Teachers computers on lockdown…

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Daniel Y. Go

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Daniel Y. Go

I can relate to  Doug Johnson’s blog post The Changing Role of Tech Support.  In his blog, he describes how some district’s:

“…technology departments are raising barriers rather than creating possibilities about new resources – especially when the objections seem rather spurious (security of GoogleApps, bandwidth for YouTube, predators on Facebook, licensing of Skype, etc.). Are the concerns real or just because the way of doing something is different?”

In a recent discussion…  blaming problems of spyware, malware it was the opinion of some districts tech departments to block and lock down everything – including teacher systems. Software like Deep Freeze, was being installed on teacher computers and teachers did not have “administrative” rights to bypass this security allowing them to install software, including opensource/free apps.    They (techs) decide what apps are allowed on the machines and teachers are left to talk the techs into installing the software for them, when it is convenient to the techs.

One example given was a district decision NOT to support or install JING, a free screen capture tool from Techsmith.  The district only supported Camstudio, another free app.  As an advocate for transparent educational technology – I really want my teachers to find the tool that they are most comfortable with to adapt and – most of all – integrate into their classrooms to support student learning.  I am more proud of the fact they are recording tutorials/resources for their students rather than scrutinizing what tool they want to use to do it.

Doug describes this problem as techs being reluctant to change.  I would agree.  Just as teachers need to move from the “sole givers of information” techs also need to move from the “sole givers of the technology”.  Do you think a better understanding of classroom pedagogy and instructional design would help these reluctant districts  accept that teachers need to have the flexibility to find, install, and practice with emerging tools to match and support their students individual learning styles and needs?

I will admit – I genuinely enjoy collaborating with (not policing) teachers when trying THEIR new ideas within their classrooms! The benefits to our students have been AMAZING!

  1. After reading through Doug’s blog, and your post Jen, I would say that I don’t agree with the notion that “Techs” are reluctant to change. Every School Technology person I’ve worked with is awash in change. We’re constantly surrounded by it and dealing with it. Every one of us is constantly learning new skills, new software, new hardware, and new tools. In many cases, we are the ones trying to help our staffs stay updated as well. In the meantime we are trying to stay abreast of new threats that exist that could potentially mess up all these tools and prevent them from being used in the classrooms. I don’t think the use of DeepFreeze, or various security policies are in place in any way shape or form to prevent teachers from being innovative. And in my experience they don’t. I went entirely web-based five years ago when I was in Chatfield, and had software galore (including Google Earth, Sketch-up, Skype, Gimp and others) installed on every new computer that came through the door. But I also used DeepFreeze and didn’t allow administrative access on the computers for the end user. Staff still got to use new software if the wished to, we had trainings on the software and did all sorts of cool things, and I was very proud of what we accomplished there as well. But there were some important policies in place that allowed me to concentrate on HELPING the staff and students rather than constantly fixing problems! It’s sort of like the same thing that Special Ed teachers say – they’d rather be with their students than doing paperwork!

    Security measures and policies are in place to help keep equipment running. They have to be there in some form. I’m sure Mankato has an AUP, as does every school district. But that doesn’t mean innovation takes a back seat. Web 2.0 tools are essentially unaffected by these sorts of security measures because web 2.0 tools are web-based, which was another reason why I went to nearly having everything web-based at Chatfield five years ago. In addition, for some districts that do use DeepFreeze, they still allow teachers to experiment with software, but allow it knowing that the DeepFreeze software will reverse anything that could potentially damage the computer’s ability to operate. So, the opportunity is still there for some trial things to take place, but the overall integrety of that vital piece of equipment – the computer – isn’t put into jeopardy, very nearly ensuring that tool will be available for the teacher to use it when it’s needed.

    Where YouTube and other software is concerned, the use of content filters and figuring out what should be blocked and what shouldn’t be blocked is often a question of what’s the best happy medium between inapproprate content being blocked while still allowing what’s needed through, just as the “what are teachers & students allowed to do on their computers?” question is trying to discover the best balance between security and convienience.

