The best things in life are free? Including information and music right?

Now apart from the obvious “best things” of love, family, and mother nature the next “best thing” that is free is your spirit and your ability to create. But if this is really true, and I believe it is, then our creations are infinitely valuable to us and henceforth to others.

The reason I’m starting with this is that it has taken me a long time to realise it.  I am of the generation where, as Roblyer (2016) points out, the nature of free-flowing information online and its ease of access led me to the conclusion that everything online should be free. But it isn’t free and shouldn’t be free unless I created it, and herein lies the basis for copyright laws.

As a teacher I have a particularly close relationship with information, knowledge, technology and those influential minds I see before me, daily, accessing it.  It would be irresponsible for me to allow them to use information and resources, digital or analog, and let them reproduce it under their own name.  Thus schools have developed Acceptable Use policies to help teachers clearly define the boundaries, rules and regulations in this ever changing landscape online. If you school doesn’t have one, or you’re not familiar with it now might be the time to quickly jump on your school intranet and look for it.

An Acceptable Use Policy (AUP), Roblyer (2016) states, is a document that informs staff, students and parents of their obligations around using digital media and devices.  It usually covers the soft areas of:

  • how to behave online
  • how to be safe online
  • best practice and guidelines for working on school owned devices
  • best practice whilst on the school network

and it also covers the harder, legal areas of:

  • copyright laws
  • fair and acceptable use of published materials
  • access to data, your rights
  • online piracy (in terms of music, videos and other documents).

Here are some examples of AUPs from an independent boys school, a girls school and an AUP template policy from an entire state jurisdiction.

Methodist Ladies College in Perth, WA – The Methodist Ladies’ College, Perth, is an independent, Uniting Church, day and boarding school for girls, located in Claremont, a western suburb of Perth, Western Australia.


Trinity Grammar – Trinity Grammar School is an independent, Anglican, day and boarding school for boys in Sydney, Australia. The main campus is in Summer Hill, with a preparatory school in Strathfield.


The Victorian Department of Education


As with all policies relating to technology they must be updated regularly, possibly even multiple times a year, and stakeholders informed of the changes. In particular AUPs have morphed since first being created as a list of “do’s and dont’s” into softer policies that guide students to make “appropriate” choices that can then lead to “teachable moments” or even more broader conversations amongst staff and students about digital citizenship.  The students of today, unlike a generation ago, have an entire digital footprint of their life. Careless (2012) states that a digital footprint is the trail that people leave behind as a result of their social media interactions. But as learning portfolios move online your digital footprint is more than just your tweets and facebook posts, it could be videos of your work from year 4, a reflective piece of prose in relation to Hamlet in Year 9 or photographs of your final year major visual artwork. So as teachers we have the responsibility to help students create and craft this “footprint” so that they can be proud of who they are online and so it is authentic. Roblyer (2016) and Cooper (2013) note that colleges and employers now frequently look for applicants’ digital footprint before making decisions hence it is only sensible for teachers to instruct students carefully on the potential impact of their actions online.

Roblyer (2016) outlines the key to promoting appropriate online behaviour and safety is by explicitly teaching digital citizenship. There is even a freely accessible resource which enables teachers to do this at Common Sense Media ( It covers areas such as:

  • Internet safety
  • Privacy and security
  • Relationships and communicators
  • Cyberbullying
  • Digital footprint and reputation
  • Self-image and identity
  • Information literacy
  • Creative credit and copyright

At my current school our AUP, known as a “Student ICT policy 2015”, addresses many areas broadly in the “dot points” because it identifies them as character attributes. It was updated this year by our Director of ICT, Myles Carrick. These then link with our pastoral care and co-curricular programs where we teach values and character through every aspect of our school. The policy is shown below in italics with the character attributes in bold highlighting – responsibility, ethical behaviour, integrity and respect.

“The College recognises that students will use a range of communication devices, resources and services, both College owned and student-owned. All ICT devices brought to school and all ICT-related activity are covered by this policy.

Boys are expected to use all ICT devices, resources and services responsibly, purposefully and ethically.

