I have to confess I’m often amused when I read an article in the newspaper or the Internet about school districts that have given computers to students who then break into ‘secured’ areas or forbidden websites. The real punch lines comes with the words, “this was unexpected!” Really?
30 years ago (1983)
Back in 1983, the Commodore International released its newest computer model, the Commodore 64 home computer that cost $595 dollars and had only 64K memory. This was an 8-bit computer that could be hooked up to a modem (300 baud), and more importantly–programmed. In 1983, the movie,”War Games,” with actor Matthew Broderick, playing David Lightman a high school student, told the story about a young teenage hacker who breaks into a government computer facility and nearly starts WWIII. In 1985, a real fourteen year old boy from Escondido, California, was under FBI investigation after hacking into the Chase Manhattan Bank computer (Arrington, 2008). Most security people at the time were surprised that a 8-bit computer could log into a million dollar mainframe computer. Oh yes, he did use his Commodore 64 computer to do the job.
According to a recent article (Jones, 2013) Bernadette Lucas, director of the Common Core Technology Project for LAUSD, purchased 50,000 iPads, at a cost of $678 each, and handed them out to 47 schools to test them out on program integration and security verifications. Within a short period, 300 David-Lightman-type students breached security measures designed to prevent students from accessing websites such as Facebook and YouTube, plus in house security. When the iPads were called in thirty iPads were missing.
“We’re learning from what’s happening,” was Ms. Lucas’ response. Considering the history of computer hackers that have been well documented since the 1980’s, at what point does information become knowledge. This becomes a serious question because the district goal to distribute 600,000 iPads to LAUSD students that will be in full force by next fall.
The Real Question
The iPad is a useful tool that can be used in very creative ways. The key is not about allowing or not allowing students to have access to the technology hardware. The real issue is supervision. This is no different than having a teacher in the classroom or on the playground. Unless LAUSD or any school district can guarantee total supervision, and 600,000 independent users is not in the mix for this security task, then the prudent solution is to keep the units locked up in school. If school districts become responsible for incidents (cyber bulling, adult sites, or any questionable sites not allowed in school) created outside their school campuses by students using assigned school equipment, I think the solution is quite evident. Use them only in the classroom because in the end the teacher, the school, and the school district are still responsible for giving out Pandora’s boxes to discoveries and potential future lawsuits to minors! I welcome your comments!
Arrington, Michael. “MySpace Cofounder Tom Anderson Was a Real Life “WarGames” Hacker in 1980’s.” Weblog post. TechCrunch. N.p., 30 Aug. 2008. Web. Oct. 2013. <http://tcrn.ch/aUNn13>.
Jones, Barbara. “LAUSD’s IPad Problems Frustrate Those Involved in the $1Billon Technology Project.” Huff Post Los Angeles. N.p., 2 Oct. 2013. Web. 7 Oct. 2013. <http://huff.to/16igCYc>.