If you teach, work, or attend any type of educational institution in the US, then you probably use some form of technology every day. In Scholastic’s Using Technology article, it is stated, “There are many benefits to using the Internet in elementary and intermediate education, but it is important for you to harness this powerful tool so that it is effective and safe for student use.” (“Why Have a Technology Policy,” n.d.) With the integration of technology into educational systems, it has become necessary for schools to write and implement an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP).
An Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) is a formal document outlining appropriate use and maintenance of school owned technology devices, personal computers, mobile devices, and the use of the Internet for school purposes. Common Sense Media explains, “Similar to a Terms of Service document, an AUP should define publicly what is deemed acceptable behavior from users of hardware and information systems such as the Internet and any applicable networks.” (1-to-1 Essentials,” n.d.) These policies can be found in parent/student handbooks, faculty handbooks, and on school or district websites. Students, teachers, and staff are required to sign the document each year stating that they will abide by the school’s policies regarding technology. Many school districts have safety nets such as anti virus software and web filters, but these precautions can still have gaps. Educational institutions have the responsibility to protect the personal safety and privacy of educators and students. That is why an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) is so important.
Acceptable Use Policies can vary in content but most policies contain similar rules and guidelines. Some school’s AUPs may be only a few pages long, while other’s may encompass over 20 pages. Regardless of the length, a thorough AUP should include:
- The institution’s mission and philosophy statement
- A definition of technology as it applies to the educational institution
- The school’s level of responsibility in protecting personal devices (both hardware and software)
- Both acceptable and unacceptable use of technology
- Specific Internet usage guidelines
- Rules on the use of social media
- Guidelines on digital citizenship
- Rules regarding cyberbullying
- Rules regarding passwords and sharing of computer codes
- Rules regarding copyright laws
- Expectations of behavior regarding network accounts
- Guidelines regarding the downloading and installation of software on school-owned devices
- Consequences for not following the AUP
In addition, the educational institution should clearly define plagiarism and the consequences for representing any other work or idea as one’s own. Not properly citing sources is a form of plagiarism.
Some examples of Acceptable Use Policies:
Calvary Christian Academy, Philadelphia, PA (p.21)
This is the AUP for the school where I teach. It is limited to one page in the handbook and while it contains most of the components of a good AUP, it is rather general in nature. Our IT department is extremely protective and cautious when it comes to technology use at our school. Student access to the internet is limited and BYOD is only considered under special circumstances. I expect our AUP to evolve over the next few years as technology use becomes a more regular and intentional part of our curriculum.
Neshaminy School District, Langhorne, PA
This is the AUP for the school district I attended for elementary school through high school. It is a very detailed 23 page document. Internet use is clearly discussed including a section defining key terms and specific laws and responsibilities are explained in detail. It is one of the most content specific AUPs that I found.
Lower Moreland School District, Huntington Valley, PA
For a rather large school district in my area, this is a rather brief AUP. Most components of a typical AUP are included, but no detail or explanation is included. I did note below that they have a separate BYOD policy.
Holy Ghost Preparatory School, Bensalem, PA (p.52-54)
This AUP is from a local Catholic prep school. It is included in their student handbook. It is fairly brief but clearly covers all components of a typical AUP. Consequences for misuse are clearly defined.
Delaware County Christian School, Delaware County, PA
This AUP is from a school similar is size and scope to my own. The AUP clearly defines the school’s values when it comes to technology use. I did find it interesting that they do not support student owned devices at this time. They make it clear that their policies on technology are still a work in progress.
Finally, with more and more schools implementing bring your own device (BYOD) initiatives, some districts have added a BYOD document. One example would be Lower Moreland School District in Pennsylvania.
1-to-1 Essentials – Acceptable Use Policies | Common Sense Media. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/1to1/aups
Education World: Getting Started on the Internet: Acceptable Use Policies. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr093.shtml
Why Have a Technology Policy in Your School or Library? | Librarians | Scholastic.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.scholastic.com/librarians/tech/techpolicy.htm