In 2018, with school-based internet and educational firmly established in almost every classroom, we need a way to ensure that these great resources are used for their intended purposes. Therefore, in order to reap the benefits of technology and the internet in the classroom, while sifting out potential negatives, every school needs to have an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP).
A school’s Acceptable Use Policy is a document that outlines rules and expectations for the responsible use of computing resources, networks, and other technology at a school. Educationworld.com (2009) describes a vital and workable AUP as based on a philosophy that balances freedom and responsibility.
Each school or a district needs to have an AUP that is tailored to the specific needs of that school or a district. For this reason, many AUPs begin with the school’s mission statement and ethos. This can ensure that whatever regulations the AUP has, it will be aligned with the efforts done across the board at this school or a district. International School of Busan (South Korea), and St John Fisher Catholic School (UK), both have AUPs that start with the school’s mission statement.
There are many other good reasons to have an AUP at an educational institution. One of the very obvious reasons has to do with government laws and regulations. Schools need to ensure that protection acts such as Family Education Rights and Privacy Acts (FERPA in the U.S), or General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR in Europe) are enforced. Also, with cyberbullying and online predators on the rise, a set of rules that governs prevention and control of such issues becomes very important. As an example, New Canaan Public Schools in Connecticut uses FERPA as a foundation for the Data and Confidentiality part in their AUP. Another example is Bedford Modern School, whose AUP is made compliant to the GDPR.
AUPs in different educational institutions can vary in length and depth. Some are very detailed and descriptive, and some only consist of bullet points for the students and staff to follow. Below are essential parts of any school’s AUP, in my opinion:
- School’s mission statement – to align the AUP with the general direction of the school.
- AUPs rationale and scope – to outline the main purpose of the AUP.
- Internet use policy – outlines the do’s and don’ts for the use of online resources.
- Device use policy – outlines the do’s and don’ts for the use of physical devices, including networks.
- Consequences of incompliance – outlines the specific consequences of not following regulations in this AUP.
- Version to sign – a shortened version of the AUP written in a plain language, for students, parents, and staff to sign.
- Revision History – for keeping track of any changes and ensuring that the most recent rules are enforced.
In conclusion, we need Acceptable Use Policies at our schools, not only for the sake of taking control, but to make our students better prepared for their future. Adams writes that having a current, proactive, and legal AUP is another way to ensure that students acquire the information and technology skills necessary to be effective citizens in a democratic society (2008).