    Some of those restrictions have nothing to do with “Techs” and everything to do with law (such as CIPA, and eRate), so to put some this on the shoulders of “Techs” is unfair. Some of the issues regarding sites like Facebook come from legitimate concerns about safety for the students (which is one reason why internet safety training is a part of the ISTE Standards). Some of the issues, like licensing for Skype (which costs money), comes from the budget situations that schools find themselves in. Security policies (like limiting administrative rights) are championed by the very companies that make the software (Microsoft White Papers on keeping a Windows computer running smoothly spell that out quite clearly), and “Techs” are going to take these best practice suggestions to heart. These have nothing to do with “Techs” having any desire toward becoming some kind of tech police to the teachers, or “Techs” being reluctant to change, or wishing to refuse innovative learning.

    I don’t think there’s a “Tech” person out there that tries to squelch tools. That goes against every fiber of who we are and why we do what we do. We love this stuff, and we want others to use it too. Heck, in probably every school, it’s likely been the Tech Coordinators, Directors and Support Staff that have gotten the vast majority of innovative Tech Tool use off the ground to begin with. But we also have a very important job to do, and that’s to keep the computers and tools running. We have to be as efficient at this as possible. Balance is tough to achieve, and some policies and restrictions have to be put in place. But lets not put the blame for “innovation squelching” on some generic reason like “Techs” being the reason for some kind of bottleneck in classroom innovation. Let’s make sure that communication lines stay open, all parties are respected, and that processes take place in a professional manner. Innovation will take place if those things are done.

  2. Bryan,
    Thanks for sharing your perspective. I want to clarify what I meant by techs reluctant to change. I understand your position that we, as technology directors, are – immersed in change. As I reflect upon my own experience the past couple years I have encountered change with a new school, new student information system, new classroom multimedia systems, new mandated online state testing system, the integration of Google Apps…ect ect. (I am preaching to the choir right?) With all this systemic change happening in our district, I literally do not have time to address each teacher laptop on an individual basis.

    You mention the plethora of open source tools like Google Earth, Sketch-up, Skype, Gimp that is installed an encouraged on teacher machines. We also have those apps installed on every student and teacher base image as they great cross-curricular applications. However, what happens when a science teacher wants to do a unit on Astronomy and would like to practice/demonstrate Stellarium or Celestia on their smartboards in their classroom? Or a music teacher that wants to use Musescore to script their students latest original works? Or a math teacher wanting to use Tuxmath to differentiate with a student that has lower level math skills? What happens then? What is the tech support turnaround time to support these individual needs? By the time they (techs) get there…is the momentum gone? It is like the old Chinese proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Teachers in Byron are encouraged to find, install, and integrate those resources/apps that are meaningful to them and their curriculum for they are the subject matter experts – not me. It most definitely is a proud moment when teachers do great things after a Podcasting or Google Earth workshop. However, I am finding it even more pleasing when teachers are self-supportive and can do those things (and more!) on their own. In my opinion, locking down teacher systems force them to rely on technology support as being the sole givers of technology. This is the change I am not sure some districts are ready to let go.

    I understand the issue of spyware and the headache it causes. We don’t even bother cleaning it anymore. Teachers bring their laptop in, tech support reimages, and we can get their laptops back to them in an hour or two. Rest assured, we are doing a multitude of things while the image is installing. I figure our techs actual time invested – maybe 20 minutes. I do like the idea of Deep Freeze to help control these issues – but if we implemented – we would definitely give our teachers bypass passwords so that they could customize their laptops to suit their needs. However, I know there are districts out there that refuse to allow their teachers to install anything – and in those cases, I firmly disagree with that philosophy. This is just my personal opinion. We have had three laptop refreshes since 2001 and teachers and administrators have had full administrative rights over their computers. Out of 120 laptops, we probably have to reimage 7 to 10 each year. In my opinion, that is 7 to 10 too many, but I can handle those odds for the sake of self-learned innovation.

