Creating BYOD Digital Citizenship Guidelines for your School

From Creating a WIFI Pervasive Learning Environment to Ensuring Respectful Use of Technology in the Classroom

Three years ago, as I moved into the role of principal of a very vibrant and forward thinking high school, I invested a sizable portion of the school reserve into installing WIFI in the school.  At the time, it seemed to suffice having one access point provinding coverage for two classrooms.

Who would have thought, at the time, that the volume of devices students and staff would bring into the classroom would far exceed the bandwidth.  What we didn’t take into account at the time was that for every student, there were going to be at least one, a cell phone, or even multiple devices, trying to connect to the access points.  Within a year and a half, people began to complain that the coverage was not good enough, that the signal was constantly being dropped and that the access to the WIFI was not adequate to the increasing needs of tech in the classroom.

So, less than three years later, heading the needs expressed by staff and students, I set aside other tech enhancements that I had planned for the school (upgrading the teacher desktop computers in the classroom), in favour of replacing our already woefully inadequate system for a more WIFI pervasive system.

Of course, I couldn’t just add to what I already have, technology becomes antiquated faster than you can say cha-ching, and I had to replace the old system with a new upgraded system that should, with all luck, serve the needs of the community for at least another 5 – 6 years (fingers crossed).

Having gone through all of that effort and investment, only made me more committed to the idea that if we were going to invest that much money into WIFI, that we, as a school community would make sure it is being used.  Which bring us to the question of appropriate use of technology in a technology enriched environment.

Most boards (if not all by this point), have an “acceptable use of technology” policy, which is something that students take home with them to have their parents sign.  Some boards may even have a means of ensuring an online sign off for this permission form and many others, which is very 21st Century of them if you ask me.

However, as a principal in a school, how do we work with students to ensure that they are responsible and caring global digital citizens?

As a school, staff and students can become equal stake holders in coming up with a set of guidelines that work for everyone.  What I would suggest, is that in working with staff and polling students as to what is and isn’t acceptable, you might start by AVOIDING creating a list of “Thou shalt nots.”  I don’t know about you, but tell me I can’t do something only makes me want to do it more and I was one of those geeky, compliant types.


Guided by the work of Lee Crockett, co-author of Literacy is Not Enough, and, we all came to agree on what became our Global Digital Citizenship Agreement.

At my school, we started having discussions, involving the various stakeholders in the building, around the idea of respect and rather than describing what we can’t do with technology in class, we created a list of how we can respectfully use technology in class.  Further to this, we talked about how we would manage the inevitable misuse of technology and agreed that conversations should be focused on how the inappropriate use of technology is dis-respectful.

By doing this, we are teaching students how to use technology in a respectful way, it tied in beautifully with R4 (Respect for Self, Others, Work and the Environment), and it helped us to avoid what I will refer to as envy of the “forbidden fruit” of inappropriate use of tech in the classroom.  These discussions, with all due credit to Lee Crockett and, led us to agree to what we ended up calling a Global Digital Citizenship Agreement, which we included in the student agenda, and posted in every room in the building.

Lou Paonessa, YCDSB


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