Usage of devices, services and resources is always at the discretion of class teachers and other College staff.

All boys are expected to take personal responsibility for maintaining possession of their device at all times on campus and to bring their device to class ready to learn:

  • Boys are to have their devices charged and ready for use.
  • Devices should never be left unattended and are to be stored securely when not in use.
  • Boys need to rectify any login or technical issues promptly and not during class time.

Boys are expected to carefully manage their data and their online College identity:

  • Passwords should never be written down at school and or given to another person; students will be held responsible for all activity undertaken using their login/password. It is wise to keep a record of your passwords at home in a secure location;
  • Although the College takes care to backup server-based resources, keeping backups of critical files (e.g. assignment work) is each boy’s responsibility..

In the use of ICT devices, resources and services, all boys are expected to act with integrity, and use these services for educational purposes:

  • Students should respect the holders of copyright, never plagiarise the work of others and always use appropriate referencing systems;
  • Boys must not access or attempt to access inappropriate sites or resources;
  • Students should act in the knowledge that their devices and network use are frequently monitored;
  • As with other non-ICT areas, vandalism is always inappropriate;
  • Unless specifically allowed by a teacher for educational purposes, the sending and receiving of text messages or phone calls and the use of social networking sites, gaming and services (eg. Facebook) are strictly prohibited during scheduled class time.
  • The College provides high speed Internet and provides filtering to protect students and help them stay focused on educational activities. Boys may not use personal 3G/4G mobile broadband “hot spots” to provide alternate Internet connections. Students must not install or use tools to circumvent or attempt to circumvent the College filtering service.
  • The College installs software to help configure, monitor and support the device on campus. Newington software/apps or settings must remain in place throughout the student’s time at the College.

In the use of ICT devices, services and resources, boys are expected to treat others and collaborative working environments with respect:

  • It is never acceptable to digitally record (photo, audio or video) boys or teachers or distribute that information without permission from that person and your class teacher;
  • Negative or defamatory information about other boys, staff or the College should never be posted online; the usual College rules and other laws and regulations still apply to bullying and harassment online;
  • Boys must not access or try to gain access to private or sensitive information or the account of another boy or member of College staff;
  • The equipment and services of the College and other boys should always be treated with care and respect;
  • Inappropriate or questionable material – including images of a sexual nature – should not be stored on or displayed through any ICT equipment brought to school;
  • Boys are expected to follow appropriate etiquette and protocols when communicating with staff, other students, and those outside the College.”

Personally I like this approach of integrating character and personal responsibility into an AUP as not only does it feel more natural but I believe it creates a better platform for teaching and learning.


Careless, J. (2012, January). Social media: It does have a place in the classroom. Tech & Learning. Retrieved from

Cooper, M. (2013). lol…OMG! What every student needs to know about online reputation management, digital citizenship and cyberbullying. The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, 23(7), 51.

Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching. (7th Ed). Allyn & Bacon


2 thoughts on “The best things in life are free? Including information and music right?

  1. Hi Doug,

    You’ve done such a great job of covering so many aspects of an AUP. What really resonated with me was your statement that “So as teachers we have the responsibility to help students create and craft this “footprint” so that they can be proud of who they are online and so it is authentic.” This is such a great summary of what teachers are (or should be) trying to help students grapple with today. There are so many times I think “Oh man, I am SO glad that the internet wasn’t around when I was young. If some of what I had done back then was posted online, I would be quite embarrassed,” but our kids don’t have that “luxury.” Teaching them why AUPs are written and why the “rules” are so important might help them make better choices about what they post.

    Thanks again,

  2. I completely agree with your feelings about integrating character and responsibility into AUPs. Teaching students about digital citizenship is going to become more and more important in the future, and it’s an area we can’t afford to ignore. It’s staggering sometimes to stop and think about how different the world is now than it was just 20 years ago. In another 20, the leap will be just as great, if not more so. Having a plan for helping students navigate the digital waters they will live much of their lives in isn’t just a good idea–it’s an absolute necessity. Great post!

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