    Filtering….That is a beast of its own sort. I will admit, we just opened youtube to teachers last year and students this year. Games are now open. But Facebook is still blocked. As I see other districts opening access, I imagine we too will follow suit – when we are ready. In the mean time, we encourage teachers to use classroom based Ning, Wikis, or Moodle to begin utilizing social networking in their classrooms. Too often, I see districts utilizing filters as a classroom management tools. CIPA states that The protection measures must block or filter Internet access to pictures that are: (a) obscene, (b) child pornography, or (c) harmful to minors (for computers that are accessed by minors). Sure there is a lot of worthless JUNK on youtube – but there is also an incredible wealth of resources. Education is key. Policy is key. We also were guilty of over filtering. But now, I have teachers creating their SMART Board lessons on youtube and developing classroom youtube channels to share student made videos. Its amazing how much the students quality of work improves when they realize the world is their audience.

    Finally, I appreciate your comment “I don’t think there’s a “Tech” person out there that tries to squelch tools. That goes against every fiber of who we are and why we do what we do. We love this stuff, and we want others to use it too.” We are all very passionate about what we do and feel we do the best job possible. Do our staff feel the same way? In the last year and a half I have been in an online program with teachers from around the US/World. Many of them struggle with technology in their schools. When I ask “why” the number 1 reason usually is administration. Number 2 is technology directors. I have had recent face-to-face conversations with teachers in our own state about this very issue as well. Some continue to press the envelope, while others tire of tiptoeing in a den of lions.

    I will admit, my recent education has changed my own tune. I have a new understanding of pedagogy and instructional design that has opened my eyes to teachers and student needs. Whether you agree with my opinions is entirely up to you. If anything – I hope this discussion prompts tech leaders to reflect upon their own district practices to determine if what they are doing is in the best interest of all their staff and students.

  3. While I am on the fence in part on the Deep Freeze issue, I see both sides of the argument and can find good reason both to install it and not to install it, I would like to address some of the issues Bryan brings up (be they within the tech dept locust of control or not).

    Bryan says, “Some of the issues regarding sites like Facebook come from legitimate concerns about safety for the students (which is one reason why internet safety training is a part of the ISTE Standards).”

    -The safety concerns regarding sites like Facebook are largely manufactured. Why do we have these concerns? Why are schools scared of these tools? The biggest contributor to this concern or fear stems from a much larger issue that has to do with the equitable distribution of information. For many decades traditional media outlets were the main source of information in our society. When social networking and social media came into the picture five years ago they posed, and still pose, a threat to these media conglomerates. Networks started airing spots like “To Catch a Predator” where they use social networking to bait would-be predators in order to manufacture a problem that in reality is fairly minimal. Far, far fewer cases of child abuse have been found as a result of children meeting strangers online than by people children know. A child is safer on Facebook than meeting with a youth counselor, riding the school bus, or attending church (the number of reported cases of abuse resulting from any one of these sources is higher than those reported as a result of children meeting strangers online). “To Catch a Predator” is just one of many cases of traditional media outlets sensationalizing any instance something bad happening as a result of these tools. The fact that traditional media has a vested interest in seeing these tools go away makes any reporting they do on them biased and any concerns resulting from that biased reporting are unjustified.

    So, driven by fear instilled by traditional media, schools across the country rushed to block anything branded social networking. As a result, ironically, our students have been left less safe online because their teachers have been stripped of their ability to model appropriate use of these tools or monitor use. The past five years we have sent our children out into the digital wilderness unsupervised. This action is unjust and in my opinion constitutes educational neglect on the part of school decision makers. This is why internet safety is part of the ISTE standards. To fully meet that standard schools have to unblock these tools and actually use them with kids.

