Although I had looked at AUPs in the past, I didn’t fully realize the thought and consideration that goes into creating these documents. Before, it was clear that the AUP was meant to establish guidelines for technology use that would protect students, technology, and the District. I also knew that this document’s purpose was to bridge communication between home and school and as an agreement by students and parents.
Reading through the National Education Associations suggestions for an effective AUP made me more aware of the six key elements—a preamble, definition section, policy statement, acceptable uses section, unacceptable uses section, and violations/sanctions section. As I researched different AUPs, I recognized that some elements were missing (most often the definition section) and the elements were labeled in different ways and/or combined.
I preferred AUP policies that included the acceptable and unacceptable uses in the same section. The phrasing made it sound less inhibitive and gave me the sense that the focus was geared more towards learning. For example, avoiding something was a more positive connotation than “don’t.” I believe the document should be student-friendly and empower them, not instill fear in them. By combining these sections, I found it possible to stay true to that philosophy.
Another observation was that many AUPs lacked a definition section. Honestly, until reading the list of key elements, I had never thought about how this technology jargon could be disconcerting for families. After going through my own AUP, I found many words that needed to be clarified. In education, we have become accustomed to the use of acronyms and complex technical jargon, but that doesn’t mean it is comfortable or easy. Making a conscious effort to inform families and clarify vocabulary helps make the document more accessible to all. I believe more families will sign the agreements with an understanding of the contents opposed to signing because it is being requested by the school. This helps us support students as they become informed decision-makers.
The part I found most challenging was the policy statement. It was hard for me to decide how to communicate to families that students would be exposed to many lessons on digital citizenship, privacy, and technology-related modules. In my opinion, while I appreciate that it is considered an important component of the AUP, I find it a weak section and even irrelevant. Technology skills and lessons vary from grade-to-grade, school-to-school, and teacher-to-teacher. It’s hard to create a generic document that fits the needs of the masses, while also acknowledging that technology education varies drastically.
I enjoyed this topic and plan to use my AUP when I begin to blog with my students. This will be a great way to communicate my expectations and get parents excited about technology integration.