Los Angeles schools got a lot of attention last week when they had a technical snafu with their 1:1 iPad program, but they’re not the only school district with smart students capable of bypassing security restrictions on an iPad.
The Center Grove school district, which is located near Greenwood, Indiana, is having similar issues with students outsmarting the school district’s IT dept.reported just over a week ago that the
This school district has been issuing iPads to students as part of the Mobile Minds 1:1 iPad Initiative, which just launched with the new Fall semester, and students are already figuring out how to bypass the security:
A day after Center Grove handed out more than 2,000 iPads to high school students, hundreds of the teens found a way to get around the devices’ locks.
Teachers and administrators had programmed the iPads so that they were the only ones who controlled what was on them. But hours after getting them, between 300 and 400 students found ways to reprogram the iPads so they could download games and apps for social media sites, technology director Julie Bohnenkamp said.
From what I can tell, Center Grove had installed a third-party app to control what students could do with the iPads, and it’s pretty clear that the district officials didn’t do their due diligence. Within a day the officials learned that the app, which probably had to maintain contact with a server so it could continue to function, “couldn’t handle the number of devices it was filtering and instead slowed down the iPads or made them crash.”
It’s not clear whether the failure of the filter app is related to the student’s bypassing the security but it is clear that the failure of the security mechanism gave students plenty of reason to bypass the security. It was either hack the iPad or not use the iPad.
The school has responded to the nefarious students by inspecting and resetting the hacked iPads and by reminding the students that violating the acceptable use policy in the Mobile Minds manual can result in detention, in-school suspension, or worse.
According to the manual, even simply trying to access a blocked site counts as a violation. It doesn’t matter whether you succeed in visiting Youtube; the attempt is verboten.
It’s almost as if someone at Center Grove read The Right to Read, Richard Stallman’s dystopian short story, and thought it was a great idea:
… School policy was that any interference with their means of monitoring students’ computer use was grounds for disciplinary action. It didn’t matter whether you did anything harmful—the offense was making it hard for the administrators to check on you. They assumed this meant you were doing something else forbidden, and they did not need to know what it was.
Students were not usually expelled for this—not directly. Instead they were banned from the school computer systems, and would inevitably fail all their classes.
God help any Center Grove student whose younger sibling gets ahold of a school iPad and tries to browse the web; that student could be up for a firing squad.
And to make matters worse the AP also reports that Center Grove knew that they weren’t going to be able to stop all the students from bypassing the security, which is why the acceptable use policy spells out the forbidden activities.
I am all for a school trying to secure their hardware, but it boggles the mind that they knew about the technical issues and tried to paper over it with a disciplinary policy. It shows a level of head-in-the-sand thinking that is surprising.
Seriously, did the folks who came up with that policy ever even meet a teenager, much less teach one?
I am thinking no, otherwise they would not have come up with a policy that required disciplining a sizable percentage of the student body on the first day of a new program.