Jun 23, 2021 by Team HiddenApp

Responsible Use Policy: Beyond Acceptable Use of Technology

Responsible Use Policy: Beyond Acceptable Use of Technology

The digital landscape is ever-changing but your responsibility to keep your students safe and productive online remains constant. Here’s why a Responsible Use Policy (RUP) might be your new best friend.

The many challenges of the use of technology in education

Getting IT right in an educational setting is not easy. Whatever your level of responsibility, enabling staff and students to teach and learn, but keeping them protected at the same time, is hard to balance. Every day you’re faced with a variety of technical, compliance, and people-based challenges, including:

  • Staying up to date with evolving technologies.
  • Ensuring students’ personal devices used in your BYOD program, as well as all the school-issued devices that you use for your 1:1 programs, are safe.
  • Enabling EdTech methodologies, such as e-learning, learning management systems, online collaborative learning, and virtual classrooms.
  • Dealing with the challenges of social media and destructive online behavior such as cyberbullying.
  • Improving staff and students’ cybersecurity awareness and protecting them from cyber threats.

And, what’s worse, you need to address all these within your school or district’s timeline and budget. Perhaps you already have an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) in place or are just starting to think about implementing one. Now, AUPs aren’t the bad guys. They’ve been tried and tested in the business world, and have good intentions at heart, such as:

  • Supporting learning through access to digital resources.
  • Protecting users from inappropriate content and promoting online safety.
  • Complying with federal laws and protecting the school from the risk of legal action.
  • Clarifying rules and sanctions.
  • Providing best practice guidelines.

The exhaustive detail often contained in AUPs is exactly what’s needed when dealing with highly sensitive proprietary data or to guide staff with access to student's private data. But AUPs aren’t always constructed with student support and guidance in mind, and they are often written and framed in a way that makes them less than effective. RUPs, on the other hand, are more tailored toward the student learning experience and developing online citizenship.

Free spreadsheet: Access 100+ Responsible Use Policy examples and other useful online resources, learn about best practices and get all the information you need to kickstart your policy writing process.

Acceptable Use Policy and Responsible Use Policy: What’s the difference?

Although they share goals, an RUP is more behavior-centered and more positively focused than an AUP:

From acceptable to responsible

An RUP reframes requirements into responsibilities. The focus shifts from “this is what you cannot do” to “this is the behavior that is expected of you.” An RUP moves from a disempowering list of rules and regulations into a personal, user-centered contract that requires users to be responsible for their actions and to practice good digital citizenship. The focus shifts from district and school to teachers, staff and students.

An RUP raises the game. If you’re aiming for excellence, acceptable just isn’t good enough. An RUP can help you create a set of higher behavioral expectations to which people can rise, rather than a culture based on forced compliance and penalties.

From negative to positive

AUPs are often written as a mind-numbingly comprehensive set of restrictions. Effectively, they can be a long list of prescriptive “don’ts”. They set out in detail how staff and students can be at fault and the consequences of making mistakes or breaking the rules.

In contrast, an RUP focuses on what to do, rather than what not to do. It outlines the positive behaviors required and, in expecting students to actually prefer good digital citizenship over rule-breaking and inappropriate behavior, can create a more positive school culture.

From complex to simple

Because an RUP is focused on behavior, it doesn’t need to be prescriptive about every situation a student might face online. This simplifies requirements: instead of fifty clauses that itemize what students can’t do with technology, an RUP might be based on four to seven statements of behavior. This simplification allows RUPs to be written in engaging, straightforward language, rather than the hard-to-read and disengaging quasi-legal language of an AUP.

From limited to flexible

RUPs give you more flexibility to teach and learn. Very often, an AUP is restrictive on the internet sites students can access, and how they use their own device for school. Because an RUP is based on behavior, it opens up the possibilities of teaching and learning using previously restricted platforms like YouTube, cloud apps like Slack or the students’ own devices. It can act as the basic agreement for your BYOD or BYOT program, and allow you to expand your pedagogic methodologies, such as 1 to 1 learning and learning from home. An RUP opens up digital possibilities and breaks down barriers to learning.

From school to home

At the heart of an RUP lies the principle of good digital citizenship. By co-creating and responding to the RUP’s expectations, students can start to understand the value of a positive digital footprint, and to build a foundation of good practice that they can use in their personal use of technology, beyond school life.

Your Responsible Use Policy: a resource for digital citizenship

An RUP has a role in helping students learn to become responsible digital citizens and can act as a key part of your digital citizenship toolbox. Use your RUP to signpost students to further learning materials about digital citizenship and safety that you can provide in a myriad of formats: video and webcast, bite-size digital learning, simulations and learning games.

It’s an opportunity to teach students an array of digital skills to keep them empowered and safe, including teaching them to:

  • Check and monitor their privacy settings.
  • Recognize what content is safe to post and what isn’t.
  • Understand digital artifacts like cookies and search histories.
  • Be aware of how they create their own digital footprint, together with the risks and opportunities.
  • Identify cyberbullying and respond appropriately to it.

An effective Responsible Use Policy can change behaviors and mindsets. Because of its positivity and practicality, it can contribute to a more dynamic and upbeat school environment, and support your students as they grow into responsible digital citizens.