Monday, 27 April 2009

Students Personal Laptops at School for eLearning

At the end of last term elearning students from one of our schools asked for support in being able to use their own laptops at school. What impressed me about these students was that they not only presented their problem but put forward some possible solutions. All too often we here problems & request for fixes but obviously these students had thought through the issues and been proactive about what to do next.

“We have been using our personal laptops during our VC classes and study periods to take notes, contact our teachers, download and submit assignments. Up until now (just over a year) we have been doing this very successfully without question, but recently we were pulled up for using the school's network for this this because our Cybersafety Agreement doesn't allow external devices to communicate on the network, and we've been prohibited from connecting to network, which includes internet access.

The school's concerns are that computers which are not officially setup by the technicians may cause a virus to propagate on the network and cause costly problems, and that this may become a serious issue as laptops for elearning become increasingly popular.”

I believe that schools need to address this so students can use their own computers at school and there are schools, such as Whangaparoa College, who are doing this successfully. It is definitely something that will be more & more important in the future (along with the use of cellphones & other devices). When many schools are struggling to make technology available in schools it would make sense to allow students who have them to be able to use their own laptops. Schools I have talked to have said that it is on their radar screen but they have put it in the too hard basket until there is more pressure from student demand. I understand that schools need to maintain a secure network but there are ways to work around this.

The following are the proposals these students have made:

- Students are encouraged to take advantage of personal technology to improve their learning.

- The Cybersafety Agreement is amended to allow the use of external devices on the school’s network on the condition that acceptable measures are taken on behalf of the user to ensure the safety of the school’s network. This may involve occasional audits to ensure antivirus programs are installed and updated regularly if appropriate.

- A procedure is put in place to regularly review the use of the school network with external devices, and as the use of personal technology in learning develops with the growth of elearning, the school’s network is adapted to accommodate needs.

The use of teacher laptops is directly relevant to this argument & teacher laptops are now ubiquitous and seen as necessary. These also are a potential security risks to school networks with teacher laptops if procedures similar to those mentioned above are not followed. I know many teacher laptops that have been used at home in risky ways, have peer to peer software on them & used by teachers children for all sorts of things….. Come on schools, work with your students & communities to remove these barriers.
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