must be a detail of all expectations of technology use, consequences of misuse, and safety related to proper use. Forms of banned software, hardware and technology -based applications including websites must be detailed to insure that users utilize technology in accordance with the stated policy. If, for example, a policy includes the term “the access or transmission of materials using district technology resources which are inappropriate in the school environment is strictly prohibited” there must also be a list of offences which would be included in the definition of ”inappropriate in the school environment”. Without the explicit list, a debatable area may exist in regards to the definition which may defeat the purpose of creating an AUP. Expectations may include (but are not limited to)

• Students must respect and protect the privacy of others by not sharing passwords, by not accessing other’s accounts

       and by keeping private information private.

• Students must respect and protect the intellectual property of others by not violating copyright laws and by not

       plagiarizing as well as “stealing” other’s digital property.

• Students must respect and practice the principles of community by only communicating in an ethical manner, by

       reporting inappropriate material to an adult and by not utilizing material in an illegal manner or using illegal  

The above are examples of guidelines that may be present in an AUP. These come from the model AUP posted at the link above provided by the USDOJ.

Also included in this section, should be the need to address Internet filtering (see below), cyberethics and cybersafety (see below) as well as the penalties associated with the misuse of District technology or personal technology during school hours on school property. For each expectation there should be a consequence addressing non-compliance. Such consequences can range from loss of on campus technology privileges to penalties associated with breaking a Federal or State law. Sections on personal and system safety should address the need to ban the sharing of username/passwords, entering chat rooms, posting personal information and accessing inappropriate material such as pornography or violent content. Also, restrictions on accessing information that could harm a system such as spam or viruses with the intent to disrupt the network should be included in the AUP. Other information which addresses the breaches in Internet or Intranet security by members of the school community or by unrelated persons should be explicitly included as well. Also included in this document should be a description of security measures that currently exist as well as a plan to address the needed security with new technology. A description of data and network security is important. Many of these safety regulations could be included as part of the expectations. However, it is important to include security information as well as a verbal or written explanation of the reasons why the security guidelines are in place.

What is Internet filtering?

Internet filtering blocks users from accessing sites that may contain material deemed inappropriate. Twenty-one States have Internet-filtering laws that apply to public schools and libraries. These laws stem from the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) which grants federal funds to public schools which abide by the outlined regulations. Such regulations require the School Board to adopt an Internet use policy (many create an AUP which covers Internet use) that limits and/or bans minors from gaining access to inappropriate materials such as explicit sexual content or other harmful sites.

To accomplish adequate filtering, some states require that the public schools install filtering software to insure that all explicit content is filtered. Filtering software blocks sites based on words, phrases or other criteria. Many users have found that certain words that may not refer to an explicit site resulted in a blocked search because of their sexual or harmful connotations. For example, creating a filter based on the word “breast” will block all sexually explicit content as well as potentially blocking chicken recipes, science-related topics and other content that may be useful for an educational environment. Additionally, some filtered software recognize a combination of letters and therefore may block searches that contain the same letters as an explicit term. Lastly, some filtering software has been known to block non offensive material such as information on certain religions and cultures.

Internet filtering software can also block specific websites such as YouTube. Often, such blocked sites may provide benefits to teachers. Districts may want to analyze the Internet filtering software that they are incorporating to allow different users access to different materials. For example, while YouTube as a lot of inappropriate material for students, it also has a plethora of video lessons and clips which can supplement a teacher’s lesson. Students have grown up in a technological environment which often means that they have learned how to surpass or to override certain barriers associated with the use of technology. Because of their familiarity with Internet filtering, many students are able to get around blocked websites by accessing them through different country codes or by using different search terms.

When purchasing and implementing Internet filtering software, school districts must research the best software for their particular needs. Taking into consideration terms and sites that may need to be blocked along with material that may not need to be restricted is important when implementing the correct software. Additionally, districts may consider providing a code for teachers or administrators to override certain restricted searches in case there is an exception. Science teachers may have many of the terms for certain units of study, like reproduction, blocked but, given a code, could filter the useful material from the sites that could be harmful.

What are cyberethics and cybersafety?

With the rise of Internet use comes the increase in potential danger. In a world of anonymity, children are faced with the threats of online bullying, predators and a plethora of inappropriate material. Without guidance, children can communicate with unknown users, share personal information and access sites that could provide potential dangerous information. In 2000, Janet Reno issued a letter to parents regarding the need to educate their children on appropriate Internet behavior as well as the ethics and responsibility associated with using the Internet. A website www.cybercitizenship.org was created to address these issues. Two years later, President George W. Bush announced efforts to promote online safety by encouraging parents to teach their children how to stay safe while online as well as by addressing the growing issue of child pornography. Through his efforts, many child pornography rings were disbanded, and many predators were prosecuted. Also through his initiative, many sites have been created to address the growing need to educate and to guide safe Internet use. Links to such sites can be found at http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/cybercrime/cyberethics.htm

Student uses

The AUP may include a section which details the ways in which students can use technology in accordance with the AUP. These uses may be ones that fall in a grey area of technology use. These may include (but are not limited to)

• Design and post websites using school technologies and other materials that relate to school curriculum or events.

       Because websites, like MySpace and Facebook, may be banned, it is important for students to understand that they can 
       create a website as long as it addresses a topic related to school like clubs, projects or community service.

• Use communication software for school purposes with teacher permission. Instant messaging and other online chat

       software would not be in compliance with most AUPs. However, under certain circumstances, IM and other chat software 
       may be necessary to fulfill a school purpose. Students must understand that there is a difference between personal and 
       educational uses of such resources and therefore must receive permission to utilize such software on school grounds or 
       during school hours.

