Sample Blog Acceptable Use Policy

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This page is the page of a sample blog acceptable use policy. I'd love to have more of a draft posted here, but I've never done anything like this before. I'd love for this document to be a proclamation that students should be able to say whatever they want, whenever they want, in a responsible manner, and be treated as if they were responsbile adults. But I realize that is a bit idealistic -- and also likely to get me shut down. Bye, bye blogs, in that case. So, I need a practical policy that balances my concerns with the district's. This would be a good place to mention that my school district is so far being very supportive -- they have given me permission to take blogging out for a pretty big test drive. But they haven't offered any technology support (yet -- I'm one teacher among many, and right now the only one interested in blogging), so I'm hobbling that together as I go. I mention that not for pity, but because I am realizing that perhaps one of the goals that my district will have will be to monitor and police student postings. That might mean that I'll need some software that will allow me to administer blogs at some point, not just host them. For the purposes of this policy, though, let's assume that students will post to their own blogs. That means that the only punishment that I will have available to me as a school will be the loss of student Internet privileges. I say that because it might be useful for a consequences section of this document, if necessary. (Did I mention that I've never even considered crafting such a document before? I have no clue what will be relevant. I am in way over my head here. Help?)


So, below let's write that balanced policy that I mentioned earlier. To me, there are two important pieces to such a policy -- I don't want students to violate other district policy, leading my district to shut me (and the idea of blogs in our schools) down. I also don't want my students to cause harm to themselves or others. So, then, an acceptable use policy should look something like this, although this is just a first draft:


1. Students using blogs are expected to treat blogspaces as classroom spaces. Speech that is inappropriate for class is not appropriate for your blog. While we encourage you to engage in debate and conversation with other bloggers, we also expect that you will conduct yourself in a manner reflective of a representative of this school.


2. Students who violate the agreements here shall forfeit their right to school Internet access and will face other sanctions deemed appropriate by the administration.


3. Student blogs are to be a forum for student expression. However, they are first and foremost a tool for learning, and as such will sometimes be constrained by the various requirements and rules of classroom teachers. Students are welcome to post on any school-appropriate subject (this one might be hard to define. With blogging having such a personal emphasis, I wonder how we balance school and personal lives) at any time, outside of their classroom requirements.


? Comments (11) User Time Comment Edit Delete guest 3/17/2005 6:18AM

A couple things come to mind with the policy here.

I agree that it might be hard to define "school-appropriate" - unless your school has some sort of written policy that would define it for you. Could you spell it out here? Would you want to?

Second, I wonder about removing their school Internet privileges. For how long? Permanently? What happens if the student continues to blog about "inappropriate" things? It seems like you are using up all your ammo with this one. I think it might be better to add a number of possible consequences to the policy.

Who would be responsible for enforcing the policy? Who determines what is appropriate and inappropriate?

nancy Edit Delete budtheteacher 3/17/2005 3:19PM

Nancy,

You ask good questions. I don't like the punishment aspect of policies like this -- I don't like it so much, in fact, that I drafted another document that I'd rather use -- the student blogging handbook. I envision that document as more of a positive tutorial than a formal policy. You're right about having several consequences. That's a good point. Feel free to make changes to the document -- that's what it's here for! Appropriateness is also tricky -- I should eliminate that word -- but what would be a better one? OR should I focus instead on identifying a chain of command? Or eliminating that idea entirely?

Bud Edit Delete guest 3/17/2005 3:56PM

I agree that just taking away school internet privledges would not be a very effective punishment. It is easy to access the internet outside of school, whether it be at home, a friend's house, or a public library.

I'm afraid I havn't read much about what you are hoping to accomplish with these blogs, though I have a general idea. I'm not quite sure if this is going to be like a forum, such as those at www.ezboard.com, or a network of "blogs", which I interpret to be online journals where people can comment on an entry, such as those on www.livejournal.com. Or perhaps it is a different thing altogether. I have some possible "punishment" methods that I have seen used quite effectively, which may be applicable to your project.

The easiest one to implement, I believe, is a probation system. Assuming there will also be a chat room for the students to talk in, abuse of said chat room would result in an hour/day/week/whatever of probation, during which they could not parcipate in the chat room discussions. Whether or not they would still have access to view the conversations, however, would be up to you.