    Over-interpreting CIPA laws causes other problems as well. First, when too much is blocked (censored) it limits your access to information. When tools like YouTube, Twitter, Blogs, & Facebook are becoming such important platforms for sharing information blocking them limits an organization’s ability to make informed decisions and it restricts our ability to understand and process what is happening in the world. For me this was very evident recently when I spent a day at the Minnesota Department of Education. The department has perhaps the strictest firewall I have ever seen. Consequently, much of the information about technology and technology integration I heard at my meeting that day reflected an gross unawareness of important issues on the topic. The same is true of schools. Most teachers and administrators do not spend a lot of time online at home. The information they consume on a daily basis is either: 1. Print or TV controlled by traditional media outlets with a strong bias; and 2. A filtered internet.

    Filtering can also be seen as an equity issue. It has been well documented that school districts in wealthier neighborhoods tend to have more open filtration policies than those in poorer neighborhoods. If, as traditional media fears, social media is so important to our future those who have been taught how to utilize and manipulate it will have an advantage over those who do not. This disparity between districts is creating a production gap between the rich and the poor. See: Filling the Production Gap

    Bryan says: “Some of the issues, like licensing for Skype (which costs money), comes from the budget situations that schools find themselves in. Security policies (like limiting administrative rights) are championed by the very companies that make the software (Microsoft White Papers on keeping a Windows computer running smoothly spell that out quite clearly), and “Techs” are going to take these best practice suggestions to heart.”

    -First, last I checked Skype was free to install and free to make Skype to Skype calls.

    Second, to make an informed decision about anything it is bad practice to base those decisions on research funded by the company selling you the product. Any white paper produced by companies like Microsoft or Promethian is going to be inherently biased. Such white papers might be useful to gain insight and learn tips or tricks on how the product might be used but major decisions have to be based on independent sources. Many school districts have wasted loads of the public trust by basing their decisions in research funded by those selling them products.

    As for Deep Freeze, I am leaning toward it being a good default setting that teachers can opt out of (for the time being).

  4. Pingback: Tweets that mention Teachers computers on lockdown… | Grin and BEAR "I.T." -- Topsy.com

  5. To Carl – The “licensing of Skype” was a quote from Doug’s blog. I’m well aware that Skype is free for Skype to Skype calls (I’ve been using it myself for over five years). BUT there are costs associated for some convienient features. I assumed that’s what Doug was refering to by the “licensing”. You know me better than that to give me some admonishment about it on a blog post. Besides that, I was only using that as an example to talk about budget sometimes being reason for some software not being installed, a reason that doesn’t fall on the “Techs” shoulders. Same is true for the “Curriculum Drives Technology” statement. No kidding. I’ve been saying that for 13 years, as have every tech I’ve ever talked to.

    That’s a lot of good information about Facebook and social networking in general, but I don’t know if students are less safe because teachers aren’t demonstrating the use of a specific site in their classrooms. That seems to be a stretch considering some of the good Internet safety curriculum that has been out there – free – and being used for a number of years, and the fact that many other sites, like Flickr, Ning and even TeacherTube are essentially Social Networkimg sites and good safety practices can be taught using those. To be honest, I’m a bit surprised that you trivialized some of the predator issues as simply boiling down to “traditional media” outlets manufacturing a problem in order to save themselves from being irrevalent. It maybe has been overhyped, but recent sting operations in our own backyard (with very little of the hype that some of the TV news shows that showed some similar stings)have shown that there are – and should be – some concerns about how those online tools are handled. Besides, you even mentioned how students are “less safe” because some of this supposedly doesn’t get demonstrated to students, which implies that you are aware of some safety issues out there that are more than just “manufactured”. Your other thoughts and numbers are interesting, but it doesn’t change the fact that schools are struggling to find that “Happy Medium” with filters that have to be in place because of eRate and CIPA laws. That discussion can be brought up to 100 School Leaders, and you’ll likely get 100 different answers about what that happy medium level should be, regardless of what “Traditional Media” says, or if you think Facebook is getting a bad rap. The reason I mentioned Facebook at all was because Doug used it as an example in his post. I was simply trying to make a point that this doesn’t always fall on “Techs” making these decisions about access – many times that decision comes from others higher up and it’s not on the “Techs” shoulders – rather than saying anything “yay” or “nay” about a given site.

