Digital Citizenship Through Legislation

I had a friend send me a “new” AUP (Acceptable Use Policy) today for his school today and asked my opinion.  I did smile as I looked through the three page document just wondering how many people actually read it from beginning to end, understanding the content.  I must admit losing interest after the third “party of the first part”.

Why is this document so important?

After all, when you think of how computers are populated with software, it goes something like this.

  • a technician or team of technicians sit down and install every piece of software to be used;
  • this software is then configured with path names, server names, etc to create a “gold image”;
  • the “gold image” is then deployed to however many hundreds or thousands of computers to be deployed.

But, wait….

Every time you install a piece of software, there is a barrage of legalize that is part of the process.  Everyone who installs software at home knows the procedure.  Does anyone actually ever read it?  And yet, you’ve clicked “I have read the terms and agree”.  You have to.  The software won’t install unless you do so.

So, rewind back to the technician who installs a piece of software.  She or he has agreed to the terms and conditions.  The machine with the software is then passed along to the teacher in the classroom.  The classroom teacher then passes it along to the students.  In a perfect world, the student would have done the installation, read and understood the terms and conditions, and then begins.  The reality here though is that someone else has done the agreement for them.

In fact, I would suspect that nobody reads and understands the significance of the legal terms and conditions when you install a piece of software.  I would then ask – why would you treat an Acceptable Use Policy any differently?

Probably the only time I think through the legality of anything like this is with a Creative Commons License should I wish to use a picture from someone else for a particular purpose.  Do I care more about the rights of a dude with a camera than I do when I purchase software from a large corporation?  Or is it just an easier route?

As I wade my way through the AUP, I came up with a hypothesis.  The length of an AUP is inversely proportional to the seriousness of the content.  How’s that for a thought?

I put it in context to a manufacturing class.  The teacher could spent the time doing all the teaching and heath & safety content very academically by studying the manuals and the legislation.  That’s not typically the approach because it’s not practical and experience has shown that it just plain doesn’t work.  Instead, students are supervised when they’re using the equipment.  They absolutely have to wear the safety equipment.  They absolutely have to have a purpose when they’re using the machinery.  For the most part, they respect the equipment and wouldn’t do something that would hurt a classmate.

In fact, when you think about it, there’s no better way to create successful users of that machinery.

Why can’t the same approach be taken with computer technology?  Wouldn’t we create a better culture of digital citizenship?

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