Additionally, many chat programs come with a private message (PM) feature. That would most likely be used for socializing/private conversations, since anything school related could be said in the public room. Abuse of the PM system would result in PM probation for a given amount of time. With both the chat room and the PM's, repeated offenders could lose their chatting privledges permenantly.

The same would work for either the forum or the journal structure. In a forum, the student would be able to read but not reply to the threads, and in a journal, the student would be able to read others journals as well as update his/her own, but would be unable to leave comments. Or maybe the student would be unable to update his/her journal as well; I really don't know, it'd be up to you.

Using this type of a structure would be much more effective than simple loss of internet privledges. The student would not be able to bypass his/her punishment by going to a different location; it would be bound to their account and would apply no matter where they logged on from. Additionally, the offender would still be able to read and gain information from the chat/threads/journals, which is what the whole purpose of this is, correct? He/she would simply just be muted and unable to disrupt the other students.

Just imagine being able to apply such technology to a physical classroom: press a button and the "problem students" would sit down, stop talking, and, even if they chose not to pay attention, they at least would not disturb the class. I'm not a teacher, so I don't know about you guys, but there are countless times I would have been overjoyed to have such a button in my middle/highschool classes!

I apologise if I misunderstood what you are trying to achieve, or if this would not apply to your project. I just thought I'd put in my two cents.

-Amy Edit Delete guest 3/19/2005 5:50PM

Bud, I think there should be some discussion of punishment if punishment is a possibility. A chain of command might be good. Problems will initially be handled by Xperson. If the student continues to violate the policies, the problem will be referred to Yperson. And so on until loss of internet privilege becomes the punishment of last resort. It shouldn't be too long a chain, though. Probably it would mirror other school policy. I am thinking that the teacher would be the first level of authority. Then someone in the administration. Maybe that's all you need - and then loss of privilege the final step.

But now that I have written that, I don't like the legalistic sound of it. If we trust our students to blog, should we be establshing policies that would tend to make them unwilling to really get into blogging? Could you just set it up that students are expected to be respectful of and to each other and not embarrass themselves or the school?

nancy Edit Delete guest 3/19/2005 5:58PM

I was going to add something to the student handbook page but couldn't, so I'll continue here. You might want to consider a list like the one here <http://www.dkeithrobinson.com/asterisk/archive/2004/08/successful-blog > about what makes a successful blog. I think that students might need to be guided in this because most of the blogs they would naturally be drawn to might not meet any of the criteria for a really good blog. I would also include links to/addresses of some exemplary blogs so they can see what you are talking about.

nancy Edit Delete budtheteacher 3/20/2005 8:20PM

Amy has some good suggestions for a way for students to be "punished" for their participation. It's my fault that the focus is so quickly upon punishment -- I wrote my initial brainstorming notes on punishment. Silly me. But I, like Nancy, am wondering why there need sto be such a focus on punishment. Can't we, as Nancy suggests, expect they'll be responsible and deal with it on the off change that they are not? What would that look like?

On another note -- Wikis are supposed to make editing a text easy -- but no one seems to be editing the texts here -- we're commenting about them instead. Interesting how this is playing out.


Edit Delete guest 3/21/2005 7:48PM

As I add another comment instead of editing...

This site <http://feedster.blogs.com/corporate/2005/03/corporate_blogg.html> has company blogging policies. I especially like Groove's. It would require a little adaptation as you won't be dealing with company secrets. At least I don't suppose there are any school secrets that could/would accidently be exposed!

But back to the editing vs commenting thing... I think we don't know enough yet to edit. And maybe I still consider it your project, Bud, rather than ours. But maybe I'll start my own page with links that we might want to look at.

nancy Edit Delete budtheteacher 3/24/2005 8:42PM

Nancy,

 Thanks for the links -- and thanks for adding your own page to the wiki.  I understand why someone would feel hesitant to edit the "work" of another, but I intended this space to be a playground of sorts -- and whatever comes of it is for anyone who wants it.  I'm planning to spend a pile of time editing here tomorrow afternoon -- I've been tied up with grading and the end of a quarter for the last little bit.


-- Bud

Edit Delete budtheteacher 4/9/2005 10:29AM

That's a good policy. Cyberjournalist, too, has a code, modeled on the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics. MIght be a bit too complex for general student use, but it's a place to start, at least. -- Bud

Edit Delete guest 5/3/2005 5:13PM

I found this Sample Blogger Code Of Ethics at http://forrester.typepad.com/charleneli/2004/11/blogging_policy.html

It also has links to a number of different blog policies and other similar things.