    I also take some exception to it being “bad practice” for using Microsoft Security White Papers to help base decisions on some best practices for setting security on Windows. That seems like a very over-generalized statement. When it comes to promotional information, yes I can see taking it with a hefty dose of salt. But the security whitepapers have some merit when the parctices do seem to work to prevent computers from getting bogged down or unusable from junk software that was installed with or without a user’s knowledge. Much of that information has proven useful over a long period of time and over a large number of users. So to dismiss that info just because it sits on Microsoft’s website is a bit silly. And this comes from a person (me) who rarely likes anything Microsft does! Besides, you essentially say “without checking on the info first”, which proves that point. I’m glad to see that you have a healthy dose of skepticsm in the way you approach information, but don’t let that blind you to the information that is relavent and proven trustworthy, even if it comes from sources that you feel you can’t always trust, nor should you admonish folks for using such resources without getting the full story, and especially when it’s being used as an example to point out where concerns from Techs for some things might come from.

    By the way, even this site will prevent a post from taking place if a certain four-letter word that starts with the letter “P” and describes what you find in a girlie magazine is used. I think that also shows how society plays a much bigger role in determining “censorship” than “Techs” do.

  6. Jen – there’s no perfect solution out there. But the point of my comment was to say that schools – in my experience – aren’t limiting technology because of “Techs”. I don’t agree with that at all. I don’t know of any that are “power hungry” or anything of that nature and want to “keep it for themselves”. You mentioned some good points, and they are all issues that we all struggle to find good solutions for. Some districts have multiple people on their staffs that can help speed the resolution of issues. When I was at Chatfield, I was it! I had to find a way to keep things running so I could help the teachers explore software and new ideas, and try things out for myself. I envy Integration Specialists like Carl who don’t have those extra responsibilities on their heads to make sure the network is working, the phone system is working, the servers are working and backed up, the security cameras and door systems are working and making sure that those computers, interactive whiteboards, projectors, scanners, the software and other tools are ready each and every day, PLUS keep up on software tools that I could share with the teachers (because they can’t always keep up with all that info either) plus handle the training of the teachers so they can start using those tools – which at times – can be like pulling teeth! So, I want to find that balance of keeping things going, and making sure we can keep moving forward, while minimizing the amount of time I need to spend on preventable issues. If teachers wants to use some new software, I’ve always been acommodating, and worked with their schedule as much as possible. And I don’t recall there ever being an issue about “losing momentum”. Teachers are always excited about software they discover and in the environments we have, they do get a chance to use it during a “teachable moment”. Like I said, DeepFreeze allows for that, as does a ThawSpace that can be created. But giving teachers the power to disable it whenever they want to throws away the protections that software like DeepFreeze provides. So, they CAN try out those programs you mentioned, but still gives me a chance to take a look and make sure that the software will be groovy with the environment its in, or maybe even find a better way to use it! Maybe it’s possible to use it on the network rather than individual machines! Then other staff and students have easier access, and it saves me time in the long run!

    I’m not saying that what you are doing is wrong. The “How” is what we’re all trying to figure out, all of the time. What I’m disagreeing with is the generic notion that “Techs” as a whole are some kind of limiting factor. Even from teachers that say “it’s the Tech Department”, there has to be more digging made to determine the cause for that belief. My guess, what seems to be the “Techs” actually comes from a policy that the district needed to have in place because of factors outside the realm of Tech control, but the Tech department is responsible for it being implemented. But the “Techs” are a handy excuse, aren’t they?. So, we all need to continually learn and share from one another to find new and better ways of providing what the teachers need while still keeping the network and the tools operational.

