I have long viewed security restrictions on a student's gadget not so much a restriction as a practical lesson in technology. Any student that wants to bypass that security is going to have to learn more about the gadget and learn new technical skills.
This is usually not what schools intend to happen, but it appears that students in the LA Unified School District have proven me right once again.
This school district is just beginning to deploy a billion dollar 1:1 iPad program and they have already run into a technical snafu. It's only a month
1 week into the school year and students have already figured out how to bypass the IMO rather basic security restrictions.
Students at Theodore Roosevelt High School, Westchester High School, and the Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences have all discovered that they can bypass the content filters blocking them from accessing Youtube, Facebook, and other non-academic sites using a fairly simple trick:
Roosevelt students matter-of-factly explained their technique Tuesday outside school. The trick, they said, was to delete their personal profile information. With the profile deleted, a student was free to surf.
Soon they were sending tweets, socializing on Facebook and streaming music through Pandora, they said.
This means that when they take their school-issued iPads home there's nothing stopping them from using non-academic purposes.
These students were the first to receive their iPads in a program that is intended to eventually put iPads in the hands of all 662 thousand students in the LAUSD. The iPads are being deployed at 47 LAUSD schools this Fall as a first stage test. If it is successful the school district plans to roll out iPads at an additional 200 schools in the Spring semester, starting in January 2013. If all goes well the remaining 400 odd LAUSD schools would get iPads in Fall 2014.
The iPads are intended to be a multi-use academic device for digital textbooks, homework, and other school uses, so naturally the school district decided to lock down the devices before letting the students take them home. But as a result of students bypassing the laughable security, the "take the iPads home" part of the program has been put on hold.
And that is truly a shame. Some of the pilot schools were selected because they had the highest proportion of disadvantaged students, a lot of whom may not have ready access to computers at home. The iPad might have helped those students.
School district officials are scrambling to deploy new security measures but there's no word yet on their progress.
The LA Unified School District is the second largest public school district in the US. Only the NYC Dept of Education, which serves 1.1 million students, is bigger.