A copy of my school’s AUP Policy can be found at the end of this post. I was charged with putting this together as our school was expanding to 1:1 type environment. The AUP is a variant of one from a school in Gilbert, Arizona and revised with permission.
Acceptable Use Policy. For any school, this is such an important component. NO school should even consider having any technology on its campus without one.
An AUP might be basic, but the more a school expands its technology use, the more detailed that policy needs to be.
I consider an AUP to be akin to a legal document, which means that a school needs to have its best writers and best editors in place when constructing such a critical piece of school policy.
I say this, because I was put in charge of writing our school’s AUP last year, just three months into my new position at Life Christian School in Aloha, Oregon.
Our AUP is critical: We consider ourselves to be a progressive private school: We are not afraid of teaching so-called secular but “safe” curriculum, but there are deep fears by some parents when it comes to internet safety. Our school is a K-12 school with 430 students. These kids watch videos and other internet material from praise music to rap videos, education videos to Hulu in their lives, and their viewing habits can and have spilled over into their campus life.
Mind you, we do not allow students to watch just anything, but we also know that when access exist, access will provide temptation no matter where a student goes to school.
Thus, one of the first things we put into play is making sure students are sign an acceptable use policy before returning a syllabus.
A 17-year-old watching questionable material can indeed be a problem, but a 17-year-old watching questionable material while a 11-year-old walks by is a major problem, a PR nightmare and quite frankly, a problem with the concept of what educational technology is supposed to be about.
So many schools are concerned about technology use that in 2013, there are still plenty of schools and school districts that have tough and tight policies on the use of technology on campus, despite its clear academic advantages (the school I taught at in Gilbert, Arizona still has significant restrictions on technology use).
In a 2010 article on an AUP entitled “Acceptable Use of Technology in Schools: Risks, Policies, and Promises”, University of California Irvine researchers Meg Cramer and Gillian Hayes state: “A safe school environment protects students from physical harm and creates a space where they can focus on learning. Students concerned for their well-being or safety will unlikely make substantial academic gains. Mobile phones and social media can be avenues for “hate speech” or other illegal speech that’s threatening and hurtful to students or faculty, undermines institutional control, and puts schools at risk for lawsuits. Consequently, administrators generally develop acceptable-use policies to protect schools from these threats” (Cramer & Hayes, 2010).
Although the article advocates technology use on campus, there are threats, and plenty of them, that have to be addressed in policy, and thus, an AUP cannot simply be a document. It has to be a way of life. Faculty and staff have to live it (meaning that simply because they are adults does not mean they can just view anything they want, even if it is “clean”). Teachers have to be vigilant in the hallways, the parking lots, the cafeteria, as well as the classroom.
My experience has shown that students will accept boundaries on pretty much anything as long as there are boundaries in place and followed. The AUP has to be metaphorically a living document, not something that we put into place and either hope for the best or put on the mantel for display. Items left on mantels that are left unattended get dusty, forgotten, and at times get knocked over.
As Depeche Mode sings in one of their songs: “Things get damaged/ Things get broken/I’d thought we manage/But words left unspoken/Left us so brittle/There was so little left to give…”
An AUP can not be left unspoken…not unless a school wants to invite unwanted public notice or worse, legal notice.
Breu, F., Guggenbichler, S., & Wollmann, J. (2008). No Title. Vasa. Retrieved from http://medcontent.metapress.com/index/A65RM03P4874243N.pdf
Charnitski, C., & Harvey, F. (2012). Acceptable Use Policies in Schools: An Initial Study. In Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (Vol. 2012, pp. 4808–4813). Retrieved from http://www.editlib.org/p/40367/
Cramer, M., & Hayes, G. R. (2010). Acceptable Use of, 37–44.
Paper, G. F. I. W. (2011). The importance of an Acceptable Use Policy.