Although more and more educators are taking advantage of the vast resources available online, allowing students access to the internet, without first establishing proper guidelines and expectations, would be unwise. Almost anyone in the world, with an internet capable device, can upload content to the web which students can mistakenly or, in some cases, intentionally access. This kind of uncensored content could be inappropriate for young people to view or hear. To ensure the safety of students and educators, it is essential that schools and education programs create Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) for their staff and students. (“Why Have a Technology Policy”, 2017).
The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) defines an Acceptable Use Policy as “…a written agreement signed by students, their parents/caregivers, and their teachers. It outlines the terms and conditions for using technology-based devices maintained by schools and personal technology-based devices used during school hours on school property.” (“Acceptable Internet Use Policy”, 2017). As such AUPs should clearly define expectations for how students and staff should conduct themselves while using technology in the workplace and in schools. Students especially are not likely to be as prepared as adults for online activity and should be instructed on subjects such as netiquette, privacy, piracy and plagiarism. Furthermore, an AUP should clearly state what repercussions there will be for any students or staff who violate the agreement (1-to-1 Essentials”, 2017). In essence an AUP is a document designed to increase student and staff accountability but it is also a kind of guide for users to navigate the world wide web and use technology devices without harming themselves or others.
An AUP can also describe steps taken by an organization to protect its staff or students. The San Diego School District’s Student Internet Acceptable Use Policy (click here) states that “San Diego Unified has taken reasonable precautions to restrict access to “harmful matter” and to materials that do not support approved educational objectives.”. In this respect an AUP can serve an organization as a kind of legal disclaimer which could potentially protect that organization if something goes wrong.
Organizations can also use an AUP to set ground rules for software use which help to avoid a system being used in a way different from its original intention. For example, under the category of Netiquette, for the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries (click here), the AUP states “Individual users may not use the list for commercial solicitations.” which enables the organization to defend itself and pursue legal recourse if users violate the agreement.
An AUP should also specify an organization’s particular privacy rules. Under ‘Expectations of Privacy’, for Rosa Parks Elementary School (Click here), the AUP states “The Division retains the right to monitor all computer and Internet activity by employees and students, and any information …may be intercepted, recorded, read, copied, and disclosed by and to authorized personnel for official purposes, including criminal investigations.”. In essence the AUP is announcing to all users that their online and offline activity using school devices could be monitored and in the event of a crime, could be used as evidence against them. Once the AUP has been agreed to by users, they can no longer assume their emails and online communications will be private. In contrast, another AUP might state the opposite, that users can expect their emails and correspondence to remain private. The point is for the users to understand clearly what the rules of their organization are.
As social media use escalates and parents/students wish to become connected to their school or learning institution through websites such as Facebook or Twitter, the acceptable use of these services needs to be clearly outlined. The Manor Road Primary School Twitter and Facebook Acceptable Use Policy (click here) clearly states how the school will use the services, as well as why. “Manor Road Primary School’s Facebook page and Twitter feed were set up to provide information on news and events for pupils, parents and the wider community.”. Stating the reasons why the organization wants to allow use or access to social media is important so that parents and other users understand what would be inappropriate to post on the school’s feed. For example, a parent might want to share an internet meme they find humorous on the school’s Facebook page. If that parent read the section described above, they would know that posting the meme would not qualify as information or news relevant to the school.
1-to-1 Essentials – Acceptable Use Policies | Common Sense Media. (2017). Commonsensemedia.org. Retrieved 28 June 2017, from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/1to1/aups
Education, V. (2017). VDOE :: Acceptable Internet Use Policy. Doe.virginia.gov. Retrieved 27 June 2017, from http://www.doe.virginia.gov/support/safety_crisis_management/internet_safety/acceptable_use_policy.shtml
Roblyer, M. (2016). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.). Massachusetts: Pearson.
Why Have a Technology Policy in Your School or Library? | Librarians | Scholastic.com. (2017). Scholastic.com. Retrieved 27 June 2017, from http://www.scholastic.com/librarians/tech/techpolicy.htm