Good Digital Parenting
Blog | Feb. 5, 2014

iPads Coming to Your School? Be Prepared.

Founder, CyberWise and Cyber Civics

The educational landscape in Los Angeles experienced a shake-up last fall, when the LAUSD, the nation’s second largest school district, initiated its $1-billion plan to equip all of its students with iPads. Immediately after the devices were issued, the program made headlines when hundreds of students bypassed security measures and started accessing, from home, sites like Pandora and Facebook. School officials quickly recalled many of the devices as they tried to figure out what to do next. 

Yesterday, we handed out iPads for the first time at Journey School in Aliso Viejo, CA, just south of L.A., so I shared this story with my class. When I told them that the kids in L.A. had “hacked” their iPads in only 10 days my students had just one question. 

“What took them so long?” 

Kids, you see, know a lot more about all this technology stuff than we do. Watching the LAUSD story unfold was a good wake-up call and reminder for educators (and parents) that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” 

Our preventative program started four years ago, with Cyber Civics, a three-year, digital literacy class I teach starting in 6th grade. These weekly classes equip students with the skills they need to use the Internet safely and wisely; still, we wanted to implement an additional precautionary measure. 

iPads Coming to Your School Be Prepared.

So we downloaded A Platform for Good’s Online Safety Cards from this site; these are excellent resources for a parent or teacher planning to hand a digital device to a child. These cards set some terrific ground rules, so to ensure our students’ buy-in and, more importantly, their input, we used these cards as a template to craft our own agreement between the students and the school. I asked students to recommend changes/additions to these “rules” and was surprised by all of the “what-if” scenarios they imagined. 

They wanted to know: 

  • What happens if an iPad is broken or the screen is cracked? 
  • Who pays for it? 
  • Do the devices have warranty protection, or protective covers? 
  • What about passwords? 
  • Security settings? 
  • Shouldn’t we set these up together as a learning experience? (Since they could likely hack anything we set up without their input, they may as well learn how to manage the security settings on their own devices, right?) 
  • Should there be rules about taking/posting photos of other students? 
  • What about their privacy? Should they have a class email account? What about educational apps? Could we set up an approval procedure for possible downloads? 

And on, and on. The point is that while kids know an awful lot about how to get around our measures to “protect” them, they can also be taught (by us) how to protect themselves. 

I’m thinking about hiring these kids out as consultants for future iPad rollouts, what do you think? 

Cover image courtesy of Flickr.