Internet woes continue to haunt me here in China.

I just read a great post by Andrew Churches about Acceptable Use Agreements in Junior School (often referred to as AUP’s or Acceptable Use Policies as well). Andrew questions the value of these documents. I wrote a comment response, clicked the ‘post’ button & got another Web Site Blocked notice that has been plaguing me since the Chinese Great Filter Wall has added more bricks, enclosing the country, and crippling both personal and school use of the internet. Fortunately, I can still see Andrew’s link address and I am now trained to always ‘Select All’ and ‘Copy’ all comments and posts before hitting the publish button, since I suffered many lost comments upon my arrival in China.

So, here is my comment, copied below. I encourage you to comment on Andrew’s blog rather than mine as he is the one that really started the conversation, but I still can’t get onto his blog to know if my comment got through, and I would like to share my thoughts on this topic. Do schools really need an AUP?

Greetings from Dalian, Andrew!

You make several great points here. The one piece of the puzzle I often get stuck on is why internet use is treated so differently from other school rules? We don’t have “Hallway only rules” and then “Playground only rules” and then “Gym only rules” that we have students and parents sign acceptable use policies for, but we have them for our online spaces. Don’t swear on the playground, in the hallways, in classrooms OR in our online learning spaces… it’s all part of a continuum.

Here were some blog rules that I created many moons ago, before schools were thinking about AUP’s: Blog Rules – Respect, Inclusion, Learning and Safety They aren’t really rules, and if I were to do this again, I’d call them ‘expectations’ instead. But the key point is that I just took the 4 school beliefs that were student generated in a huge school-wide process: Respect, Inclusion, Learning and Safety… and I said, “These are our beliefs in school, and our online spaces are part of our school.”

So, I too question the value of these documents? They seem to (attempt to) remove the responsibility of the school for things that happen online, when what I really think is that schools should be extending their walls and encompassing digital spaces. These online spaces are just another school community space where community expectations are, well, expected… without the need of a policy.


ps. At the time of creating my blog rules I had our blogs in a private space, now I’d share them with the world.

6 comments on “Do schools really need an AUP?

  1. Thanks for your suggestion Wesley,

    I do use a great VPN, but even it was shut down. Support has us up and running again, but they said not to name them publicly at this time… (would rather lose new users than compromise present user’s service- a pretty cool move by this company!)

    Anyway, the main issue is that the internet service has been slowed down so much that the route through the VPN will sometimes time-out and other times just not load. Had a year and a half of great (ok tolerable) service and now I am often shut down. Secondary to this, they have also actively hunted down VPN providers and shut the door on them, or rather, put up another wall.

    I have teachers that can’t even open email (gmail, yahoo, or hotmail) when at work, whether they use a VPN or not. It has been really brutal. Last week it took me 25 min. to upload a small jpg file to our school wiki.

    I feel really disconnected these days and so it’s great to hear from you buddy… Thanks again for the suggestion.

  2. I think that AUPs are valid as they provide a first and last resort for schools to refer to when dealing with bullying and inappropriate behaviour, particularly if students are left unsupervised. There is too much ‘filtering’ going on but that’s a separate issue. The provision of a clear and well-written AUP provides unequivocal direction and setting of expectations. Informal local arrangements on the other hand, vary from person to person and simply leave too much room for error or ambiguity.

  3. Hi Jonathan,
    Thanks for the comment!

    My concern isn’t with having policies against bullying and inappropriate behaviour, but rather with a policy pertaining to acceptable use of the internet as a separate policy. Cyberbullying is bullying, swearing and rude behaviour online is on the same continuum as swearing and rude behaviour in school hallways. Schools have policies to deal with these things, why do they also need an AUP that is different from these policies? We don’t send home ‘playground use’ policies to be signed by parents, but bullying on the playground is dealt with just as bullying in the classroom is. I think by separating online behaviour out, we unintentionally label those activities as ‘other than school’ and so new rules need to be made up… but to what benefit?

    As Andrew said in his response to my comment (on his post),
    “…we don’t need two sets of rules. The digital citizenship model I have been working on is actually a citizenship model. Look after yourself (respect and protect yourself), look after others (respect and protect others) look after property (respect and protect intellectual property).”

    I think there is less ambiguity when we say to students that the expectations that we have for your online behaviour are the same as the expectations we have of you in our school.

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