The use of internet and technology in schools is a great asset. It opens a world of possibilities for teaching and learning, but in many peoples eyes it opens up a whole world of concern as well. To combat those concerns of students drifting to off task sites, finding inappropriate materials, or talking to someone they should not, districts, schools and teachers should develop acceptable use policies. These policies help set criteria for students, similar to the criteria for behavior in school on a daily basis.
As important as acceptable use policies are to the safety of students, experts note that they should “be based on a philosophy that balances freedom and responsibility.” I believe that it is important to teach students how to navigate their internet resources appropriately without doing it for them. It is an important strategy as global citizens to be able to decipher information. Rather than place harsh restrictions and begin with punishments, acceptable use policies should provide a guidelines that outline how to be safe. They should began by explaining what the policy is for and providing definitions to alleviate any misconceptions or confusion. They should provide an opportunity to students to learn about the policy and then explain the “acceptable” use that students must follow. Although you do not want to discourage students ability to decipher information, the next sections in an acceptable use policy allow students to understand that they can “abuse” the privileged to access information, as well as, put themselves in danger. Therefore, acceptable use policies should include a “non-acceptable” use section, as well as, how violations will be handled (Education World). Using this depth in an acceptable use policy will be beneficial in proactively planning for use of the internet.
For schools with younger students, it is important to not only educate students on how to use the internet acceptable, but also help minimize their access to inappropriate sites. Firewalls and filters can be beneficial to minimize student traffic on inappropriate sites. However, these are not 100% effective, again promoting that teaching students appropriate use is most beneficial. As students get older, Firewalls can prove troublesome, as they may block sites that are necessary to an assignment. For example, many civil war sites are blocked to students at my school. However, my students conduct and independent project on the civil war generating digital museum galleries and they need access to many resources. As a district, we had to quickly redesign our acceptable use policy and change the firewalls to allow students to access these sometimes controversial sites.
Another concern for students are their privacy issues. For example, my students create blogs to share their work. The intent of these blogs is to help students reach a more global audience and share their responses and ask questions of experts. However, parents and students are allowed to “opt out” of having their blogs public. Additionally, acceptable use policies can help students to understand the concept of not posting their full name and personal information. Our students blogs do not include our school district and just use student first names at this time. It is important to consider safety and privacy issues when creating an acceptable use policy (Roblyer, 2016). While these may not be a result of “student misuse” they are major part to teaching students to navigate the internet appropriate.
Below are some examples of acceptable use policies:
- Westport Public Schools – provides a list of guidelines
- Boston Public Schools – this site provides background to the creation of Boston’s AUP. They explain what their hopes and dreams were for creating a unique AUP that focused on being student-centered. Their pdocasts and resources are linked on the site.
- East Detroit Public Schools – I like the simplicity of the first page of this PDF. I think it provides much of the information i referenced above and keeps it simple enough for students to follow.
- Eugene, Oregon School District – This example fits vert well into the model provided by Education World.
Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching (7th ed.). Boston: Pearson.
“Education World: Getting Started on the Internet: Acceptable Use Policies.” Education World: Getting Started on the Internet: Acceptable Use Policies. Education World, 2009. Web. 10 Oct. 2016.