M: Since there's an edit button and Bud want's editing, all the lines with "M:" are me http://www.15grant.com/mrsizer/blog/ Mark (btw: How does one created named links in this thing? The standard wiki bracket and vertical bar syntax doesn't seem to work) and were added after the orginal post.

I will tell the truth.

M: As I know it. There's a big difference between being wrong and lying.

I will write deliberately and with accuracy.

M: "deliberately"? Nah. It's a blog not the Encyclopaedia. Accuracy is very close to "truth". Can one be innaccurate and truthful? I suppose - if one is misinformed. This one is too vague; ditch it.

I will acknowledge and correct mistakes promptly.

I will preserve the original post, using notations to show where I have made changes so as to maintain the integrity of my publishing.

M: It depends on the error. Correcting spelling, bad links, unfortunate grammar, etc... don't seem to merit preserving the original. OTOH, fixing factual errors probably does. (Do dangling participles count as bad grammar?)

I will never delete a post.

M: Why not? There are a lot of reasons for deleting a post. And what happens if posts are "lost"? Servers crash. Backups don't restore. Etc...

I will not delete comments unless they are spam or off-topic.

M: I definitely don't agree with this one. Profanity, rudeness, moonbats, wingnuts, flamebait, etc... are all reasons to delete comments. A blog has an owner. That owner is free to do what he wants with his blog. If the commenter doesn't like it, he can always start his own blog in protest.

I will reply to emails and comments when appropriate, and do so promptly.

M: When is "appropriate" and what constitutes "promptly". Another vague and bad rule.

I will strive for high quality with every post ??? including basic spellchecking.

M: The irony of that is comment enough - but nonetheless I shall go on: It's also an unneccessary burden both technically (where's the spellcheck button on this?) and practically: Egnilsh seplilng has a hi rdeunadcy fcaotr.

I will stay on topic.

M: As a commenter, yes. As an author, one's post defines the topic - it's impossible to "go off" it. As an excellent example, I offer the classic Tristram Shandy novel.

I will disagree with other opinions respectfully.

M: And if you don't, will your comment and/or post be deleted? Oh. Wait....

I will link to online references and original source materials directly.

I will disclose conflicts of interest.

I will keep private issues and topics private, since discussing private issues would jeopardize my personal and work relationships.

M: So much depends upon circumstance. What/Who defines "private"? What might be considered "private" information here (e.g. I have a brain tumor and no legs - I don't, btw) might be perfectly appropriate elsewhere (e.g. on a site for/about amputees). Also, "would" should be "could". Edit Delete guest 5/3/2005 5:27PM

Ah, Bud's comments are uneditable. Administrators have some privileges :)

Mentioning punishment isn't necessarily a bad thing. The real harm from inappropriate posts may not manifest for some time (e.g. a job interview years later) or ever (e.g. a stalker). Creating some artificial harm to shorten, or even just provide, a feedback loop isn't "focusing on punishment".

I liked the commenter's suggestion of probation with various levels of access. Unfortunately, to implement that you'll have to have some fairly sophisticated software (I'll write it on contract, if you're interested) that most, if not all, blogging services do not provide.

There's also the "teachable moment" issue that one of your links mentions. The punishment for an inappropriate comment would almost certainly be artificial - if real harm comes because of it, throwing on some school punishment seems largely pointless - so using the comment as a teachable moment about what _might_ happen should be part of the process. It also removes the rules-for-rules-sake issue that many teenagers have with rules the point of which they do not see. (Bad grammar might not always be "bad" - that's awkward.)

btw: "guest" in this case is Mark, again.


As I read through this, most of these comments occurred quite a while ago but I thought I'd add to the discussion about "punishment" for breaking the established rules (inappropriate postings or whatever). I agree that taking away privileges rarely works with the internet being available everywhere. I prefer putting the onus back on the student - have the student identify the impact their behavior had on the class, friends, trust, families, the school and maybe even the district (obviously we're treading new ground in many districts and "inappropriate" postings can bring a halt). Now, they have to generate how THEY can fix the problem they've caused - a sincere apology to the person, letter of apology to parents and or school. After they have rectified the problem then they can rejoin the site.

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