Developing a School Acceptable Use Policy
The Internet is a wide open environment that contains many helpful educational resources, but also many documents, images, and files that may not be suitable for children. To help deal with concerns about students accessing inappropriate materials, many school districts are developing and implementing acceptable use policies for their teachers, staff, and students. These policies describe what the school system deems 'acceptable use' of technology for educational purposes. These policies help protect school systems from any liability incurred by allowing students, teachers, and staff access to the variety of information on the Internet. This activity describes how to develop an acceptable use policy, suggestions for getting community support for this policy, and references to other resources available on the development and implementation of these policies.
In developing our lessons and activities, we made some assumptions about the hardware and software that would be available in the classroom for teachers who visit the LETSNet Website. We assume that teachers using our Internet-based lessons or activities have a computer (PC or Macintosh) with the necessary hardware components (mouse, keyboard, and monitor) as well as software (operating system, TCP/IP software, networking or dial-up software, e-mail and a World Wide Web client program, preferably Netscape, but perhaps Mosaic or Lynx). In the section below, we specify any "special" hardware or software requirements for a lesson or activity (in addition to those described above) and the level of Internet access required to do the activity.
Bringing technology into the classroom can be a powerful, if not frightening, process. Along with all the wonderful resources available on the Internet there are some things parents and teachers may not want their children and students to experience. To help students, parents, teachers, and staff understand, engage in, and monitor wise use of the Internet, many school systems are implementing acceptable use policies (AUP) for their students and personnel. These policies lay out under what conditions access to the Internet from a school computer is acceptable and when it is not. These policies generally take the form of a written document which describes what is acceptable school use of technology.
Many communities are implementing policies that guide student, teacher, and staff use of technological resources so as to limit liability and restrict access to those resources that are deemed "appropriate" for educational use. Restricting access to resources brings up concerns of censorship. School districts need to address these concerns by thinking carefully about what they want their students to have access to, how they want to restrict access (assuming they do), and what they will do when students gain access to materials deemed inappropriate.
While each community must decide for itself what it feels is appropriate use of technology, there are many helpful resources available on the Internet that can guide the creation and implementation of an acceptable use policy for schools. In addition to the resources in the Internet Resources section below, school personnel may wish to consider the following issues when developing an acceptable use policy:
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