• Install software as long as it is within licensing agreements and with teacher permission. For example, certain movie

       or music software may have educational uses. iTunes and other digital media software may not be an appropriate 
       installation on school computers unless there is a specific educational purpose. When a student as defined this 
       purpose and received permission to download, he/she will no longer be in violation of stipulations laid out in the AUP.

Legal compliance

The AUP must include a statement that proves that the document complies with state and federal telecommunication regulations as well as a statement that details the need to comply with fair-use policies and copyright laws. Copyrighting and plagiarism may be addressed in other places, but the legal ramifications attached to these items should be explicitly stated. There have been many concerns that the AUP infringes on First Amendment Rights but the legal system has supported the need for such policies to ensure the safety of children.

Roles and responsibilities

This document may outline the roles and responsibilities of all members of the school community including District personal, parents, students and teachers. Within this section, the document should address the ongoing professional development for all members of the community. At the end of the document, there should be information on the process by which the District will reevaluate and modify the AUP. Additionally, a statement regarding supervision and monitoring on an administrative level. Many schools reserve the right to monitor Internet and technology use including e-mail and websites. A statement such as “Administrators reserve the right to examine, use, and disclose any data found on the school's information networks in order to further the health, safety, discipline, or security of any student or other person, or to protect property. They may also use this information in disciplinary actions, and will furnish evidence of crime to law enforcement”( taken from the USDOJ site linked above) to insure that all school users understand that information sent or received over a school district’s system is the property of the school district. This, again, may seem like a violation of privacy, but district’s technically own their computer systems and therefore all users are simply that, users of someone else’s system.


At the bottom of the document should be a place for the signatures of the students, teachers and parents to insure that the document has been read and reviewed by all. By signing the document, all users are agreeing to the terms and conditions stated in the AUP. He/she understands that the district may own all material on its computer system and each user must use all technology in compliance with the signed AUP. Without a signed AUP, a member of the school community may not be able to access school technology.

Why do schools need AUPs and how are they developed?

In order to keep the school environment safe, an Acceptable Use Policy is necessary to insure that only appropriate information is accessible to students. Additionally, an AUP is necessary to regulate and to standardize the appropriate uses of all technologies present on school grounds. With the development of new technologies, the guidelines present in the AUP should be continuously updated. A committee of users including teachers, students, parents and administrators should be included in developing and maintaining the district’s AUP. The AUP may be written based on guidelines set forth my State mandates or national recommendations and may need certain criteria for the district to qualify for State or Federal funding. Because different states have different requirements, committees should investigate such requirements before beginning the writing process to insure that the AUP is complete and accurate. There is a vast amount of information that can be included in the AUP. Therefore, the committee members must include regulations, expectations and consequences that they feel relate to their district. In a sense, the AUP must be personalized to each school district based on the technology, uses and community members of each district. Committee members and their responsibilities as well as the AUP updating process should be included under the roles and responsibilities section of the AUP.

Resources http://www.doe.virginia.gov/VDOE/Technology/AUP/home.shtml http://www.networksolutions.com/legal/aup.jsp http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acceptable_use_policy http://www.ncsl.org/programs/lis/cip/filterlaws.htm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Content_filter http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/cybercrime/cyberethics.htm http://www.isafe.org/imgs/pdf/education/AUPs.pdf

Link to AUP video http://youtube.com/watch?v=J4hu2K662hY

Test Your KnowledgeEdit

Answer the following questions:

True or False

1. The word ‘wiki’ is from the Spanish language.
2. Blogger.com is owned by Google?
3. Some Web 2.0 tools can be used with Blackboard.
4. ‘Wiki Why’ is a part of Wikipedia?

Multiple Choice

1. As of 2002 RSS stands for
a. Real Simple Sites
b. Really Simple Syndication
c. Right Site Syndication
d. Rich Site Summary
2. Which feature is most common to both wikis and blogs?
a. Archives
b. Timestamps
c. Post Titles
d. Links
3. Audio logs are often called:
a. ipods
b. audlogs
c. podcasts
d. audiocasts
4. Which tool is NOT considered to be a Web 2.0 tool?
a. FTP
b. Facebook
c. Wikis
d. None of the above

Answer Key

  1. False
  2. True
  3. True
  4. False

Multiple Choice

  1. a
  2. d
  3. c
  4. a


  1. Brody, Celeste and James Wallace. Ethical and Social Issues in Professional Education. New York: SUNY Press, 1994.
  2. Ribble, Mike and Gerald Bailey. Digital Citizenship in Schools. Washington, D.C.: International Society for Technology in Education, 2007.
  3. Wikipedia. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0>.
  4. Winer, Dave. "What Makes a Weblog a Weblog?" May 2003. Weblogs at Harvard Law. <http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/whatmakesaweblogaweblog.html>.


Video ReportEdit

This video report provides a review of social networking and Web 2.0 usage in the classroom.
By R. Wilensky

There are all sorts of networks in a school environment including computer networks, informal social networks and now online social networks.

  • An online social network consists of a network of individuals (often called “friends”) who are linked in some way.
  • An online social network makes use of Web 2.0 technologies to connect these friends in a useful and meaningful way
  • An online social network and its associated Web 2.0 tools can greatly enhance learning in the classroom if utilized appropriately

The utilization of social networks and Web 2.0 tools should be looked at in various classrooms and settings. This video report uses highlights three different perspectives.

  • Jen works for an education non-profit that services many schools in the New York City school district. Her job is to integrate technology into the curriculum at many different schools in the district.
  • Liz is Instructional Technology Specialist and Director of 21st Century Learning outside of Boston, MA and she discusses technology integration at several schools in which she has worked.
  • Linda is a teacher in a 5th grade classroom on Long Island, New York known as “North London” collaborative. She, along with a co-teacher, are utilizing technology in innovative ways to enhance learning.

Go to Youtube Video