Acceptable Use Policies

Acceptable use policies are written documents that outline user expectations for using a technological device or networks such as the internet. This acceptable use policy could extend to any business entity that provides the above named tools to its users, however in regards to this exploration of Acceptable Use Policies the focus will be on utilization of such plans in schools or school districts.

Acceptable Use Policies must first define what is acceptable vs non-acceptable use of the internet and technological devices provided by the institutions. A school district that achieves this in a clear and concise manner is the Idaho Digital Learning Academy. Their plan, which can be found at the website listed in the reference category contains a strong opening paragraph for acceptable use in which the idea of how the internet is to be used is summed up by the statement that, “All students are expected to use Idaho Digital Learning and the resources provided to access Idaho Digital Learning for purposes appropriate to the education environment.” Though this may seem a bit vague I found that it provided a clear focus of using resources for educational purposes, and since those may be diverse in nature it is appropriately worded to provide expectations without being overly restricting. This is then strengthened by a bullet point list of non-acceptable use practices that are very clear and specific. For example the following things are not allowed in any way through the school’s technological resources: defamatory, obscene, rude, profane, threatening, and several other unacceptable uses are clearly outlined through this section of the policy.

A second element necessary for an Acceptable Use Policy is a section in which clear consequences are set forth for violating the user expectations. Vallivue school district, who’s plan is also referenced below, includes such a section though I find it to be fairly generic in nature and allows the possibilities of the consequences one may face to seem as though they may be arbitrarily assigned. An example of the language for this policy states that a breach of expectations, “…may result in usage restrictions, loss of access privileges, and/or disciplinary action leading up to expulsion.” However, the plan does include a mention of legal consequences if necessary as well as attention to consequences one would face if found guilty of willfully destructing any of the technological resources. In stark contrast to the seemingly vague nature of the discipline outlined in Vallivue’s policy is a more in depth description provided by Caldwell School District, referenced below. In Section 15 of Caldwell’s plan discipline is outlined in four subsections that include loss of privileges, removal from class, and damage responsibility with the fourth subsection providing an explanation for how a student may be able to complete a task that must be done using technology if they have previously lost privileges. I found that Caldwell’s plan and their specific descriptions regarding consequences such as, “The duration of the loss would depend on the student’s age and severity of the violation…” provided for a clearer understanding of the tools in which consequences would be assessed.

From Caldwell’s specifically worded consequences to New York City Department of Education’s explicitly outlined social media use policy is the need for Acceptable Use Plans to have clear language that defines any complex terms that might be misconstrued by its users or stakeholders. With the ever changing nature of the world wide web and the host of networking sites that are available it is becoming necessary to create plans that not only outline acceptable use regarding hardware and informational networks but also more explicitly social media. We are exploring a technological world of communication in which the rules for use of such programs are being written as we go. This policy differs from the rest as it is written specifically for the employees of the school district in regards to acceptable use of social media, in general as a representative of the school district and in regards to communications with students. Implementing a policy with a specific social media focus such as New York’s which is referenced below helps to clarify exactly what is covered in the policy and expected of its users. For example in this plan social media is explicitly outlined as, ” any form of online publication or presence that allows interactive communication, including, but not limited to, social networks, blogs, Internet websites, Internet forums, and wikis. Examples of social media include, but are not limited to, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, and Flickr.” This not only names some commonly used collaborative tools as well as leaves room for any new program that could suddenly become the new trend.

As technology continues to evolve, seemingly by the minute, there will always be need for Acceptable Use Policies and an even greater need to revisit and revise these plans. Each of the plans reviewed here were strong in unique and different elements. Just as there is never a magic bullet way to teach a concept within our classrooms, I don’t believe there will ever be a magic bullet plan that can cover everything our students may do or encounter. However, no matter how strong a plan may be it is nothing without our willingness and diligence in enforcing it.

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