Ahh the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). It is the quintessential sugar pill for easing the fear of many-an-administrator about what students will abstain from doing after they read and sign it. Not!
Montesquieu said “Useless laws weaken necessary laws“. This is so true for our beloved AUP. Not because it is useless, but because it is consistently weak.
In the vast majority of schools I’ve visited throughout my career the AUP is usually found only in an obscure webpage hardly anyone ever reads; within the annoying pop-up presented when joining the wifi network; and/or in the student/family handbook. Until today, I had a hard time remembering how ours even started.
Still, it does not mean it is not an important document. Well, important because we need to cover our backs in case of abuse or someone breaking the law using the campus network/computer. After all, control/filtering/monitoring/laws are the usual drivers for the need of such a document.
Otherwise no one really cares.
…or do they?
As the adults working in schools are coming of age in this new interconnected and ever more tactile world, sadly, their administrative policies are still crawling far behind. Policies/laws are having such a hard time catching up, yet everyone recognizes the need to create common understanding and rules of decorum in this new dimension of life as we know it. Otherwise, it’s every wo/man for themselves.
As for many other things in the life of a school community, we must find a way to implement a living document that outlines common agreements of how we will behave when using and otherwise interacting with school-provided technology resources. And we must do it in such a way that engages and informs the student body.
Tell us how to do it sensei
The challenge with drafting an AUP is that it must be within a context students understand – if you want it to be relevant, that is. Drafting a three-page document full of legalize and far out technical concepts does not a good AUP make. Adding instructions as to how to install and uninstall something to a computer should not be done at the AUP level. A simple, straight-to-the-point, and short document is your best bet.
The other thing an AUP need not address are prohibitions that could otherwise be handled by education – you know, the thing we are all in schools to provide. For instance, forbidding YouTube simply because it will “distract” students from learning does not make sense. Online resources can be leveraged to teach, and to block access to the very tools students are utilizing is missing a great teaching opportunity. More on that in a future post…promise.
Get on with it already
In thinking of how I will frame this document for the 2014-2015 academic year, I’m also thinking of how I will make this document a living document. That is to say; how can I device ways to keep bringing the conversation of technology and life on campus back to the AUP signed at the start of the year? I’m not doing this so that the community recognizes my writing or because I want to be at the center. More than anything I’m doing it because I feel that there are so many layers of “policy” our students are affected by in any given day that are totally obscure to them. It’s not fair. They should know where things are coming from, understand why, and be able to participate in making policies more real to them.
My aim for the 2014’2015 academic year is to make our school’s AUP visible, interactive, and memorable.
Visible: Burying it in the school website and within the student/family handbook should not be the only strategy. One thing that I am doing starting next year is to begin promoting “Techie Tuesdays” on campus. We have a “morning meeting” 4 days out of the week during which announcements and performances are made. I will make it my routine to be up there every Tuesday morning to alert the community about impending virus/hacking dangers, provide tips as to how to do something online or using our resources, and to remind them about one part of our AUP. Whatever part of the AUP I remind them of will have to be connected to school life in some way. It’s not about badgering or endless repeats, but about connecting the dots for them so that they see what’s on paper and how it relates to life.
Interactive: Another project for me to work on during the summer is to create some sort of either Mindcraft or SecondLife game to lead the students through the various parts of our community expectations as these relate to technology. I’ve yet to work out the details and only have a framework at this time. As soon as I have a complete workup I will share it with you.
Memorable: If students see it modeled, hear the same message consistently, and have some fun interacting with the idea, they are bound to remember it. I am sure to come up with more ideas – perhaps using Aurasma media on our hallway walls – or having them create media around the AUP will surely keep the conversation alive. I’m excited about trying out an Aurasma project as it will make it interactive and memorable all at the same time.
If you are doing some great things with your school AUP, please let me know, and I’ll be happy to share with the community. Otherwise, feel free to take at my final draft here. I always appreciate comments and suggestions, so pay it forward by doing so before you leave.