Here's a thought-provoking comment posted recently on the blog defending FirstClass and the limitations on the use of non-CPS software that were of such an issue at the start of the year:
"I dunno. This AUP sounds a lot
like most AUPs created by large school districts. The expectation that
teachers and other employees will ONLY use the CPS official email to
communicate with teachers and parents is pretty typical of AUPs that
I've seen (including mine at a local university). This is pretty much
mandated by federal law regarding student records, and certainly is a
wise thing to require for large school districts that may need to go
back and check through what has been communicated between teacher and
student in case of some kind of lawsuit or other difficulty.
"As for the difficulties of using FirstClass, yes, it isn't the most
user-friendly system for email. But it isn't THAT hard to use. The
person who commented about sending email to the wrong person is only
upset that in a system with 40,000 employees there might be a few
people with similar names. What to do about that? The claim that
parents can't contact teachers via FirstClass is simply untrue.
Teachers can give out their ****@cps.edu accounts and outsiders can
email them. Not a problem at all.
Rest of the comment:
CPS is a HUGE system that (until a few years ago) had the most
antiquated set of network resources (including the student information
system) of any school system in the US. The IMPACT project has brought
these systems forward at least three decades. Yes, the rollout was
difficult (and yes, the e-IEP system has a few bugs to be worked out),
but, um, I can't imagine such a project being without its bumps in the
road. Yes, some people are making a lot of money, so what's new about
that? (Think erate money, bussing, lunches, textbooks, accounting and
consulting firms. The deep and wide CPS trough is very attractive to
for-profit companies. I don't see how it couldn't be this way. Yes,
some reforms around the edges are possible, but to get bent out of
shape because CPS has employed contractors to work on IMPACT is just
silly....they couldn't have done it in-house as well or as efficiently).
The prohibitions on contact between teachers and students using such
tools as Twitter and Facebook are increasingly common in schools, and
it's because the school districts can't control the collateral messages
that these sites may send to students (for example, the
context-sensitive Google ads that appear in Facebook). While I agree
that these may be very useful tools for 21st century teaching and
learning, I can't really imagine how CPS or other districts could turn
a blind eye or even sanction such means of contact between students and
teachers. If I were a K-12 teacher, I would be quite wary of
"friending" students or having them as followers of any open system
like Twitter, not because these contacts would never be valuable (they
would, most likely), but because the current legal climate in so
litigious and uncertain. Best not to be made an example of, or a guinea
pig in deciding what's appropriate and what's not.
I'm a little less certain about the claims made by your teacher
commenter about external web sites and the Flash interactive s/he made.
I don't believe that this policy prohibits the use of all Internet
materials external to the CPS network. And if students interact with
the teacher via a website the teacher made, and the teacher uses the
official CPS email as their contact point, I don't see how that
violates the policy. A clarification from ITS about exactly what that
part of the policy means for curriculum and instruction would be a
helpful addendum to the AUP.
FirstClass actually includes some pretty powerful and robust
collaboration tools for teachers and students. Yes, there has been
little or no training on those, so far, since the more infrastructural
aspects of IMPACT have taken priority. Yes, CPS needs to re-invigorate
it's department of e-learning so that it's more than an IMPACT training
department. Yes, CPS instructional leaders need to set their vision
MUCH higher than the requirements of NCLB and realize that they are
robbing many many students of a secure place in the future economy
through their short-sighted ideas about teaching and learning. But
those are bigger problems than just the legalese that seems necessary
for the AUP.