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Dear Otto: What’s a good Technology Acceptable Use Policy?

Posted by on August 18, 2014

tech questionsDear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. If you have a question, please complete the form below and I’ll answer it here. For your privacy, I use only first names.

Here’s a great question I got from D:

I have been a follower of Ask A Teacher site for some time and find the resources very helpful. I recently completed a MEd. in Technology Integration and am teaching technology as a tool to promote learning. I currently work in a 6-12 school in Nova Scotia, Canada where we have a Middle School within a High School. The school is struggling with establishing policy related to technology use, hand held devices, and social media. We teach digital responsibility and citizenship to our younger students with lesser success at the higher grades. Our administration, staff and parent council are requesting that we evaluate our current practices.

I am trying to locate examples and/or information related to technology policies in schools and was wondering whether you are aware of some particularly creative ones. Any suggestions or direction you might be able to point me in would be greatly appreciated.

Thank-you for your time and consideration

Let’s start with: Why have a technology Acceptable Use Policy? The answer is simple, and it’s the same reason why you establish any policies at your school: To inform stakeholders. How should they use the internet and digital devices? What’s appropriate for school that may be different from other locations? What are consequences if errant use? Why should the stakeholders care about using school technology appropriately?aup

There are many benefits to technology in education, but as many negatives. To truly serve the scholastic journey, technology–digital devices and the access to information–must become an effective and safe tool for student and teacher use. The way to communicate that plan is through a Technology Acceptable Use Policy (aka, AUP and Appropriate Use Policy). Design it, then share it. Make sure students understand what they’re agreeing to and why.

An Acceptable Use Policy revolves around three areas:

  • internet use
  • digital device use on the school campus
  • legalities

The trick to making guidelines effective and deliverable is to meet with your admin, teachers, and parents–and probably your legal representatives also. Find out what’s important to them and integrate those into the policy. Definitely, that list should include (find more detail from Scholastic):

  • instructional philosophies and strategies supported by Internet access
  • educational uses of the Internet
  • a list of the responsibilities of educators, parents, and students
  • a code of conduct governing behavior
  • consequences of violating the policies
  • a guide to what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable use of the Internet
  • a disclaimer absolving your school under specific circumstances from responsibility;
  • a statement reminding users that Internet access and the use of computer networks is a privilege
  • the need to maintain personal safety and privacy while accessing the Internet;
  • the need to comply with Fair Use Laws and other copyright regulations while accessing the Internet
  • a signature form for teachers, parents, and students indicating their intent to abide by the policies
  • treatment of other student’s devices
  • illegal activities
  • social media guidelines

Above all–have one. Students need to understand the guidelines for digital rights and responsibilities that will inform their use of the internet.

Here are a few examples you might find helpful:

More on technology in education:

3 Problems to Address Before Blogging at Your School

Help Kids Use the Internet Safely with a Start Page

Tech Ed Resources for your Classroom–Digital Citizenship Curriculum

To ask Otto a question, fill out the form below:

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of dozens of technology training books that integrate technology into education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, a tech ed columnist for, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out next summer.

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