Velvet FerrariFRIT 7132February 20, 2011 Acceptable Internet Use In Schools The internet is a vast, global network, that links computers at schools, colleges, homes,and other sites. Through the internet, one can communicate with people all over the worldthrough interactive websites, blogs, video conferencing, podcasts, email, etc which offer authen-tic opportunities for students to express and share information. In addition, many educationallyvaluable files may be accessed through the Internet. Because of its enormous size and resources,the Internet’s educational potential is boundless. There is also potential for access to materialsunacceptable for student use. Some material accessible on the Internet may contain items thatare illegal, defamatory, inaccurate, or potentially offensive to some people. Bringing technology into the classroom can be a powerful, if not frightening, process.Along with all the wonderful resources available on the Internet there are some things parentsand teachers may not want their children and students to experience. As a resource for teachers itis astonishing. Lesson plans by subject area, reproducible worksheets, and online activities at aclick of a button are all available. Obviously, students also have a vast resource in the Internet -they can develop their computer skills, take online field trips, do research, or correspond. By using the Internet in the classroom, students now have access to information not avail-able in most school libraries. Students’ horizons are expanded without ever leaving the confinesof the classroom.
With the positives comes the negatives. The Internet has its dangers. There are onlinepredators, cyber harassment and bullying to worry about. Not to mention the sites that can beobjectionable for racial, sexist, political, sexual, or other reasons. The Internet is accessible tothe public. Unfortunately, this includes people who may want to communicate with students forinappropriate purposes or under false pretenses. Students must be cautious and prudent aboutsupplying personal information. In particular, students should never arrange a personal meetingwith a person whom they meet on-line. Most people do not realize that the Internet is an international linking of networks that isimpossible to 100% censor. Thus schools, parents, and educators must rely on other means tosafely use the Internet as an educational tool. Many communities are implementing policies that guide student, teacher, and staff use oftechnological resources so as to limit liability and restrict access to those resources that aredeemed “appropriate” for educational use. One option is to limit access to sites through filteringor blocking software. Unfortunately, students who are growing up in the computer age oftenhave the skills and means to bypass such software. Restricting access to resources brings upconcerns of censorship. Additionally, many educators find filtering and blocking annoying aseducationally legitimate sites are often blocked due to image or text content. Instead of banning or blocking, many schools are turning to another method - that ofproactive education. By teaching students responsible behavior, asking them to sign an agree-ment, and providing written descriptions of the consequences for wrongful action, students de-velop a sense of ownership for their online experiences. These type of agreements are called Ac-ceptable Use Policies - otherwise known as AUPs.
At the school level, an AUP acts as a written contract between administrators, teachers,parents, and students. It outlines the terms and conditions for acceptable Internet use by definingaccess privileges, rules of online behavior, and the consequences for violating those rules. TheAUP can also be a helpful tool for teachers offering guidance on how to best integrate the Inter-net into their classrooms. Georgia schools are required to create and implement “acceptable-usepolicies” in regards to Internet use. Any Georgia school that does not submit an approved policyto the school board, and implement it, will have all state funds revoked. The focus of the AUP should be on the responsible use of computer networks. Such net-works include both the Internet (the World Wide Web, external e-mail, and so on) and any In-tranets (classroom networks, communications between classes within a school or district, librarycatalogue and database access, etc.). In order to ensure greater ownership of the AUP and its successful implementation, it isimportant that staff, parents, governors and pupils are all involved in discussions about whatshould be included in it. According to the the US Department of Education’s online Alphabet Superhighway,AUPs should include: •“A description of the instructional philosophies, strategies and goals to be supported by Inter- net access in schools •An explanation of the availability of computer networks to students and staff members in your school or district •A statement about the educational uses and advantages of the Internet •An explanation of the responsibilities of educators and parents for students use of the Internet •A code of conduct governing behavior on the Internet
•An outline of the consequences of violating the AUP •A description of what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable use of the Internet •A description of the rights of individuals using the networks in your school/district (such as the right to free speech, right to privacy, and so on) •A disclaimer absolving the school district from responsibility, under certain circumstances •An acknowledgement that the AUP complies with provincial and national telecommunication rules and regulations •A form for teachers, parents and students to sign, indicating that they agree to abide by the AUPIn addition, an AUP should: •Serve as a legal document. The school boards legal counsel should approve the AUP before it is distributed. •Be complete. An AUP should include not just rules of behavior, but also a statement about the schools posi- tion on Internet use. •Be adaptable. Since the Internet is constantly evolving, an AUP cannot anticipate every possible situation. It should address this fact, and be capable of modifications to cover circumstances not outlined. You may need to update the AUP as new issues arise. •Be unique to your school. Every school or district is different - both in terms of the technology available, and in terms of who has access to the network; who maintains the network; and who teaches school personnel and/or students how to use the network. •Protect students. If students follow the AUPs rules, their exposure to questionable material should be mini- mized. The AUP can also protect them from dangerous online behavior, such as giving out their names and addresses to strangers. •Inform parents.
An AUP outlines to parents how their children will learn on the Internet, and how they will be supervised while on it.” A downside of AUPs is that because they emphasize surveillance and control rather thansupervision and guidance, they imply an absence of trust in students. But when AUPs are prop-erly designed and implemented, they respect the rights of both child and school. References
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