Acceptable Use Agreements (AUP) related to technology use in schools can be seen as a dime a dozen? So common place, that they have little value…UNLESS…we begin to view the importance of their purpose in a whole new light. Having never really read the fine print on the ones I have had to sign till now, I fear that many others follow this same pattern making the work behind such an AUP almost obsolete. So why the change of heart?
Firstly, it was one of the projects we could choose to complete for our final Course 2 COETAIL assignment. Tasked to create an AUP working collaboratively felt like the right thing to do as we had been talking about personal learning networks and sharing ideas online during Course 1. It also made sense to me, personally, as I wanted to connect with our IT department as a regular class teacher. By impacting “their world”, it could become my world…and then more importantly, the world of my students.
And then, I also needed to become aware of what exactly I was signing. What did I have permission to do on the network? How would or could it impact my teaching? Was I breaking the “law”? If I did not know, how could I expect my students to know and acknowledge the fact that our school had one…and that somehow made the decision easier to walk down the AUP lane with fellow cohorters, Marcello Mongardi from TAISM and Sarah Leonardis from YIS. We truly journeyed together, discovering new things, planning the route to follow and blazing slightly new trails through the underbrush of policies, permissions and procedures.
After looking at our current AUP, I believed that the time had come for our whole school policy to be broken down into various sections. My collaborators agreed. Currently, the language is mostly focused on the High and Middle School as they have greater access to the one to one laptop program and daily application of technology in their lives. I am advocating for change and hope to have more laptops available in elementary as well, definitely in upper elementary. Therefore, it seemed that separate grade 4-5, grade 2-3 and K-1 policies were on the cards.
Each of these sections will have potentially unique interactions with computers and the internet and they also have different ability and maturity levels. My first decision after reviewing many AUP documents that we shared using DROPBPOX was to follow the “Keep it Simple” principle. After all, who is the target audience? Students need kid friendly language. After a first draft, I shared these documents with actual classroom teachers who were more familiar with actual language used in these different age levels. They made suggestions that I incorporated into the AUP.
Our school uses a “code of conduct” we call the ICS Way. It determines appropriate behavior in three areas: Taking Care of Self, Others and this Place. As our current AUP is linked to that, I decided to follow suit and formatted the document accordingly. There are plans to integrate units into our curriculum based on the ICS WAY, and it would be extremely appropriate to introduce and reinforce the AUP during these units.
I did not update or change the content of the original document much. It seemed to adequately cover issues of online privacy and safety as well as appropriate and responsible use of technology equipment. Some of my changes include being more specific, defining general terms so that there were examples for students. I also added a cyber-bullying section as it was not clearly addressed in the current document, after discussing this with our elementary IT teacher. I have also decided to keep the introductory wording from the original document, only adding a section where students and other parties sign for accountability reasons.
Finally, I am toying with the idea of creating a “lesson worksheet” version for the younger grades. By adding boxes where students can draw picture related to the points, it will make it more meaningful for them and possibly be useful for teachers who have to cover the AUP in their classrooms.
All in all…a wake-up call to me! AUP’s have a purpose and need to be actively shared as part of a school’s culture. If not, they will just become another dime…lost in the dozen.