An AUP Critique

After completing my last big paper, I was at a residency for Walden University for five days last week. I played “get ahead” and “catch up” at work before and after the residency, so I am only now beginning to write and post again. This was, of course, written for class.

Oh, and in the “and Life” category… it is raining outside my office windows, and I love that. It probably comes from growing up here in Southern California – where any kind of weather is a special occassion.

Post web site critique of an Acceptable Use Policy available on the web (use search engine to find one). Include website address, reason(s) why you selected this policy for critique, your comments, questions, and/or concerns about the AUP.


For the purposes of this assignment, I have returned to the Newport-Mesa Unified School District Acceptable Use Policy. On the first page it states the following:

“This document consists of three parts:
1. Network Access Ethics — a less formal discussion of ethics for students
2. Acceptable Use Policy — formal rules & penalties
3. Consent and Waiver — for student and parents to sign-off that they are aware of the students’ restrictions regarding network access; and releasing the District of responsibility for students who choose to break those restrictions.”

The first section on ethics is the longest at six pages long, but this is not reproduced for students and parents. I find this to be educationally sound, pragmatic, and positive in focus. Unfortunately this is not reproduced for students or parents. They must seek it online and download the pdf you have just now.

The actual acceptable use policy is another two pages, and is also not reproduced for students. Ironically, given it’s title, this section does not focus on acceptable use, but tries to point out all manners of unacceptable use. I think this is a tactic destined to fail, as it invites students to find loopholes in the policy, and it can become quickly outdated. (See the handheld AUP below for my attempt at something that focuses more on acceptable use flexibility in the policy.)

Finally, the two page consent and waiver is a sort of mishmash of material that appears in the previous pages, and new material. There are a few positive points, but this too focuses on inappropriate use.
This form (usually printed back to back) is a part of the annual registration process; the N-MUSD still requires an affirmative signature in order to grant access. If the waiver is not returned, then it is presumed that the parents are not granting the student access.

When I worked there, tech coordinators campaigned each year to reverse the policy so that a positive response was presumed and students would not be denied access unless their parents returned a form saying so. This is often what would happen in practice… because these were completed on paper only and in many schools, only the tech coordinator would file them, so no administrative or support staff had access. Tech coordinators are not well paid enough (or at all interested in) policing the policy, so generally, unless a parent (or more likely, a guardian) contacted the school and said that they don’t want the student to have access, students would receive access.

Once my site moved to unique and secure logins for each student, it was easy enough to use the AUP as a sort of permission slip for receiving an account. This was all but impossible during the mass registration at the beginning of the year, though. Finally, I settled on setting up a special account in the student information system so that a student helper could see and change the AUP field without seeing or changing anything else about a student… so that they could go through the 1200 AUPs and make sure each one was entered in the SIS. Then I could look up whether or not a student had an AUP… and could query for no’s so I could deactivate their accounts.

The strange thing was that there was no way for the parent to indicate that they did NOT want their student to have access to the internet… there is no yes or no check box, only a signature line granting students access. So, we would often get back sheets with NO ACCESS scribbled all over to be sure we understood the parent was signing that they did not want their student to have access.

The Handheld AUP

When we set out to implement our handheld grant two years ago, we realized we needed an amendment to the network AUP to cover handhelds. As I set about writing it, I pulled out some of the positive phrases of the ethics document and tried to focus on acceptable use. I tried to make it brief and digestible, yet complete. I also tried to allow for some flexibility in the interpretation and enforcement of the policy in order to avoid students exploiting loopholes, and in order to avoid inane enforcement of the letter of the law in the face of obvious educational benefits. Given that students will always find a way around specific rules, I greatly prefer policies that capture the spirit of improving education.

I think this policy would have been perfectly useful with only this sentence, and it is what I focused on when presenting this to students as part of their orientation: All of the

“Students are expected to use a handheld computer for intellectual and scholarly pursuits.”

All of the words you see highlighted in the handheld AUP offered opportunities for vocabulary lessons and discussions. These were the other elements I focused on during my orientation sessions.

Some teachers (and many students) understood the spirit of this policy are were thankful for their freedom. Unfortunately some teachers wanted a more strict policy (such as “no games” – ah, but what if the games are educational, oh, and do you really want to police that at lunch and after school?), and they wanted consequences spelled out by first offense, first major offense etc. My feeling is that such policies are not for the students’ benefit, but are more a crutch for teachers who don’t want to make judgment calls on the fly about a technology they are uncomfortable with.

I imagine some of you will have though provoking reactions to this philosophy, and I look forward to any comments on either of these policies, but particularly on the one I wrote.