Many school systems are finding a great way to usher children into the digital age: using iPads and other tablet computers in the classroom. Many school districts, particularly those in low-income areas, have begun iPad programs that sees children being issued a device to use both at home and in the classroom. The projects have seen a lot of success in ensuring that children are ready for the digital age. They have also had some drawbacks.
Many of the school systems that issue tablet computers for kids put a layer of security on them so the devices can be used only for educational purposes and not to surf the Web or use social media. In at least one case – in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUD) – it took high school students only one week to hack through that layer of security and use the devices for personal reasons. The Los Angeles Times is reporting this week that district officials have halted home use of the Apple tablets until further notice as a result of the hack, which originated in Los Angeles’ Theodore Roosevelt high school.
The incident has raised doubts about whether the city’s plan to distribute more iPads to students will go ahead, particularly as similar incidents have been reported at other schools. The district says it’s about protecting student safety.
"Outside of the district's network…a user is free to download content and applications and browse the Internet without restriction," two senior administrators said in a memo to the Board of education and L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy. "As student safety is of paramount concern, breach of the…system must not occur."
Students were accomplishing the trick very easily: by deleting their personal profile information, they were free to surf, using Twitter and Facebook and streaming music through Internet radio site Pandora.
L.A. Unified School District Police Chief Steven Zipperman reported authored a memo to senior district staff recommending a delay to the roll-out of the devices.
"I'm guessing this is just a sample of what will likely occur on other campuses once this hits Twitter, YouTube or other social media sites explaining to our students how to breach or compromise the security of these devices," wrote Zipperman in the memo. "I want to prevent a 'runaway train' scenario when we may have the ability to put a hold on the roll-out."
Edited by Alisen Downey