Every year, on the first day of school, most teachers spend a portion of their first class reviewing their syllabus, class rules, and consequences. While this obligation may get tiring and redundant to explain year after year, the necessity of starting a class off with a clearly defined set of expectations is undeniable. Usually parents and students are required to sign the syllabus as an acknowledgement of these expectations. In many ways, an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) is the technology syllabus for a school. The National Education Association suggests that an effective AUP contain the following six key elements:
- a preamble – an introduction stating why the policy is needed
- a definition section – a explanation of the technology use and key terms within the policy
- a policy statement – details the technology and circumstances that the policy covers
- an acceptable uses section – specifies appropriate student use of technology within the institution
- an unacceptable uses section – gives clear instruction on the unacceptable behaviors regarding technology use within the intuition
- a violations/sanctions section – advises students how to report violations and specifies the consequences for violating the policy
In the same manner as a syllabus, a typical AUP has a section where students and parents sign the document acknowledging the responsibilities and liabilities for accepting the policy. (EducationWorld)
Unfortunately, many AUPs (and syllabi) are often ignored or taken lightly. Bosco and Krueger compare traditional AUPs to the agreements that we automatically accept whenever we buy products or sign up for services online (2011). Even though clicking the accept button may satisfy certain legal requirements, most people don’t pay much attention to the text agreement (Bosco & Krueger, 2011). When students and parents don’t pay enough attention to the technology policy and sign off in agreement to it, the document isn’t practical. The acknowledgement of an acceptable use policy within a school setting should go beyond the legality aspect. Students and teachers should be practicing responsible, ethical, safe and acceptable behavior both off and online. This is why I believe that a Responsible Use Policy, rather than just an AUP, regarding the use of all technology devices for educational purposes should be put in place and carefully reviewed at all schools.
Lisa Nielson said it best, “…tools and media have no intent…people do, and the policy is made for people. Real people with real language that can be understood by parents, students, and teachers” (2012). A policy should communicate the responsibilities of using technology in the educational setting in clear, easy to understand terms. After reviewing several AUPs while studying this topic, I found myself confused, bored and intimidated most of the time while reading through them. Sometimes, the legal jargon was a bit cumbersome to read through or the document was so detailed it was overwhelming to read all of it. However, the ones that I found the most off-putting were when the tone of the document was accusatory. Even obedient, trustworthy students might feel intimidated by the threats of misconduct and the variety of limitations placed on technology use at school. It may seem that web-filtering and banning certain sites on school networks would prevent transgression, but really we aren’t doing students or teachers any good with this restrictive approach. Students need to learn to become responsible, ethical and trustworthy digital citizens and school policies should promote this behavior rather than try to restrict use (Bosco & Krueger, 2011). The use of a RUP sends the message to students that they trust them and want them to learn how to take responsibility for their actions. The role of teachers and parents in a school that implements an RUP is to teach students how to search for information and communicate electronically safely and sensibly.
I reviewed several Acceptable Use Policies while writing this reflection. First, I looked at the AUPs for my last two schools. JSerra is a private high school located in southern California, their AUP is in the form of a lengthy, detailed technology handbook that all students must read and agree to each year. North Stafford High School is a public school and they adopted the county’s AUP as their own. This document follows the NEA’s prescribed outline fairly close but it is difficult to read and seems very detached from the actual integration of technology within the school. I also
checked out my alma mater’s AUP, Mercy Academy. They include a section titled ‘Acceptable Use’ in the student handbook. I felt that this AUP was the most up to date and suitable policy compared to the first two. Finally, I searched the internet to find an example of a Responsible Use Policy and found one written for Greensboro Day School. This example confirmed my opinion that RUPs are more relevant and powerful than an AUP.
Bosco, J. & Krueger, K. (2011, July 20). Moving From ‘Acceptable’ to ‘Responsible’ Use in a Web 2.0 World. Retrieved February 4, 2014 from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/07/20/37bosco.h30.html
Education World. (n.d.). Getting Started on the Internet: Developing an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). Retrieved February 4, 2014 from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr093.shtml
Neilson, L. (2012, June 3). Looking to create a social media or BYOD policy? Look no further. Retrieved February 4, 2014 from http://www.techlearning.com/Default.aspx?tabid=67&EntryId=4355#sthash.JC9iLfyj.dpuf