Investing in Bright Futures
An AUP is a written agreement, signed by students, their parents, and teachers, outlining the terms and conditions of Internet use. It specifically sets out acceptable uses, rules of on-line behavior, and access privileges. Also covered are penalties for violations of the policy, including security violations and vandalism of the system. Anyone using a school's Internet connection should be required to sign an AUP, and know that it will be kept on file as a legal, binding document.
The Internet is an awesome tool for educators. There are literally thousands of sites containing information about almost any subject known to mankind. Most of these sites can be used legitimately as educational tools for both teachers and students. There are sites where teachers can find lesson plans by subject area and/or information about almost any subject to be taught in the classroom. Use of the Internet in classroom activities can provide students with information not available in school libraries and thus expand the students' perspectives far beyond the local community without their leaving the classroom. In many instances access to the electronic highway provides opportunities for electronic field trips without the hassle of actually carrying a class on a field trip.
The old saw, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is" is applicable to the Internet, which has its darker side. While most of the sites have the potential to be used in an educational setting, a small percentage can be objectionable for racial, sexist, political, sexual, or other reasons. These sites have received much publicity from the print and television media, who have left the impression among people who do not understand the true nature of the Internet that it is nothing but a collection of smut.
Many people do not understand that the Internet is an international linking of networks that is almost impossible to censor. One of the tools used to limit access to sites is filtering or blocking software. However, almost any student, given the time and the initiative, can learn to circumvent such software and find objectionable sites. In addition software that blocks access to information can limit access to educationally legitimate sites. Another way of controlling content is limit access to certain categories of Internet services, such as newsgroups or electronic mail. However, if this course of action is pursued, students lose access to the educational benefits of these services. Another method of controlling access is to teach students responsible behavior and allow them access in degrees based on this behavior. This approach appears to be the wisest because it assists students in developing a sense of responsibility.