May 05 2009

What's Acceptable?

Keep these best practices in mind when developing an AUP for a one-to-one program.

Keep these best practices in mind when developing an AUP for a one-to-one program.

Having an acceptable use policy (AUP) is a must-have for schools, and even more so for schools running a one-to-one program. The AUP should spell out all of the school district’s expectations for use of the computers and network. Here is a list of best practices that you can use when developing your plan.

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Whether this is your first plan or the latest revision, there’s no reason to start from scratch. Doing a quick search on the Internet for "K12 AUP" will reveal quite a few great sources for developing your plan. One great place to start is with Marshal8e6, the maker of web and e-mail security solutions. They have provided a template that is available for free on their website ( Keep in mind that this template is just that, a template. You will need to change any of the generic information and adapt it to your district.

What About Home?

If the students in your notebook program will take their computers home with them, your policy needs to cover that usage. We all know that students wander onto inappropriate websites either on purpose or accidentally. Unless you have filtering software loaded on the notebook or some sort of forced proxy settings, you will not be able to monitor their behavior. Some Internet filtering solutions offer filtering for mobile clients, but normally this is an additional cost. You may be tempted to install a proxy server on your network and assign it a DNS name that resides inside your network as well as outside your network. This way when students’ web browsers connect to, a filter is in place. There are a couple of problems with this type of setup. First, if your school’s network is unavailable then students cannot connect to the Internet. Second, students can simply install a web browser onto a portable storage device and run their browser unfiltered.

Bring Your Own Internet Connection

With the proliferation of smart phones and cellular air cards, students are bound to bring their own Internet connections into your school. If students are bringing their own connections, that means they aren’t using yours. If they aren’t using the school’s connection, then they aren’t being filtered for inappropriate content. Windows XP, Vista, Mac OS X and the Asus Eee PC have the ability to share an Internet connection. Students can use this external connection to surf the web unfiltered, update their social networking profiles or anything else that is banned at school. Worse yet, viruses can be introduced into your network from this new unmanaged connection.

Create a List of Banned Applications

In order to reduce the amount of support incidents, be sure to spell out a list of banned applications. This should include a list of applications that should not be installed on student computers because they are illegal, download illegal material or because they conflict with other software. A few of the application that you may want to list are:

  • P2P file-sharing clients
    • Frostwire
    • Limewire
    • Kazaa
    • Morpheus
    • BearShare
    • eDonkey
    • any other P2P file-sharing tool not mentioned above
  • Antivirus or spyware protecting software (this is provided by the school and should not be removed)
  • VNC server or client software
  • Password cracking utilities

Posting Your Thoughts

Because students will have 24X7 access to their computer and possibly your network, they should be advised that their postings will be monitored. Those teachers who are utilizing a classroom management system (CMS) such as Moodle, Blackboard or ANGEL Learning will more than likely host discussion forums or chat sessions. Students will also most certainly post some sort of comments on a web-based forum, chat site or social network. Make sure to detail the district’s stance on posting comments online before an inappropriate comment is made that causes problems for the district or for other students.

Internet Security and Safety

Recent FCC regulations indicate that schools might need to offer Internet safety training to students, in order to receive eRate funding in the future. While the details of this plan had not been announced as of the time of this writing, it certainly sounds like a good idea. We are giving students a very powerful tool, but a tool that could also get them into trouble if not used properly. Students who participate in a one-to-one notebook program have far more exposure to computers than their counterparts at schools without a one-to-one program.

They need to be trained about how to protect themselves in the online community. Make sure that your policy spells out that students are never to post identifying information online. Students should never post their address or phone number online, nor should they ever agree to meet someone in person who they met online. As horrifying as some of these face-to-face meetings have turned out, they never would have happened if students had been taught how to protect themselves online. A solid policy will help to protect your district from legal action if something were to happen.

Free Music Downloads, Really?

There is a popular children’s book titled If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. This book outlines the different things the mouse will want or do because he has a cookie (for example, he will want a glass of milk). If you give a student a notebook computer, he or she will certainly download music from the Internet. Most times students don’t realize that using P2P file-sharing programs to download music is illegal and could get your district into hot water. Make sure to spell out the district’s antipiracy policy, and teach students that just because something is posted on the Internet doesn’t mean it is legal. The same goes for videos, pictures and any other copyrighted material.

As you can see, there are many different scenarios to take into consideration when writing your AUP, especially in a one-to-one notebook environment. Students who have 24X7 access to a computer will have much more time to become proficient with the tools but also more time to get themselves into trouble. Make sure that you have a solid AUP in order to limit the district’s liability and to spell out the rules for the students. Lastly, always have your policies reviewed by the district’s legal counsel before adopting them as policy.