    You know what I think it really all boils down to, and the area where I think Doug is correct? Money. Tech staffs are usually very limited in schools. Some do better than others, but Tech has grown exponentially in the past 13 years. We’ve gone from a handful of computers and limited bandwidth (I recall the one computer in the Media center that had dial-up access) to connectivity throughout a school campus with mobile devices. That’s an INCREDIBLE amount of change in a very short period of time. What used to be easily handled by one of the teachers who had a interest in the stuff, now takes a dedicated staff of some type. In house, outsourced or a combination of the two. Bandwidth needs have increased at a rapid pace as well, wireless access needs comtinue to be in demand, and there are a lot of things that push an envelope that can only handle so much at a given point in time. If the envelope grows, theres more pushing to try and expand it further. That envelopoe’s size isn’t set in stone by the “Techs” but by so many variables that we can’t list them in this space. With money we’d have all the bandwidth we need, taking away concerns about game-playing or You-Tube video watching or streaming radio listening sucking up limited bandwidth needed to do what teachers need to do in their classrooms and labs. With money we’d have all the Tech Staff and Support and Training we’d need. With Money there’d be time to give teachers ample opportunities to learn about, play with and become experts in all manners of software and tools. With Money we could have network infrastructure that could pull images from multiple machines a day and have staff on-hand to do software installs and updates remotely at a moments notice.

    But because money IS one of our limiting factors, it puts some limits on other areas as well. Everything we all are trying to do is done within the limits that are put on us and what we want to do. So I’m just saying that everyone, including you, Doug and Carl, have to be careful when they throw some of these thoughts around.

    And it still comes down to what I said to end my first comment to this blog post. Respect and communication. Easier said than done, but even with money as a limiting factor, if done well, use of respect and good communication sure makes a difference! My Psych background and – so far – 43 years of experience have taught me that!

  7. Normally I don’t feel the need to dive into conversations online like this but, I’ve got a few free minutes.

    Carl… I think you are misguided on your skepticism of Microsoft’s whitepapers. In fact I think you are flat wrong. I won’t elaborate more other than to give an example that proves the Microsoft Best Practices on Windows Deployment is not just good advice, it works.

    5-6 years ago I started working for my district. My district had no tech for nearly 1 year and all users had administrative rights to their computers. 3 months into taking over with these rights the network had already come to a screeching halt not one time but 4 times. Yes the entire network was at a standstill for a couple of days at a time. Spyware, malware, viruses, you name it every computer had it. We shut every machine down and reimaged them one by one until we had it figured out.

    That is an extreme case, but it was real. Don’t discredit the Best Practices just because your network is working now. I respect your opinions on this but I cannot stand by and not say anything. I only hope you don’t have to go through what I did with my network because of those practices.

    I don’t want to write too much here because I could go on forever. If you truly are interested in what other districts do and why I can only express what I’m doing at my district. You can check out my blog at http://techchucker.wordpress.com and see as I add stuff. It’s a brand new blog so right now there isn’t really anything there but I’ll be posting things periodically. Not sure if anyone cares what I’m doing or what I feel works best but it’s a way of dumping my thoughts.

  8. I also use Deep Freeze to help keep the computers running well – especially in labs where students have the most access. I also put Deep Freeze on teacher computers, however I do turn it off if they request it. (Some teacher ASK to have it installed!)Since I am the tech department- it is necessary. I do not use it at all on laptops – it would defeat the purpose of being able to work in places other than school. I also reimage if there are problems. I do not have all that many problems though!

