Last year I had the opportunity to teach a sixth grade class that had daily use of iPads. This was a great blessing and a great curse. The administration carefully calculated the number of copies made and was trying to trim the cost of paper thus wanting us to use the iPad for as much as possible. I came into the class mid-year and had been made aware that all the students had signed an Acceptable Use Agreement. I felt confident in my ability to use the iPad to teach and transmit paperless assignments. I loved the data I could collect from our various activities and exit strategies. Basically, the iPads helped ME, the teacher. It took a few weeks for me to realize what was happening silently throughout the classroom. Students were sending private messages via their email accounts, making jokes about others, playing online games with each other, and many more devious pranks that I had no idea were happening. Although teaching was great with the iPad, it was clear that there was little to no learning happening and that the iPads were a great source of distraction.
Once I figured out what was happening we put the iPads away and held a class discussion that included revisiting the AUP. Through the course of our discussion I realized that while they had all technically signed the AUP, they really had no idea what it all meant because the terminology was a bit over their heads. As we went through each section, piece by piece, everyone agreed that they understood it better and agreed to sign a “new and improved” version that I later drafted (the same district version but with clearer definitions attached per our classroom discussion).
While we had to stick to our “consequences of bad behavior” and not use the iPads for the remainder of the week, upon reintroduction the students again went through the AUP and agreed to follow it. I would like to say that a miracle occurred and nothing bad ever happened again but that would be lying. However, things were greatly improved and our disruptions due to misuse were far less than before.
An Acceptable Use Policy/Agreement (AUP) is a document or set of rules employed by the owner or manager of a network. Most businesses, network providers, or schools require that participants sign an acceptable use agreement before being granted access to the network. According to TechTarget.com’s (n.d.) definition of AUP, an Internet Service Provider will require agreement to certain terms such as:
- Not using the service as a part of breaking the law
- Not using the service to hack a computer network or another user
- Not using the service to send junk emails or spam
- Report any attempt to break into their account
In an article detailing an Acceptable Use Policy, Educationworld.com (n.d.) suggests 6 key elements that should be included in every AUP. These elements include:
- Preamble: This portion of the AUP explains WHY the policy is needed. It should include the goals and also stipulate a code of conduct for online activities.
- Definition: This section should define the key words that will be found through the AUP such as, Internet, network, and other unclear terms. Students and parents both must clearly understand the rules in order to effectively abide by them.
- Policy or Agreement Statement. This section must tell what computer services are covered by the AUP and carefully details the circumstances in which a student can use the computer and network (Educationworld.com, n.d.). For example, does the AUP cover “bring your own device” (BYOD)?
- Acceptable Use Section. This section must clearly define what is deemed as appropriate use. For example, if appropriate use includes anything used for “educational purposes,” then “educational purposes” must be clearly defined. Clear rules and expectations will eliminate many potential conflicts.
- Unacceptable Use Section. This section must clearly definite was it deemed as inappropriate use. This section may include:
- Sending and receiving private messages from students
- Posting or sharing information to social networks
- Posting or sharing photos without the knowledge or consent of both parties
- Any “forbidden” websites
- Any behaviors that may damage or destroy the hardware
- Prohibited chat rooms
- Clear examples of inappropriate student use
- Violation Section. This section should carefully explain how to report any violations and to whom they should report. The National Education Association suggests that “the AUP may simply provide that violations will be handled in accordance with the school’s general student disciplinary code.”
- Signatures: Although this is not technically considered an actual section of the AUP, most AUPs provide a section for the student and the parent date and sign, just like a contract. This contract is then binding and puts the responsibility in the hands of the student and the parent.
I would personally include another section on safety and details on how to keep the student safe on the Internet. This would include not only safe browsing but also how to respond to inappropriate material they may encounter accidentally and to whom they can report such encounters.
The key to a successful Acceptable use Policy is to keep the jargon clear and free from highly technical terms that students will not understand, such as with my sixth grade class. Those drafting the AUP may not always be keen to the level of understanding of those they are writing for. Clear examples, understandable terms, and well-defined consequences will prove greater compliance with the agreement.
Examples of Acceptable Use Policies
Acceptable use policy (AUP). (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2015, from http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/acceptable-use-policy-AUP
Getting Started on the Internet: Acceptable Use Policies. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2015, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr093.shtml