Wingate aup critique portfolio

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  • 1. Acceptable Use Policy 1 Running Head: ACCEPTABLE USE POLICY – ***** COUNTY SCHOOL SYSTEM Acceptable Use Policy – ***** County School System Mary “Nicole” Bennett Wingate Georgia Southern University FRIT 8530
  • 2. Acceptable Use Policy 2 Abstract The focus of this paper is to critique the ***** County School System’s Acceptable Use Policy. The policy is being evaluated based on the components identified by Sharon Cromwell in Education World and the Virginia Department of Education. The county’s AUP’s strengths and weaknesses are identified, along with suggestions for improving the AUP as a whole. It is suggested that detail is the key component in an AUP.
  • 3. Acceptable Use Policy 3 Remember when the library was a place where one only had access to books, all papers were handwritten in pen, and communication with someone across the world was a complicated endeavor? Well, those days are gone, and the Internet is here! The Internet has opened several doors for education and expanded possibilities for assignments and gaining knowledge. While these new opportunities are a great improvement, certain guidelines and protocol for the use of these resources must be established. That is where a school system’s Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) comes in. Just what is an AUP? According to the Virginia Department of Education (n.d.), an AUP “…outlines the terms and conditions for using technology-based devices maintained by schools and personal technology-based devices used during school hours on school property” (par. 2). Every school must have an AUP, and it should be signed by parents, teachers, and students to ensure that they understand and agree to abide by the regulations within it. The ***** County School System is no different. Its current AUP was adopted in April of 2005 and explicitly states the guidelines for Internet use in the school system. Overall, the ***** County School System’s AUP does an excellent job of stating exactly what the Internet is to be used for on school grounds. This statement of use, which is referred to by Sharon Cromwell as being part of an AUP’s (1998)“acceptable uses section,” is one of “…six key elements” in AUPs (par. 1 & 5). ***** County’s AUP doesn’t just meet the criteria of Sharon Cromwell, though. There are several of the AUP components mentioned by the Virginia Department of Education that ***** County’s AUP masters. For example, the AUP clearly states that Internet access is (***** County BOE 2005) “…for limited educational and instructional purposes…” (p. 1). This statement of the Internet’s purpose is one of the major strengths of ***** County’s AUP. On several instances, the reader is reminded that the Internet is to be used only for educational reasons. And while the ***** County BOE does not overlook
  • 4. Acceptable Use Policy 4 the fact that the Internet does present students access to information that is inappropriate and unethical, they state that (2005) “…the benefit of utilizing the valuable information and interaction available on this worldwide network far outweighs the possibility that users may procure material that is not consistent with the school system’s educational goals” (p. 1). This acknowledgement of un-educational and inappropriate information on the Internet strengthens the AUP because it shows that the advantages are so great that they outweigh these potential problems. It’s extremely important that readers of the AUP understand the Internet’s educational benefits. However, because inappropriate material is available online, the BOE includes a statement disclaiming them from all responsibility when the Internet is used inappropriately. They state the Internet is accessible (2005) “…at the user’s own risk” (p. 1). The inclusion of this disclaimer is another strong point in ***** County’s AUP. Therefore, this rural town’s AUP makes clear, on several instances, the purpose and advantages of Internet usage in the schools, and denies responsibility for any damage when the Internet is not used according to the guidelines and criteria set forth in the school system’s AUP. By doing this, the school system provides students with the widest array of information available, while simultaneously placing the responsibility of appropriate use on the students themselves. The first two pages of ***** County’s AUP, which include the information in this paragraph, could be referred to as Sharon Cromwell’s (1998) “preamble” (par. 2). This crucial element of an AUP sets the stage for the remainder of the policy. However, the statement of intent and disclaimer of school responsibility are not the only strengths in ***** County’s AUP. Instead, they are simply the first of many. Since the ***** County BOE already acknowledged the inappropriate capability of the Internet, they further outline those actions and uses of school Internet that are deemed unacceptable. On the third,
  • 5. Acceptable Use Policy 5 fourth, and fifth page of the school system’s AUP, the BOE provides a detailed list of several inappropriate uses that will be addressed with disciplinary actions. The detailed list gives great guidance to the Internet users about exactly what will not be tolerated on school computers. The detail in this section is very important because you don’t want to leave readers wondering if a certain action or online use is acceptable. This section would be what Sharon Cromwell refers to as the (1998) “unacceptable uses section” (par. 5). These “unacceptable” uses include, (***** County BOE 2005) “Accessing materials or communications that are…abusive, obscene, [or] sexually oriented” (p. 3). Also included in this list of unacceptable uses is the violation of copyright laws, which is another key AUP component according to the Virginia Department of Education. While the school system lists many behaviors that are “unacceptable,” they also state that the list is not all-inclusive, leaving them room to discipline users who partake in other actions that they know are inappropriate, but were inadvertently left off of the list. A description of how users will be punished for unacceptable use is also included. This list of punishments is important so that users understand the severity of their trespasses, and it ensures all punishment is consistent. This detailed list of inappropriate uses, along with the punishment for these uses, is a major strength of ***** County’s AUP. Also dispersed throughout the AUP are mentions of safety measures that are implemented within the network by the school system. For example, Internet filters are used to block unwanted or inappropriate sites, and system administrators have access to all mail accessed on school grounds to guarantee it is of an appropriate nature. Both of these measures are implemented to ensure that the school system is doing everything in their power to ensure that school Internet users are abiding by the AUP, and that the Internet is used only for educational purposes. The AUP then goes on to address how network security is ensured, and states that no
