Acceptable Use Policy

In today’s technology-rich society, many schools are finding it necessary to adopt Acceptable Use Policies.  The Acceptable Use Policy is created by a school system as a way to ensure that the school technology devices, network storage, and internet connections are being used for educational purposes and not for inappropriate content or personal gain. In all of my teaching placements, the policy is posted on the school website and it is also sent home with students in a paper format on the first day of school.  The policy can also be printed in the Student Handbook or Code of Conduct. Most school districts require the student and parent/guardian to sign a form stating that they have read and understand the Acceptable Use Policy and accept its terms before the student may use technology, including wi-fi, at school.

According to the Consortium for School Networking, Acceptable Use Policies focus on two main issues: protect and provide.  The Acceptable Use Policy needs to “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 and provide students with good access to digital media to support engaged learning” (2013).

The National Education Association recommends that an Acceptable Use Policy should contain a preamble, definitions, a statement of the policy, acceptable uses, unacceptable uses, and a violations/sanctions section. The Policy should include the district’s goals and mention that the Code of Conduct still applies to the online environment. Definitions should be included to ensure clarity and understanding, specific examples of unacceptable use need to be provided, and consequences for violations need to be explicit.

While the content varies from school system to school system, many follow similar formats.  Some Acceptable Use Policies are also including information about copyright and fair use (Roblyer, 2016).  Other policies have started to include information about the reporting process when you observe someone using school system technology in an unacceptable manner.

Writing an Acceptable Use Policy requires a great amount of skill and editing.  The document needs to be long enough to include all the necessary information without becoming so long that the students and parents cannot (or do not take the time to) read the entire policy.

A few years ago, I visited the library of a local university to do some research.  Every time that a user launched a web browser on a library computer, the main landing page was the Acceptable Use Policy.  In watching those around me, I could tell that they did not stop to read the 5-6 paragraphs, but at least the institution was making sure that the policy was available.

I am providing links to some examples of Acceptable Use Policies from several educational institutions that I have connections with:

Virginia Community College System

Loudoun County Public Schools

Fairfax County Public Schools  and the Fairfax County Public Schools Signature Form

Warren County Public Schools (found on pages 23-25)

References

Consortium for School Networking. (2013). Rethinking acceptable use policies to enable digital learning: A guide for school districts. Washington, DC.

Hopkins, Gary. (n.d) Getting Started on the Internet: Acceptable Use Policies. Education World. Retrieved from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr093.shtml

Roblyer, M. D. (2016).  Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th edition).  Boston: Pearson.

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