Reading the fine print

This blog post is the second in a series focused on some of the issues surrounding the use of ICT within educational settings and my reflections as we move through the eSmart Accrediation Process.

We’ve all done it. You know, when you sign up to that new account or you download the latest iTunes update and your presented with pages upon pages of legal-speak about what you will and won’t do and what rights you are signing over to the creater of the program that the majority of the time we just scroll to the bottom of the page and click on that “I accept the terms and conditions” tick box.

Whilst this may be fine for personal use, how does the ‘fine print’ impact on our use of Web 2.0 tools within our classrooms and our schools?

Let me share with you my current experience to give you a personal understand of where I am coming from.


Photo by William McInnes – Used under a Creative Commons Licence.

Our Year 5 students are currently looking at Federal Government (as most senior primary classes do) as part of their Inquiry unit this term. trying to think of how I could best intergrate this into our ICT lessons, I came up with the idea that wouldn’t it be great if they created comics to explain a particular political concept. (Check out my comic that explains a double dissolution)

Being at a new school, we don’t have much purchased ‘software’ as such, but I was certain that I could surely find a free web 2.0 tool that would meet our needs. This is where my problems started to arise.

I initally investigated “Comic Life” as this is part of the EduStar Mac Image, but was disapointed as there was no ability to generate your own computerised characters. Instead you had to utilise photographs or other illustrations that had been pre-generated. This didn’t meet my focus and my tight timeline didn’t allow for students to be generating their own images; I needed something quicker and more immediate.

My next stop was to look at Pixton. I had used this previously to create my own comics for blog posts and loved the simplicity of how easy it was to create a comic that looked quite professional. Upon investigating, I noticed that it did have a version setup for school use, however this required payment. After investigating the costs to generate an account for each of our Year 5 students, I couldn’t justify the cost given that this was project we were only go to work on in ICT for this term and it was highly unlikely that they would access the software for other future tasks.

Trying to think of a work around, I looked into creating personal accounts for the students. Again, I hit a brick wall when it came to the Terms of Service when using Pixton.

By submitting a membership application and accepting the terms of this agreement, you represent and warrant to us that:

  1. You are an individual who can form a legally binding contract at law; and
  2. You are – or your parent, who is accepting these Terms, is – at least 19 years old, and of the age of majority in the jurisdiction from which you access Pixton.

The students I was working with for this task are of Primary School age (10-12 years old) so that ruled out them being of able for “form a legally binding contract at law” and I am not their parent so I couldn’t generate the account for them.

By this point I was becoming frustrated and thought of tapping into the power of my PLN. Out goes the tweet…

I did get some suggested sites and was sent a link to a great slideshare presentation that featured a huge list of online comic creaters.

So I sifted through them all… one by one

With the execption of the Guide to Social Media, I’m unable to find any specific documentation from the Department that outlines schools and teachers responsibilities regarding the use of Web 2.0 tools.

Teachers are already busy people. Surely we shouldn’t need to wade our way through pages of legal-speak to simply determine if I am able to use a site with students.

How are schools ‘getting around’ this ? What web 2.0 tools are you using with your students ? Do you look\read the Terms of Service ?

Are you sending home permission forms for each of the web 2.0 tools they wish to use and getting parents to sign off of them ?

Is this included as part of your schools ICT Acceptable Use Agreements that parents sign?

….Or are most just burrying their head in the sand hoping that if they ignore it the issue won’t arrise ?

2 thoughts on “Reading the fine print

  1. Gill Light

    Great post Scott and very important questions. We’re in the same boat – I’ve avoided so many really useful web 2.0 tools because I can’t begin to navigate the minefield of permissions. While our acceptable use agreement has a general statement that is designed to be as all encompassing as possible, discussions I’ve had with various teachers/DEECD departments leads me to believe that the only way to be assured of covering the requirements is to send home separate permission forms for any tool that requires sign up. Which always results in some students not bringing the forms back and, therefore, some students not having access to these tools. The end result is that I only use tools at school that don’t require sign up – a sad loss for students.

    Would love to know others’ thoughts on this one – hopefully someone knows a magic fix that I don’t!

  2. Lois Smethurst

    Hi Scott

    My rule is – I don’t use sites that require students to sign up with personal details such as email (eliminates a lot of sites).

    I think we(teachers) are not the student’s legal guardians so we can’t make decisions that require permission by a legal guardian or a parent.

    Edmodo is an example of a great site that I feel comfortable letting students create an account. They can be safe in a secure site, without any contact details except for the teacher creating the a code that they can use.

    I like sites that allow the teacher to sign up and add class members but these are quite difficult to find. Glogster used to do it and I think Weebly still does but these are not what you are looking for. If a site is truely “educational” it understands that young students should not be required to sign up.

    When it comes to images I rely a lot on sites like “” and students’ original art work. I am a fan of students creating and appreciating their own art work. Surely it is the true definition of “naive” art. I think primary students should feel comfortable creating and using their own material so maybe web2.0 sites that require sign ups are not designed for them anyway.

    I don’t think I’ve helped with your problem at all but this is the way I approach some of the issues you are struggling with.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *