Why Have a Technology Policy in Your School or Library?
There are many benefits to using the Internet in elementary and intermediate education, but it is important for you to harness this powerful tool so that it is effective and safe for student use. For every great educational site, there are several more that feature unacceptable content for children. One of the best ways to keep the Internet safe is to teach responsible use, which is why developing and implementing your Appropriate Use Policy (AUP) is so imperative.

Make sure that students understand that agreeing to the terms of your AUP is their “ticket” or “pass” for going online. To ensure it is understood and followed, put your AUP in writing and print it out in the form of a contract. Have students, parents, and your principal commit to these rules by signing the contract. Be sure to post a copy of your AUP near each computer and remember that part of successful implementation of an AUP is making sure that someone in your school is appointed to enforce the AUP rules.

Your AUP should acknowledge that the school has attempted to limit access to inappropriate material, but should state that it is inevitable that some will fall through the cracks. The most important way to keep children safe while using technology is to monitor them and stress that parents do the same at home. Make sure to reiterate that the usefulness of the Internet and all the valuable information contained therein outweighs the possibility that children may be exposed to material that is not consistent with the educational goals of your school.

In addition to keeping your students safe, your AUP should also address issues of appropriate conduct online. Plagiarism has become all too easy for children to practice in the Internet age. Almost all K–12 students have used computers at school, but only 18 percent of students surveyed by Harris Interactive were taught the dos and don'ts of downloading copyrighted works. Make sure your students understand the why plagiarism is wrong, both ethically and legally.

Be sure that the language of your AUP is simple and clear so that students can easily understand it. It is helpful to tie the AUP to the Code of Student Conduct to help enforce the rules. Most Acceptable Use Policies include the following components:

  • a description of the instructional philosophies and strategies to be supported by Internet access in schools;
  • a statement on the educational uses and advantages of the Internet in your school or division;
  • a list of the responsibilities of educators, parents, and students for using the Internet;
  • a code of conduct governing behavior on the Internet;
  • a description of the consequences of violating the AUP;
  • a guide to what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable use of the Internet;
  • a disclaimer absolving your school division, under specific circumstances, from responsibility;
  • a statement reminding users that Internet access and the use of computer networks is a privilege;
  • a statement that the AUP is in compliance with state and national telecommunication rules and regulations;
  • a statement regarding the need to maintain personal safety and privacy while accessing the Internet;
  • a statement regarding the need to comply with Fair Use Laws and other copyright regulations while accessing the Internet;
  • a signature form for teachers, parents, and students indicating their intent to abide by the AUP.

Here are some other articles and Web sites that may help you better integrate technology at your school:

Handbook for Acceptable Use Policies (Virginia Department of Education)

Scholastic Administrator Technology Page — Scholastic's Administrator Technology area has the latest solutions and strategies on how to implement technology in the classroom, vet current tech trends, and secure funding for your technology program.

Internet Safety for Schools — A Quick Guide to Finding the Solution That’s Right for Your School.

Ten Ways to Take Charge of the Web — Easy strategies for Internet smarts.

Navigate the Legal Maze — Is your district technology program on the right side of the law? Find out in this overview of hot-button legal issues.

Stem the Tide of Technology-Assisted Plagiarism and tackle incidents properly when they occur — An overview of the plagiarism problem in schools today, steps you can take to prevent children from cheating, and tips on how to catch cheaters.