Helping schools, families, and students harness the power of technology responsibly.
Start by envisioning your ideal program. We know the first steps can be the hardest, so we've given you tools to help you define your goals, survey your community, and lay the groundwork for going 1-to-1.
Acceptable Use Policies
An acceptable use policy (AUP) is a policy that outlines, in writing, how a school or district expects its community members to behave with technology. Similar to a Terms of Service document, an AUP should define publicly what is deemed acceptable behavior from users of hardware and information systems such as the Internet and any applicable networks.
Many schools address both acceptable and unacceptable online behavior in their AUPs – not only prohibiting certain behavior (for example, plagiarism, pirating, visiting non-school related sites, etc.), but also defining positive goals for incorporating technology into the school day. Additionally, AUPs also can help comply with E-rate requirements set forth by the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). (See our E-rate Toolkit)
Today’s educators have the tough job of maintaining the delicate balance of protecting students while providing access to the digital world. Educators need to be comprehensive yet not limiting when creating a stimulating but safe learning environment. An AUP is a first step in framing these opportunities.
Remember, though that even if your AUP is School Board approved, it is only as strong as your commitment to enforce it. An AUP needs the school’s whole community support (including students’), as it can come into play when well-intentioned filters and monitoring systems fail.
While there is no set blueprint for writing AUPs, there are some universal guidelines for crafting them. Here are some suggestions:
- Research whether your state has an AUP that your district/school can use or adapt.
- Create a committee of stakeholders who will write your AUP.
- Begin with a statement of your vision, philosophy, or mission to frame the intent of your AUP. How is this technology and access a benefit to students, and what are the strategies that are in place to support such positive growth?
- Outline how the AUP supports or ties into any existing Code of Conduct. You should be addressing ethical issues as well as legal responsibilities.
- Define clearly what is acceptable use and what is unacceptable use.
- Include strong undertones of shared responsibility and ownership.
- Delineate the need for safety and privacy.
- Outline consequences of violating what rules/expectations are set forth.
- Consider whether you want to add any sort of legal disclaimer absolving your school/district from any illegal or otherwise inappropriate usage.
- Contemplate whether you need a statement about how you are complying with existing policies (e.g., bullying), state or national telecommunication rules and regulations, as well as fair use and other intellectual property laws.
- Include places for all stakeholders (teacher/administrator, parent/guardian, and student) to sign and date the AUP.
Cover your bases
Just to make sure you have covered your bases, ask yourself:
- How often do you plan to review and revise your AUP? Will it coincide with any technology plan updates?
- Have you used clear language that is free of complicated legalese? Have you defined any complex terms?
- How have you folded the AUP into your overall Code of Conduct?
- Does your AUP read like a list of “don’ts” or does it highlight the “do’s” as well?
- Does your AUP focus on students’ behaviors versus the devices? One test is to see if the expectation applies to a non-techy tool like a school textbook or a handwritten note.
- Do you need a separate AUP for your staff?
- Is the tone of your AUP appropriate for all audiences in your community?
- Do you need School Board approval?
- Is AUP the right title or would you rather call it a Responsible Use Policy (RUP)?
- Does an AUP cover all of your needs, or do you require more, such as a Technology Values document, an Internet Safety Plan, or Social Media Guidelines (see examples below)?
If there’s one thing that we heard loud and clear from administrators and teachers who helped design their schools’ AUPs, it’s the importance of open and frequent communication with the community. Consider different ways that you can be transparent about your expectations to different stakeholders at your school. Do you want to organize a public forum to field questions from families? Do you want to hold in-services for teachers and staff? Perhaps you want to create activities or assignments for students to ensure that they fully understand the content and implications of your AUP. Whatever you choose, continue to invite families into discussions so that there is a mutual understanding and commitment to upholding your AUP.
We truly recognize that all schools are unique, hence the difference in the details of AUPs. Knowing that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, these schools have shared their well-thought out AUPs with us and with you:
- Cape Elizabeth AUP
- The Nueva School AUP
- Hillbrook School AUP
- Campbell Hall Technology Values & AUP
- NYC DOE Social Media Guidelines
These AUPs are specimens only and may not be suitable to each user.
Visit these sites for more resources and information regarding AUPs:
Fitzer, Kim, and Jim Peterson. "An Educator's Guide to Enforcing Acceptable Use Policies." An Educator's Guide to Enforcing Acceptable Use Policies. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 7 Aug. 2002. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.
"Educational Technology." Educational Technology. State of Washington - Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.
"Acceptable Use Policies - NetCitizens." Acceptable Use Policies - NetCitizens. NetCitizens, n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.
Maderich, Mary. "AUP Best Practices for K-12." Aups. PBWorks, 24 Nov. 2008. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.
Office of Education Technology. "Acceptable Internet Use Policy." VDOE :: Acceptable Internet Use Policy. Virginia Department of Education, 2012. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.
"AUP Elements.doc" Heartland AEA - Iowa Area Education Agencies, n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.
"Rethinking Acceptable Use Policies to Enable Digital Learning." Web 2.0/Mobile AUP Guide. Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), Mar. 2013. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.
"Making Progress: Rethinking State and School District Policies Concerning Mobile Technologies and Social Media." Making Progress. Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.