Course 2 Final Project: Acceptable Use Policies

AUPs = one small piece of a much bigger puzzle

Background
I joined forces with Michelle Laudermilk for our final project. Michelle and I are both the lone COETAILers at our schools right now and were able to connect through the COETAIL site. Besides being solo COETAILers and being at schools in private international schools in Guandong Province, China (me in Shekou, Michelle in Guangzhou) our school situations are at different stages in regards to technology. My school (Shekou International School) already has quite a bit of technology and equipment available to our students. We have one to one laptops in grades 7-12 and will be converting to a Mac school over the next 4 or 5 years. We do have an AUP that was written seven years ago when the school was much smaller and other IT documents. Michelle’s school (Guangzhou Nashu International School), on the other hand, has limited computer access (computer lab) at this time and Michelle is in the process of creating a complete IT Policy and Procedures (including AUPs) document for her school.

Michelle and I were able to converse using Skype and had some great conversations about AUPs and IT policy in general. We shared links and documents that we had found and Michelle shared her experience and knowledge from working with IT in the business world in the United States. Some questions we came up with and discussed included:

What do we use for guidance in developing an AUP?
How do we set boundaries regarding AUPs yet be flexible and comprehensive?
How do we assess the quality of an AUP?
How is it enforced?
The focus of an AUP tends to be on student behavior. How about staff?
Should the goal be to integrate IT policies/expectations into the general school behavior expectations (i.e. code of conduct) instead of having it as a separate piece?

After a few lengthy Skype conversations, we decided to organize our project around recommended components of an AUP and taking a look at my school’s current AUP and the one Michelle was creating for her school. We put these into a Google Doc to show our suggestions and comments regarding the components and the text. [You'll need to go to the Google Doc to see our comments. They don't appear on the embedded document below] I found several sites that referred to the recommendations of the NEA (National Education Association/US) and Michael D. King’s Developing Acceptable Use Policy document and from there developed a list of components that schools should consider including in their AUPs:

  • preamble
  • policy statement
  • acceptable uses
  • unacceptable uses
  • violations/sanctions
  • acknowledgement & signatures

We’ve also included a place for Considerations/Comment and Resources. Michelle and I have also used the ‘comment’ function on Google Docs to make comments about specific text. (I have set the Share settings to allow others to add their own comments as well.)

Some Observations
As I cut and pasted my school’s AUP into the different sections I realized our acceptable uses and unacceptable uses are blended together in a list so I separated them out. I think these should be separate and the acceptable use section should be a place to really promote good digital citizenship. I’ve seen many AUPs that are a “Don’t do this or this will happen.” I think the AUP should also let students know how to ‘do it right’.

Regarding the preamble, I think my school should include text from our Technology for Learning Philosophy to help give it more purpose. I see many AUPs limited to one page and the preamble and policy statement can take up some room and be a bit wordy. But they also give purpose to the AUP in the bigger scope of the school’s policy and expectations.

I found it interesting that I liked some of formal wording and structure in Michelle’s document and she liked the friendlier tone in mine. Michelle is creating a very comprehensive document for her school and is addressing many issues. I think schools have to consider what their AUP is going to be. Is it going to be a comprehensive document to be shared with all or is it going to be more of permission slip for students to use technology provided by the school connected to the larger IT policies and procedures?

 Some final thoughts
This was a great experience collaborating with Michelle on this final project. We had some great conversations which I can’t begin to summarize in a few paragraphs. I really took a good look at my own school’s AUP and now have suggestions and resources regarding how we could update and improve our current AUP. Michelle brought up great points about safety, security, privacy and monitoring. I think I may have more questions to ask than answers to give! However, my main suggestion would be that creation or revision of an AUP needs to be a collaborative effort that includes administrators, board members, teachers, staff, and students. (I would recommend using Andrew Churches AUA Analysis Tool.) And its development should be in relation to a look at our IT policies and procedures as a whole.  I would also suggest that we look at how we incorporate the bigger concept of digital citizenship into our curriculum and into our code of conduct. Just a few ideas from one teacher…

(We welcome your comments on our Google Doc: Course 2 Final Project AUP (DB & ML)!)

Link to Michelle’s reflection for our Course 2 Final Project

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