    I do think that techs need to be carefull about how they administer their networks. I have a foot in both worlds, I an the Technology Director, but I also am a teacher. I try to keep things balanced by keeping the network running as smoothly as possible, keeping things secure, while at the same time allowing teachers to use the many tools available to them. I will readily acknowledge that I cannot hear about and know about every new technology, app, system, or program that is out there. Teachers often have a better conduit to that information as they network within their grade or subject areas. They usually will come to me to ask about it or get my opinion. Sometimes they will come in to ask if I know of something they could use to solve a problem or use to accomplish something in a new way- if I don’t know, I research it and try to find them a solution.

    Locking down the network so tight that it prohibits growth is not a good idea. It effectively shuts down a teacher who wants to expand or try new ideas. I sometimes get the impression that some of my fellow techies think that these trials will just cause them more work. Yes, that sometimes happen, and we are all busy, but we are in the business of education – we need to find a way. It can’t always be our ideas either.

    An example would be student emails. Many schools do not use or allow student emails. When email first became web-based and lots of kids started using it, most schools looked at it as dangerous and a threat. But, as people came to rely on it as a tool, it has to be there for students! We should not let the horror stories of the actions of a particular student stop all students from using it. At our school, we encourage email use. Students email work to teachers. We use email to communicate within our Moodle courses. I remember the days when the adults in my life told me that watching TV was really a bad thing- it caused eye problems, health problems, and would turn your mind to jelly! Sound familiar? TV revolutionized and changed the way people taught. Now students could actually see what a pyramid looked like, instead of looking at a photo in a book – you could watch a cell divide, or learn a foreign language. I know that there are people who will not fly on an airplane because they fear an accident, yet the odds of being in an accident in a car are hundreds, maybe a thousand times more likely! Those same people will drive all over – Do airplane accidents happen- yes they do. Will some kid send out a problem email, or teacher download a program with a virus- sure- that is going to happen- but does that mean NO ONE can be allowed to do this then? That is as silly as TV making you go blind.

    My job as a the Technology Director is to help teachers teach kids. I try to keep the network going so it can support that idea. My two cents worth…

  9. Bryan,

    I think you clearly identified the source of the issue with that last comment. The rapid expansion of tech in schools have left tech departments overworked and overextended. This has resulted in districts having to resort to measures that severely limit teachers and students in order to maintain a system. If anything, this should illustrate the need either for more resources devoted to tech or to a different approach to how technology is used in school. I personally believe that shift will have to be a shift to being more like a service provider where students (and maybe even staff) bring their own computers to school and connect to the school network. We are not quite there yet but we are close. The next few years I fear we will be going through some massive growing pains.

    As for my previous comment, I was not trying to make light of the threat posed by internet predators, what I was trying to do was bring the threat into proper perspective. We don’t scrutinize and fear environments that contain greater threats to our children the way we do with online communities. I just feel the issue has been blown way out of proportion. I do recognize that the threat is there, it exists in any place where humans interact, and I feel removing ourselves from those places where children are online only makes the potential for possible harm greater.

    Matt, I think you misunderstood my point about the white papers and Best Practices. Best Practices have to be developed from examining data from multiple points. We can include the Microsoft White Papers in that collection of data but it cannot be the sole basis of what we rely on to determine what those best practices for schools are. That data has to be triangulated from other sources including independent sources. My statement was really meant to be broadly applicable and while I do, as a strong supporter of open source, feel it is applicable in this case it’s relevance pales in comparison to other situations where similar practices have taken place (i.e. Basing district IWB purchase decisions solely on non-peer reviewed research funded by Promethean).

  10. From this discussion and others like it, there are multiple “rights”. Is it safe to state that everyone is in agreement that the educational focus should be how we can help our students learn?

    On one end of the spectrum we have the real world Internet. In this world students have the same access as adults to everything on the World Wide Web that’ both good and bad. In this real world Internet, students also have the means to communicate and interact with everyone also on this grand network that are both good and bad.

    On the other end of the spectrum we have federal law, time constraints, and financial barriers. Any and all of which force us as educators and school districts to pick and choose what will work specifically for us.

