In business and education whenever internet access is needed and used, there needs to be an Acceptable Use Policy. In the modern world of education, it is not a question of whether or not students will need access to technology, but when. With access to computers and people all over the world also comes the availability of material that may not be considered to be of educational value in the context of the school setting. Before students are granted access to computers, it is critical that An Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) is agreed to. An AUP is a “written agreement all parties on a community computer network promise to adhere to for the common good. An AUP defines the intended uses of the network including unacceptable uses and the consequences for non-compliance.” (Mitchell, 2012) The Internet is full of content and images that are wonderful resources to expand a student’s educational experience; however, not all the material available is appropriate in an educational setting. Schools and business have developed AUPs to assist with dealing with concerns about students accessing inappropriate materials. Schools and districts develop and implement AUPs for their teachers, staff, and students. The AUP outlines and describes what the collective school system considers ‘acceptable and appropriate use’ of technology for educational purposes. An AUP protects an educational institution or system from any potential liability that may result from allowing its constituent’s access to the Internet.
The length and detail of AUPs will vary dramatically by districts and a variety of educational types. However, there are some generalities that can be developed. The National Education Association (NEA) suggests that an effective AUP should contain the following:
- A Preamble, a general overview including the relevant stake holders
- Definitions, clarifying specific vocabulary and terms
- Policy Statement, defining specifically services and devices
- Acceptable uses, clarifying the usage of all related materials
- Unacceptable uses, clarifying what is not allowed. This may also reference specific laws or regulations why content may be unacceptable.
- Consequences, specifically detailing the results of violating the AUP.
Technology is constantly changing at a faster rate than AUPs. According to the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), and principal investigator for CoSN James Bosco, many of today’s current school districts are working with outdated AUPs. An AUP needs to address two primary dimensions:
- Protect students from harmful content on the Internet and regulate students’ use of the Internet so they do not harm other students or interfere with the school’s instructional program.
- Provide students with good access to digital media to support engaged learning
According to Bosco, a good AUP must address the following key questions:
- How does policy differ from procedure, and does the difference matter?
- What federal laws regulate Internet use in schools?
- What state laws regulate Internet use in schools?
- What are two ways that school districts develop or revise the AUP?
- When – how often – should school district AUPs be updated?
- What are the implications of moving from an acceptable use policy to a responsible use policy?
- What are some timely, relevant, and useful resources pertaining to the use of digital media for learning?
Schools and districts must take care and time to develop good AUPs, but they must also regularly revisit and revise these policies. A good policy must try to keep pace with the ever-changing and developing world of technology. The following AUPs from districts throughout the United States were extensively reviewed.
Lake Washington School District: http://www.lwsd.org/About/Policies-Regulations/Admin-Policies/Instruction/Pages/Student-Use-of-Electronic-Resources-R.aspx
Los Angeles Public Schools: http://notebook.lausd.net/portal/page?_pageid=33,136640&_dad=ptl
Windham School District, NH: http://www.windhamsd.org/aup.cfm
State of Washington: https://www.k12.wa.us/edtech/InternetSafety/ElectronicResources.aspx
District of Columbia Public Schools: http://dcps.schoolnet.com/aup.aspx
National Education Association: http://www.nea.org/
Consortium for School Networking (CoSN): http://www.cosn.org/AUPguide
Acceptable Use Policy By Bradley Mitchell. About.com Guide. Retrieved from: http://compnetworking.about.com/od/filetransferprotocol/a/aup_use_policy.htm
Bosco, J., Krueger, K. (2011, July 20) Moving From ‘Acceptable’ to ‘Responsible’ Use in a Web 2.0 World Education week. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/07/20/37bosco.h30.html?r=1367949445
Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), (2013, April 4) CoSN Refreshes Acceptable Use Policy Guide. Retrieved from: http://www.cosn.org/AUPguide
Cromwell, S. (1998). Getting started on the internet: Developing an acceptable use policy. In Education World. Retrieved from: http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr093.shtml
Doherty, N. F., Anastasakis, L., & Fulford, H. (2011). Reinforcing the security of corporate information resources: A critical review of the role of the acceptable use policy. International Journal of Information Management, 31(3), 201-209. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com.libproxy.boisestate.edu/science/article/pii/S0268401210000873
Siau, K., Nah, F. F. H., & Teng, L. (2002). Acceptable internet use policy. Communications of the ACM, 45(1), 75-79. Retrieved from http://dl.acm.org.libproxy.boisestate.edu/citation.cfm?id=502302
Walker, T. (2012). Friend or Foe? Schools still struggling with social media. Retrieved from: http://neatoday.org/2012/04/25/friend-or-foe-districts-still-struggling-with-social-media/