Instead of an AUP, how about an EUP (Empowered Use Policy)?


Most school technology acceptable use policies (AUPs) contain these kinds of phrases:

  • “Students shall not use technology unless authorized by appropriate school personnel.”
  • “The use of the Internet is a privilege, not a right, and inappropriate use will result in cancellation of those privileges.”
  • “Students will not access or modify other accounts, data, files, and/or passwords without authorization.”
  • “You will be held responsible at all times for the proper use of district technology resources, and the district may suspend or revoke your access if you violate the rules.”
  • “Users have no right to privacy while using the district’s Internet systems. The district monitors users’ online activities and reserves the right to access, review, copy, store, or delete any electronic communications or files. This includes any items stored on district-provided devices, such as files, e-mails, cookies, and Internet history.”
  • And so on…

That’s a lot of legalistic language. That’s a lot of negativity.

How about an empowered use policy (EUP) instead? In other words, instead of saying NO, NO, NO! all the time, how about saying yes? Here’s one to consider…


When it comes to digital technologies in our [school / district], please…

  1. Be empowered. Do awesome things. Share with us your ideas and what you can do. Amaze us.
  2. Be nice. Help foster a school community that is respectful and kind.
  3. Be smart and be safe. If you are uncertain, talk with us.
  4. Be careful and gentle. Our resources are limited. Help us take care of our devices and networks.
Thank you and let us know if you have any questions.

Is there anything major that this EUP doesn’t address? Other thoughts or reactions? Help me make it better…

Image credit: YES, Transcend

30 Responses to “Instead of an AUP, how about an EUP (Empowered Use Policy)?”

  1. Amen! I agree so much I wrote this during my COETAIL Course 2. (I am sure you’re post will be more attention, so keep the positive message coming!)

  2. Brilliantly simple idea, and comprehensive list. I will adapt something like this in my technology classes at least. Thanks! And I am interested to see if any other commenters have anything to add.

  3. Be inquisitive. Be curious. Question. Be critical. Be creative. Be understanding. Poke. Prod. Share. Welcome. Engage. And more that don’t spring to mind.

    When meeting with our first district committee to write an AUP I opined that we seemed to be considering a policy like an ancient map with “There be dragons” written in the area of the unknown. We don’t need a “flat earth” policy map. Some people were even requiring parents to sign a pledge before their child could use a school computer, which I objected was an act of prior restraint.

  4. It all boils down to mindset as teachers in a lot of districts are required to sign these as well. Instill a culture of fear and intimidation into end users and what you get is a lot of basic, limited use of the tool. Don’t take risks. Don’t empower the learning in your space is often times the message that teachers hear as well. It’s pretty mixed.

  5. It’s a great idea to turn it around, but just as the AUP “punishes” those students who always do the right thing by lumping them in the same basket as those who don’t, the EUP brings levity to those students who don’t do the right thing. I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

  6. I think this is a pretty interesting comment. Thanks, Stu.

    I wonder how much of what is typically in AUPs is already in other school/district policies. Cheating, bullying, harassment, improper use of district equipment, inappropriate language, committing crimes, breaking civil laws (such as defamation), reminders that district property belongs to the district, etc. – don’t we already have existing policies on these issues? If so, could an EUP emphasize positive, powerful uses of technology (and gently remind students of existing policies) without resorting to either ‘levity’ or ‘punishment?’

    We don’t have AUPs for gym equipment. Or chairs and desks. Or art supplies. Or cafeteria trays…

    • Yeah, but gym equipment, chairs and desks are seldom used to download porn or secretly bully classmates….

  7. Policies like these contribute to the typical student mindset of “I can’t do it unless I ask my teacher first.” As Evan pointed out, this “culture of fear & intimidation” starts at the top, filters down through district leaders, admins, and teachers, until it is placed squarely on the shoulders of our students. Do we want them to be problem-solvers? Innovators? Or, is our goal to produce compliant robot-like users of technology? If we are looking for robots, then the AUPs are great as they are written. But, if we want creative thinkers who will change the world, we need to go with your EUP or something similar. Creativity, not conformity!

  8. This is a great idea and puts a much more positive light on tech use. I will bookmark and use to consider when I move into an administrative position. I agree with you about no AUP for desks and trays, however I would argue that I can see what the student does with the tray and desk. I can’t see what the student does in cyberspace unless I’m directly watching or follow them on social media type sites. There has to be a connection for teachers to supervise activity on tech devices; the teacher needs to feel comfortable incorporating the technology appropriately and still have the ability to tell students to put the devices away when not needed for class activity. I would be of the opinion that students won’t avoid cyber bullying just because we have an EUP. EUP should be in effect when technology is incorporated into the lesson on a particular day, and the teacher needs to supervise to make sure the usage is appropriate.

  9. Great post, Scott! I totally agree with your EUP approach… much like how Classroom Management is… empower the students to make the right choices. Let them own their behaviors. Yes, there should be standard operation procedures when a student breaks part of the EUP (just as there is for an AUP). Coming at it from a “you’re a good kid. I know you are a good kid. So, I am trusting you to do great things with this technology and respect the culture and philosophy of the (classroom, school, etc.).”

    I am going to share this with my Heads to see about changing our AUP to an EUP.

  10. Hi Scott,

    Love this approach. My response is here:

    Keep up the good work,


  11. This is just too awesome.
    Thank you.
    Students punish themselves by not taking advantage of all the opportunities — because they are too intimidated by the list of rules.

    And in the same breath we encourage an ‘entrepreneurial mindset.”

