AUP is more than a document

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.
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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.

LCS Policies 2013 for Presentation
Gilbert Public Schools (Arizona) Student AUP: StuEIS_061206
GPS Employee AUP: EmpEIS_061206

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.

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3 thoughts on “AUP is more than a document

  1. Cary,
    Reading your post was very interesting to me. Your insight on your experience was fantastic. I always like to read the words of someone who has gone through it before. I have to say I like your use of the term “living document” I think that is so true about an AUP. I think this policy would be ever changing as the years go on to accommodate any changes in technology and the school. I am concerned that you might not have enough examples of AUP’s in your references though. Overall, I think you did a great job. Your reflection on your experience was invaluable.

    Mark

  2. Cary,

    I think your point about the AUP not being just a document that gets placed on a shelf. With technology constantly changing, the AUP cannot sit back and hope to stay relevant. As you mentioned, “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.” Students are not going to continue their Internet habits based on an outdated AUP and the schools (and organizations for that matter) shouldn’t either. If they don’t want to run into problems down the line like you mentioned – PR or legal – the AUP needs to be analyzed and evaluated at least every couple of years to determine if changes are necessary.

    Good job.

  3. Cary. I’m going to start with “Yeah, what they said!” As Mark said, your experience in developing an AUP makes your insight into the process and the need for regular revisions. Further, you used an example of a situation that I never considered. In K-12 buildings, 6-12 (or even 9-12!), the difference in age, maturity and what can pass as acceptable is huge between the youngest grades and the oldest. I agree that certain situations could easily lead to a legal and PR nightmare. Thanks for adding your two cents.

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