An acceptable use policy (from here on out referred to as an AUP) is a policy that explicitly states how the school and/or district expects its students, staff, and any other members of the school and/or district to behave with respect to technology (Common Sense Media). This policy is typically given to members of the school and/or district in written form. The AUP can be downloaded by any member of the community as it outlines the expectations of acceptable behavior for users within the community. The AUP is an incredibly important document that does not typically receive the respect that it deserves.
Unfortunately, for many in education, an AUP has become as meaningless as the terms of agreement when signing up for iTunes. No one reads the AUP because he or she fails to understand the importance of the document. Unfortunately, lack of understanding the AUP can lead to negative consequences down the road. Many students in my school district have had consequences for violating the AUP when, they claim, they had no idea they were breaking any rules. The school shows the student and the parent the AUP that they signed at the beginning of the school year. Most parents and students say they did not actually read the AUP.
In order to alleviate this, the AUP has to be thorough without being overly wordy. This can be difficult to achieve as the AUP needs to predict most situations that will arise from the community using the technology; however, if the AUP is too wordy, many individuals will not sign it. A great way to combat that would be to have the AUP in list format. Additionally, as my school district does, it is helpful to have a list of terms defined so all stakeholders have common definitions for the terms. It is very difficult to disseminate all of the necessary information without being too wordy and redundant.
An AUP should address all aspects of Internet usage. This includes, but is not limited to:searching, downloading, publishing a school website, browsing websites, all electronic communication (including social media), etc. (National Centre for Technology in Education 2012). The Webwise AUP guidelines give a very detailed account of how to draft an AUP. It is important for drafters of an AUP to research guidelines to make sure every aspect is covered. Following these guidelines will assist in composing an effective AUP.
Following are four examples of AUPs used in school districts. The final AUP is the one given to families in the school district where I work.
These four examples all give very different examples of AUP. Some of the examples are more thorough, and some give fewer details. The problem with being too vague is that it leaves too much room for interpretation. While I am against making it too wordy, it appears that a more thorough AUP is necessary in order to keep all members of the community informed of what is and is not allowed while using technology.
National Centre for Technology in Education. (2012). Webwise AUP Guidelines: Developing internet policy in your school.
No author given. (2016). 1-to-1 essentials-acceptable use policies. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/1to1/aups.