Acceptable Use Policies (AUP) are documents which are designed to give guidelines and set rules for the use of technology and the internet in an institution or organization. These important documents are used in both education and business protect both the user and the institution. Being a 5th Grade teacher in a K-12 school has led me to focus on educational AUP’s in this post.
AUP’s have evolved and continue to evolve as technology improves. In our school we are currently rewriting our policy due to its failure to deal with mobile technologies in school. As a small school we had relatively few issues and didn’t look far enough ahead. There is a current re-write of the AUP in our school going on which involves students, staff and parents. The previous devices policy which was in place can be seen here. For confidentiality reasons you will need a BSU account to log in to see this. It is clear to me my reading, that this document is lacking in content and structure. Something which has now been picked up on in school.
Commonsensemedia.org states that an AUP should, “publicly define what is deemed acceptable behavior from users of hardware and information systems such as the Internet and any applicable networks.” AUP’s set boundaries which the users in a environment must stick to. In schools these policies apply to pupils as well as staff and provide guidelines as well as sanctions and responsibilities. In our school, pupils are required to sign a copy of the AUP and younger pupils sign an amended copy with their parents. The policies are only effective if they are enforced consistently. In my context that has led to an attempt to involve Middle and High School students in redrafting the policy.
Reading through various policies it is clear that they are all different and have to be for each context. There does appear to be a format which is relatively consistent across many of the policies. The summary on education world.com which I read is paraphrased below and gave me the best overview of the process.
- Firstly the goals of the policy are made clear and established
- A second section often given definitions of technological vocabulary used in the policy. This is written to avoid any ambiguity and so that all parties signing the document fully understand the terminology. (This should be available in key languages spoken in school)
- A statement of policy makes clear which computer services in the school are covered by the policy – this can include cell and mobile technology, school network, email etc.
- The following sections should give clear definitions of acceptable and unacceptable usage. This should be as specific as possible making sure no language is ambiguous.
- The final section should cover violations, consequences and sanctions. Often this will be linked to the general school behavior policy or code of conduct policy.
Some different examples that I found across different schools included
- Needham public schools (which is the town where I live)
- Boston Public School’s AUP webpage has policies for different aged pupils and available in a variety of different languages.
- Keene School district is in N.H and its AUP has some clear definitions for students.
- Webwise.ie has a helpful set of guidelines for download which help to shape and write an AUP
- An example I found which seemed to follow the guidelines clearly was from the SANS institute. The policy was very clear and although not aimed at my grade level made it easier to understand the structure.
Although I was aware of what an AUP was before this, what I didn’t really know was the structure or the scope of what was required. AUPs have to be dynamic documents which are constantly revisited in light of new technologies, especially in schools. They are documents which serve to protect students and their schools.
Acceptable Use Policy (nd) Retrieved from: https://www.techopedia.com/definition/2471/acceptable-use-policy-aup
Acceptable Use Policy (nd)Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acceptable_use_policy
Sample Acceptable Use Policies (nd) Retrieved from:http://www.webwise.ie/teachers/sample-acceptable-use-policies-2/
Getting Started on the Internet:
Developing an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) (nd) Retrieved from: http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr093.shtml
1-to-1 Essentials – Acceptable Use Policies (nd) Retrieved from: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/1to1/aups