  • 6. Acceptable Use Policy 6 “risk” users are allowed to access the network. And finally, in regards to security, the AUP addresses the ways that security breaches are addressed and lists the appropriate means of reporting any inappropriate Internet behavior. The inclusion of the policy for reporting violations is an important element of an AUP referred to by Sharon Cromwell as the (1998) “violations/sanctions section” (par. 8). After all, even if the violation is noticed, nothing can be done unless it is reported. All of these above mentioned components strengthen ***** County’s AUP. The final strength to be mentioned of this county’s AUP is the inclusion of signature pages. At the end of the AUP, there are pages provided for teachers, parents, and students to sign. Each of the above mentioned groups must sign the signature page to be allowed access to the Internet on school grounds. The signature form, which is a page long for each of the three groups (parents, teachers, and students), reminds each group of their responsibilities and roles concerning school Internet use. Without the inclusion of a signature page, the reader is not held accountable for the procedures and regulations presented in the AUP. These signature pages act as Cromwell’s key AUP element, the (1998) “policy statement” (par.4). The policy statement gives the circumstances that allow one to use the Internet on school grounds, which in this case, is the signing of these forms. The inclusion of these signature pages, along with all of the other above mentioned components makes ***** County’s AUP a well-written policy. Even though ***** County’s AUP has many strong points and is an overall well-written policy, there are a few areas where the policy is weak. For example, Sharon Cromwell suggests that all effective AUPs have six essential elements, among which is a “definition section.” The definition section (Cromwell 1998) “…defines key words used in the policy…such as Internet, computer network, [etc.]…” (par. 3). This element is completely missing in ***** County’s
  • 7. Acceptable Use Policy 7 AUP. While there aren’t many words in the AUP that would need defining, the inclusion of this section would help readers, especially those who are less educated, better understand what exactly is included in the policy. The inclusion of this element could also strengthen another weakness of the county’s AUP, the fact that it does not make clear that the AUP applies not only to school computers, but any personal device used on school grounds and during school hours. The AUP mentions policies that pertain to the network on several occasions, but some readers may not understand that the “network” encompasses any personal computer hooked up to the network. This lack of clarity was a gap I noticed in the policy, and the inclusion of a definition section could help bridge this gap. According to the Virginia Department of Education, ***** County was also missing a few other components of a successful AUP, namely addressing (n.d.) “… ongoing professional development opportunities for each stakeholder group…” and “Description of community outreach activities and associated needs assessments and evaluations” (par. 6). Though these are two components that may be minor in comparison with describing acceptable and inacceptable use of the school Internet capabilities, their inclusion would none the less strengthen the policy as a whole. One bigger component missing from the AUP is the explanation of how the AUP was written and any procedure for revising and evaluating it. Evaluating the AUP is extremely important. After all, if it’s not evaluated, the school board cannot determine its effectiveness. If the AUP did prove to be ineffective upon evaluation, it would be extremely important that it is revised and a new version implemented. However, no procedure for this is addressed in ***** County’s AUP. This is one of the biggest flaws with the ***** County School System’s AUP. Upon review of ***** County’s Acceptable Use Policy, I found it to be good, with the potential to be great. To be great, the policy would first off need to work on its weak points.
  • 8. Acceptable Use Policy 8 This could be done by including a definition section where important terms, such as “network,” are defined for readers. It also needs to have a section that addresses routine evaluations and revisions of the policy. At the rate that technology is advancing and changing, the policy should be evaluated and revised at least once every two to three years. This would ensure that the policy stays up to date and accurate. After all, an out-dated AUP would be almost worthless. Other ways to make the AUP great would be to build on the strengths the policy already has. For example, a better definition should be given to “acceptable use.” Though it is specified that the Internet should only be used for educational purposes, that phrase “educational purposes” could be interpreted differently by different people. One way to avoid these different interpretations would be to include a detailed list of “acceptable uses,” just like the detailed list of “unacceptable uses” that is a part of the policy. Though it is impractical to think that all of the possible acceptable uses could, or even should, be outlined and addressed, a list would help readers better understand some examples of what is acceptable. Another strong point that could be enhanced is the inclusion of the punishments for unacceptable use of the Internet. Though the policy states some of the possible punishments that can occur from using the Internet inappropriately, such as revoking Internet privileges, suspension, or expulsion, the plan does not go into detail about which offenses lead to such punishments. A detailed account of the Internet offenses and what punishment they lead to would make punishments more consistent and “real” to students. Ultimately, the key to a good Acceptable Use Policy is detail. The more detail that is given, the clearer it is about what is expected from the Internet users. While ***** County’s AUP is detailed on many instances, it is lacking in other areas. However, minor details included in key places could make this policy great.
  • 9. Acceptable Use Policy 9 References Cromwell, Sharon. (1998). Getting Started on the Internet: Developing an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). Retrieved February 5, 2009, from http://www.educationworld.com/ ***** County Board of Education. (April 11, 2005). ***** County Schools Acceptable Use Guidelines/Procedures. Retrieved February 3, 2009, from http://www.*****countyps.com/ Virginia Department of Education. (n.d.). Acceptable Use Policies: A Handbook. Retrieved February 5, 2009, from http://www.doe.virginia.gov/