One of the challenges of 21st century education is determining the appropriate ways to use technology in the classroom. That’s a challenge that each school or district needs to confront in its own way. One thing that is universal, however, is that the policies and processes put into place around technology need to come from an ongoing dialog between teachers, school administrators, and IT professionals.
While some schools may have restrictive policies, those policies are emblematic of the community to which the schools belongs. They are the policies that the school itself and the parents of its students feel are needed to protect its students. Those policies also teach students what is acceptable behavior and how to protect themselves in the online world.
As the classroom adapts the increasingly mobile and digital reality, these policies and guidelines help guide the transformation in learning that the iPad has come to represent. Everyone involved in education needs to be part of the discussion, particularly when it comes to student safety.
That’s why I found an article written by GOOD’s education editor Liz Dwyer particularly disturbing. In it she encourages teachers to violate the technology policies in place at their schools if they disagree with them or find them restrictive. Rather than encouraging teachers to discuss why they feel the need to integrate Google+ or Twitter into the classroom, perhaps leading to a policy exception or even a change in the policy, Dwyer encourages teachers to take matters into their own hands. To circumvent mobile device management, Mac/PC management, and Internet filtering, she offers four suggestions – all of which would be successful in the majority of public schools.
- Purchase a private VPN connection that can tunnel past a school’s firewall and provide unrestricted Internet access.
- Purchase a USB 3G/4G network dongle from a mobile carrier and the associated data plan for use with a school-owned or personal computer in the classroom. She eagerly points out that Mac users can share this connection with Wi-Fi-enabled computers and devices nearby using OS X’s Internet Sharing feature.
- Purchase a personal hotspot device from a mobile carrier, which provides the same benefits as a USB dongle.
- Use a free ad-supported VPN app for Macs and iOS devices that masks a user’s Internet access history.
At the end of the article, she tells teachers that they’re responsible if they follow her suggestions.
Yes, some of these methods may be questionable or outright banned by your local school district. Proceed at your own risk because, ahem, we aren’t liable if you get busted.
What she fails to mention is that these practices may violate state and local laws, could lead to teacher dismissal, and could result in a school losing state and federal funding. If a child or a child’s personal information is put at risk, the teacher and the school could face civil and criminal action. Less dramatic, but possibly more important, it sends a very inappropriate message to kids to see a teacher breaking the rules.
The simple fact is that school technology policies exist to protect everyone on campus including students, teachers, administrators, and IT staff. They also exist to ensure a school abides by any federal, state, or local laws and regulations about what kids are allowed to access on school property or with school equipment.
The iPad is ushering in a new teaching paradigm, but it also introduces new questions and even new risks. Figuring out the best and safest ways to use the iPad and related technologies isn’t going to happen overnight. It will take an ongoing process of discussion. Skipping over that discussion isn’t going to help things along.