Why I’m so annoying in Internet Safety Meetings
There’s been quite the hubub in the last week about a school accused of using the iSight camera in Macbooks to secretly take photos of students. Most of the accounts I’ve read have been news reports which are great at hype but horrible at research or technical details.
This post seems to do a great job at looking at the real details, primarily discovered by tracking the schools IT staff’s postings on personal blogs and tech mailinglists — namely, the places where school nerds discuss their tools and techniques separated from the usage. It’s a great read, but it might be too long for a busy Tuesday.
What I found most notable about this whole story the chief tool for this (alleged!) program was *not* a technical one, but school policy. In short:
Students were REQUIRED to have a laptop, every day, at school and home.
Only school-supplied monitored Macbooks were allowed on campus.
Any effort to circumvent school monitoring and security systems was a serious offense (including possession of personal computers), with consequences ranging from suspension to expulsion.
In conversations about our upcoming 1-1 program, I’ve heard the preliminary versions of those policies discussed many times. They’re put forward in good faith by passionate and concerned educators who are primarily concerned with making the 1-1 program “work” and making it “safe.”
I deeply believe that the more freedom and ownership we provide students the better our 1-1 program will be. When we grant students the ability to install software at leisure, build a minimal filtering regime, ensure students have full access to their machines (Terminal, admin rights), and we let them take a huge step towards making the machine their own. Students will begin to rely on the computer and the network and only then will they produce the type of work we expect from a transformative program.
Part and parcel with this, is the knowledge that every time we choose to limit those freedoms we take more responsibility on *our shoulders.*
When an adolescent engages in illegal, indecent or offensive behavior using a school computer it’s personal violation of honor code and school culture. If a school misuses use the enormous consolidated powers and authority, it’s a violation of the sacred compact between a school and it’s community regarding the rights and well-being of students.
I have a latent conservative streak that mistrusts consolidated powers, abhors restricting liberty, precisely because it makes those missteps (even well-intentioned ones) both more likely and more damaging.