    This “educational world” internet may have sites blocked that are good or bad. This educational internet also has communication channels blocked that might be either good or bad. This “educational world” internet may also have limitations on available applications as well.

    All of the conjecture so far is the conflict between these two worlds as the opposite ends of the spectrum become closer and closer.

    The real question is not if but when these two worlds unite. Smart phones are here that skip Internet filters and they are getting less expensive by the day.

    Take a poll some time to see just how many educators and students can circumvent filters through the use of their own personal handheld devices.

    Software that prevents damage to computers systems does save time and money. There’s no question about that.

    Filters that protect our students from social networking websites and inappropriate websites have very real rational behind them as well.

    There is no right or wrong answer here. Every school district must and ever user must make the decision that is correct for their students.

    These decisions must be based on cost, time, and educational value. To blanket the issue with a doctrine is not only unwise but also foolhardy. Each situation needs to be looked at and evaluated with the end kept in mind “How can we help our students succeed?”

  11. I agree that we are talking about multiple rights as Kevin has pointed out but I think it goes further than just the real world Internet and the Educational world Internet. The primary focus of the original posting was administrative rights to the local computer for end users. This being for the sake of convenience for staff members. We’re probably all in agreement that we would love to allow teachers the ability to install software whenever they want. The fact of the matter is that may not be possible or prudent. I won’t get into why as I think we’ve drilled that one enough.

    The question is this: Is technology ready for a truly cloud based computing world?

    The answer is no, but it is progressing quickly. The unfortunate part is that the tools are there now but the protections might not be and perhaps they aren’t the right tools.

    As I see it, education will need and should transition into some of these tools carefully. The primary goal of a district in implementing technology on a technological and legal aspect is the ability to control the environment the students and faculty work in. This means rather than having everyone setup a Facebook account the district will host it’s own social networking site in house. Same with student and staff e-mail and other tools as well.

    What about cell phones? That is one where technology and the ability to control the environment are not even close to each other. If we as districts are going to allow cell phones do we absolve all responsibility for little Billy showing innappropriate materials to their classmates during class? We would have policies but how do we control that device so we can utilize it more than as just a simple e-mail, video, audio device? How do we push data to the phones? Not all phones communicate or view content the same. How many formats do teachers need to save their documents in? Can we expect all students to have a phone with these capabilities without breaking the law?

    As of right now there are far more questions and risks involved than is comfortable for many people to say computing in the cloud is the future of our district. At my district we want to be able to control when that cloud is going to rain. What happens when your hosted service decides they are going to do an upgrade to their system? You have no control. What happens if version 2.0 is now completely different from version 1.0? You have to hurry up and train your staff and students. You don’t set your schedule they do and most businesses don’t run on an academic calendar.

    Control, control, control… Technology is about controlling the environment so as to limit your risk. The risk being, downtime, data loss, data privacy, etc.

    What happens when your new service goes down? Who do you call? Do you get good service from them? If your internet is down now all services outside of the building are down. How nice is it now when your internet isn’t working and you can still e-mail your colleagues?

    One should understand that computing in the cloud and allowing administrative rights to a local computer are 2 very different animals. The day everything is in the cloud will mean nothing is installed on local computers and no user will ever need administrative rights to their computer.

    There is no one right answer but there are right answers. You may not be able to prove it’s right until you’ve done it and it’s too late. You just can’t make it sound so easy because it’s not. There is a lot to it. The technology is the easy part. The policies, procedures, politics, and saftey are the hard part.

    I may be “the downer” of the group, and I may be overly paranoid but I feel better sleeping at night knowing there are less security holes in my network because of the controls we put in place.

    As a side note there are better ways of allowing staff to install their own software rather than giving their regular account administrative access. We use a separate account that has access to all computers with an administrative level membership. We do ask that they request access to the account so we can ensure proper licensing, and give recommendations should we know there are issues or special instructions for a program.

    Matt Anderson

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