Acceptable Use vs. Responsible Use: Promoting positive use of technology in and out of the classroom

As the school year begins, teachers will be working to establish and reinforce classroom norms and routines to help students start the year successfully and to help build a respectful and cooperative classroom culture. With increased access to technology across all grades, an ever important aspect of positive culture building is the ongoing discussion, modelling, teaching and practicing of good digital citizenship. This is particularly important in classrooms where access to technology is 1:1, not only because of the increased access to technology during the school day, but also because many of our students are taking Board-issued devices home with them each night.

Before students are able to access and use technology at school, parents and caregivers must agree to the Acceptable Use Policy. While this is an acknowledgement of what is and isn’t acceptable as far as use of technology students, this requirement may not always prompt a discussion at home. Furthermore, it doesn’t address the norms and routines that teachers are looking to establish in their classrooms about how, when, why and where technology will be used for learning. Fostering good digital citizenship is the key to promoting responsible use of technology in the classroom. The discussion around digital citizenship is so valuable because it’s not classroom specific. Good digital citizens practice responsible use of technology both inside and outside of the classroom. They learn the value, for instance, of constructing a good digital footprint while in our classrooms, but then transfer that learning to their personal use of technology when they’re not at school.

Jennifer Casa-Todd’s book Social LEADia promotes the idea of going one step further with digital citizenship. Casa-Todd shares ideas for promoting digital leadership. Digital leadership takes digital citizenship one step further by not only promoting responsible use of technology, but also by teaching students to “share their learning, to address social inequality, and to be a positive influence in the lives of others” (

In Social LEADia, Casa-Todd references the work of Dr. Alec Couros and Katia Hildebrandt at the University of Regina. Couros and Hildebrandt worked with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education to write Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools (published in 2015). In her book, Casa-Todd includes this figure from that report:


The Responsible Use Policy is all about the classroom. It’s co-created by teacher and students. There’s student ownership over the agreement.

This figure sets out a pretty good distinction between the an acceptable use policy and a responsible use policy. All parents and caregivers will have signed the acceptable use policy on behalf of their child in order for students to use technology at school. The Responsible Use Policy is all about the classroom. It’s co-created by teacher and students. There’s student ownership over the agreement.

To further the idea, Casa-Todd discusses the idea of creating a Responsible Use of Technology pledge. The discussion points around the pledge look like this:


Notice that the pledge isn’t stock. It’s not pre-filled, or one-size fits all. It’s not determined in advance. It’s open and requires thought, discussion and agreement. You can dig deeper by accessing the Responsible Use resources on Jennifer Casa-Todd’s incredibly comprehensive Social LEADia companion site (which includes a link to a Google Slides copy of the template shown above).

The Responsible Use Policy is a great fit for teachers who are looking to work with their students to establish good, clear, and positive direction for student use of devices that isn’t punitive or built to simply offer consequences for inappropriate use of devices.

For more ideas, check out Social LEADia, follow @JCasaTodd, and #SocialLEADia on Twitter.  Durham District School Board educator’s can access Social LEADia through OverDrive. Thanks to Jennifer Casa-Todd for sharing companion resources for free on her website.

For even more educator resources on digital citizenship, check out Common Sense Media’s K-12 Digital Citizenship Curriculum and Media Smarts’ Digital Literacy Framework for Canadian Schools. The Digital Citizenship page on the Innovative Education section of the Portal also includes links to several more resources.

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