The acceptable face of policy

After reading through my school’s acceptable use policy I was struck by just how little it mentions social media use. There is a lot on digital citizenship and expectations students should be upholding, however, when it comes to empowering students to connect across global communities there was very little outlined in the school’s policy. Our AUP does lay out expectations regarding the creation of responsible user IDs. It also asks students to consider who they are communicating with before giving out personal information online. Additionally, there is a paragraph on how students are expected to protect themselves on the web and report malicious attacks or inappropriate material.

The acceptable use policy is available through the school website and is reasonably easy to find. A quick GOOGLE search will also allow access to the document. All teachers ask students to sign an agreement at the start of the year where they promise to adhere to this policy. I have tried to always tie this into our digital citizenship unit and encourage students not to sign the document until they feel comfortable with what it says they need to do. I haven’t had to review the policy yet with any students, however, I know that there have been instances where students have had to relinquish control of their device as they did not follow the procedures set out in our AUP.

In times when students do not follow the AUP and misuse technology, they can find themselves banned from having access to tech for a given number of days or weeks. I sometimes wonder if a blanket ban really does anything though. I can’t help but feel that, at times, it introduces the idea that technology is to blame for the actions of a student, rather than the student themselves. If a student hits another child with a ruler we don’t ban the use of rulers in class. Part of the reason this for this is that rulers are not seen as a privilege but rather as a tool. Is technology a privilege or a tool? Rather than taking away complete access to technology, should we instead explore the possibility of restricting access to certain apps or internet sites?

Empowerment

My school’s AUP uses a lot of negative language in order to set out its guidelines. After reading Scott Mcleod’s blog I feel that an Empowered Use Policy should become the norm in schools. Students have a desire to be curious and to mess around with technology. I feel that when a school’s acceptable use policy is worded in a legalistic way it could make students feel less willing to try out new programs or apps. Speaking personally, I want my students to have the confidence to take risks and show off their creations, an EUP could help with this. I also like how simple the language is. It is far more approachable and student-friendly than my school’s current AUP. The other difference in having an EUP is that I believe it would help students know that they will be supported when something does go wrong. Our current policy seems to insinuate that students are wholly responsible for anything that goes wrong with their devices.

In order to make students feel truly empowered I am now wondering if they should have more of a voice when it comes to drawing up an Acceptable Use Policy. I feel as though this would make an AUP more relevant and meaningful to all students. I believe too that the language used would become more positive through having students set out the guidelines for other students. I want to talk with my school’s tech director about the possibility of having our Lower School student council draw up and present the policy after the summer vacation. I would be really excited to see what they come up with.