A Guide to Network Ethics and Computer Technology Use

Policy: Districts advised to develop guidelines for Acceptable Use of technology.

Warren Williams, Grossmont Union High School District

Editor's Note: As districts and county offices expand their abilities to offer Internet access to the classroom, an Acceptable Use Policy becomes an important component to guide the appropriate use of the Internet in the instructional setting. A draft of the policy developed by Warren Williams for the Grossmont Union High School District is included as a Special Insert in this issue.

The California State Department of Education has released an advisory about "Suggested Policy: Acceptable Use of Electronic Information Resources." In the advisory, Harvey Hunt, Assistant Superintendent, warns schools of the danger of not implementing such a policy. He cites the exponential expansion of electronic information services and the concomitant problems that can arise when students are allowed, even encouraged to explore a network not specifically designed for them. He warns of encounters with racism, pornography, solicitation and other abuses as part and parcel for doing business in the Information Age.

As a result, it is incumbent upon Districts to teach students how to deal with objectionable materials and to outline possible consequences for inappropriate use of information resources. It is also important to make parents aware of the access being provided to their students and to give responsibility to them and their students about the kind of access that should be permitted. Students also need to be made aware about the appropriate use of all technologies, not just the Internet. Behavioral codes need to be changed to include consequences for tampering with computers, software piracy, netiquette infractions and other technology related offenses. Students also need to be taught how to avoid trouble spots on the information highway and how to report questionable activity.

A letter sent to all parents in the Grossmont District by our Superintendent, Dr. Jo Ann Smith, appears on page 12. There was some concern that parents might be upset with us for providing access. I personally took all calls from all parents regarding our Internet policy and every one expressed satisfaction with our action and most asked for increased access and dial-in capability. The fear that parents are unwilling to allow their students to participate in Information Age access has not panned out in our experience.

Ethical use policies need to be developed with the full cooperation of the governing board, site administrators, educational technologists, librarians, students and information systems personnel. Many districts have already adopted such policies. There is not a single model to fit all districts. The Grossmont Guide is offered to anyone who is developing a policy. If you need the policy in electronic form or have any questions, please contact me at [email protected]

Various Acceptable Use Policies can be reviewed on the Newport-Mesa Unified School District's GOPHER and Web servers. You can access NMUSD's GOPHER server at gopher.nmusd.k12.ca.us or NMUSD's World Wide Web Server at www.nmusd.k12.ca.us.