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“Acceptable” or “Responsible?”

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Date posted: July 20, 2011

In a commentary in Education Week, Jim Bosco and Keith Kreuger of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) call for a switch in thinking from the outdated and negative approach of traditional acceptable-use policies (AUPs) for technology use in schools towards a more positive and proactive responsible-use orientation.

Most AUPs were created in the one-way world of Web 1.0 or in the early stages of the two-way Web 2.0 environment. They were devised to protect kids from harm being done to them by exposure to inappropriate content, conduct, or contacts. Older AUPs often focus their energy on what is wrong, or dangerous, or problematic with technology. They met the requirements of CIPA. They concentrate on what is prohibited.

But they don’t address some of the risks kids face today, from their own actions and from unintentional or calculated and malign actions of others: cyberbullying, sexting, maintaining a good digital reputation.

Students and teacher at a computerThey are no longer adequate for a time of ubiquitous mobile devices, social networks, and user-generated content. AUPs seldom call for media and information literacy to help students learn how to effectively find, sort, evaluate, analyze, and ethically use information; nor do they directly help kids learn how to clearly, cogently, and convincingly communicate information in these new digital spaces.

Precautions are certainly justified, but children also need to learn how to successfully navigate the digital landscape and, for that, schools need to “provide guidance on responsible digital citizenship.”

So Bosco and Kreuger call for “a new RUP policy/philosophy that treats the student as a person responsible for ethics and healthy use of the Internet and mobile devices.” They advocate for an approach that both helps kids develop the “disposition to avoid inappropriate and malicious sites” and actions as well as the “skill to assess the validity of information found on the Internet or passed along by others via social networking.”

CoSN offers a guide to Acceptable Use Policies in the Web 2.0 and Mobile Era for school districts. It’s a great starting point for schools administrators who are ready to start a conversation on updating policies to better reflect the digital realities of our time, get the most out their technology investments, and prepare students for their future.