  12. Hello Scott, I’m Alexis McSwain. I attend the University of South Alabama and I’m currently enrolled in EDM310. This class teaches us future teachers to open our minds to technology and use it in more ways than one. I think this blog is one of the things our professor is trying to get us to learn, not only help us open our minds but our students as well.

  13. We are just starting the process of updating our 15 year AUP… Something just hasn’t been sitting right looking at the big list of don’ts. Anyone know of a policy like this that is on the books in a district or school?

  14. How about this: “Use school technology resources for something other than meaningless goofing around.”

    I understand a mindset of positive empowerment and agree schools some add a dose of it to policies, but seriously, students are not harmed when they have to deal with “Don’t” policy statements. When your school has to deal with students using school technology resources to post video of a lunchroom fight or harass a classmate via web postings, then I bet you’ll discuss some possible “Don’ts” you need to add to the Whatever-UP.

    • Students may or may not be ‘harmed’ but they certainly aren’t empowered by such statements. The messages we send are important…

      Also, see my previous comment about what’s usually in AUPs might already be in other policies?

  15. I see what you’re saying, Scott. I think the best approach is to have a blending of the two sides. And, maybe the age of students contributes to the extent to which we focus on empowerment. I’m not for the erasing of “Don’t” statements, but I certainly agree with you that the language of the typical AUP could be more positive. In that, you deserve a big thumbs-up for your thoughts.

  16. We rewrote our AUP for Boston Public Schools and distilled it down to the AUP Top Ten beginning each statement: I am responsible…. That allows us to comply with our legal responsibilities to keep students safe while letting the students know that we expect them to take responsibility for their actions. Our version is posted on our website

  17. Great idea. A few years ago, our 8th graders created a My.U.P. to use at home. Empowers them to work together with their parents to agree on limits and avoid conflict. It’s been working so well that we distribute a copy to all of the kids when they get their new Macs.

    It would be great if we could simplify the language of the AUP for school use as well. I agree that staying away from negatives and legalese is definitely the the way to go.

  18. Mary Alice Pouliot Reply March 27, 2014 at 12:31 am

    I appreciate the positive spin on the wording, saying what you should do versus focusing on what you should not do. I think it is in place as in an effort to protect or put in place a bit of a ‘paper trail’ type disciplinary plan for those who are doing inappropriate things. It’s a way for them to say, “we told you this up front so you can’t claim ignorance” perhaps?

    Here is a link to the EDM510 class blog, and, is my own personal blog. I’m a student at USA checking out your blog this week.

  19. We started to refer to our AUP as a Responsible Use Policy as we wanted it to fit in with other things we said to the pupils about behaviour.

  20. This is ours as of a few years ago when we got rid of the laundry list of don’t:

    But to be honest it’s STILL a constant arms race to stop learners messing around, I can’t be sure how much (if any) difference it has made.

  21. You’re so right, the usual AUP is so very negative, it leaves us all feeling like we have done something wrong before we have even done anything! We all know that if we say what someone shouldn’t do, they’re more likely to go and do it. When we write essential agreements with students we always frame statements in the positive – so why wouldn’t we write policies in the same way? I will be using this approach, for sure! Thanks.

  22. I like how you take everything one step further, pushing the boundaries back when they have barely stopped moving from the most recent move. It seems like not very long ago that the discussion was centered around changing from an AUP to an RUA (Responsible Users Agreement).

    The simplicity of what you put together makes sense, especially when you consider that the don’ts in an AUP are generally covered by other policies as you stated in your reply to the comment that ‘the EUP brings levity to those students who don’t do the right thing.’

    The only thing that may improve what you have is to change the word Policy to Agreement, a EUA. The word policy is just too confining if you want to focus students on all the great stuff that makes up learning with digital tools.

  23. Great post. I see the typical AUP as legalistic as well, but I think that has to have its place. The school and the teachers need to be sure they are protected. The language needs to be black and white with very little wiggle room for interpretation. This often sounds negative but it is, if anything, clear.

    It’s too bad that is a reality we need to deal with, but that doesn’t mean we are limited to that.

    At my BYOD school we have discussed the idea of a laptop bootcamp (got the idea from SAS Singapore) where we spend time discussing not only the nuts and bolts of how it works and how to take care of it. But we also are looking to use this as a time to share our vision, to try to empower students with technology, and in doing so hopefully change our culture.

    But the old – negative – crystal clear AUP will most likely be the first order of business.

  24. Scott – I am re-working our AUP and came across this. Would you mind if I used some of your language?

  25. Katri, see the link to my copyright policy in my top menu bar. Go for it!

  26. Scott, I might include this in my TEDx talk. Absolutely love it!

  27. curved score aroun 30%. Acceptable Use Policies are by and large awfully written, and do in fact nearly all contain teh phrases you object to.
    Your alternatives start extrememly weak. “Chronic misuse of “Awesome”doesn’t redefine anything it makes it ever vaguer. All you sugestions are too vague to be meaningful or “relevant.” “Nice” is a long discreditted banality that every child over ten knows is fake.
    If people want “empowerment” they should provide their own resources, or work to enjoy them.
    The Acceptable Use Policy is a first line of defense against security breach and misuse of public educational resources, as well as a defensible legal document. They get applied very rarely, adhered to infrequently, and actually read virtually never. We could and should write better, even more empowering policies and expect users (and Administrators) to understand and embrace them. You haven’t done it.

  28. and chrome crashed before i fixed my poor typing. yeech.

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