Security fail in Los Angeles High Schools
September 25, 2013 7:47 PM   Subscribe

"It took just a week for nearly 300 students who got iPads from their Los Angeles high school to figure out how to alter the security settings so they could surf the Web and access social media sites."
posted by Chocolate Pickle (141 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think the most astounding thing about this is that anyone is surprised by it. It was a foregone conclusion that one young genius would figure out a way, and of course as soon as he/she did, everyone else got told how to do it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:48 PM on September 25, 2013 [27 favorites]


Doh!
posted by HuronBob at 7:50 PM on September 25, 2013


A whole week?
posted by Artw at 7:50 PM on September 25, 2013 [47 favorites]


I read this earlier (LA Times has more info). It's not like some big jailbreak either. They just deleted their profiles from the iPads' security thingy. My guess is some kids figured it out within an hour, and it took a week to become widespread and for info to reach teachers and administrators.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 7:52 PM on September 25, 2013 [16 favorites]


Seems kind of silly to give em out and then lock out the two things they are mostly used for.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:53 PM on September 25, 2013 [20 favorites]


Why the hell do people keep trying to restrict this stuff?
posted by odinsdream at 7:54 PM on September 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


I don't understand why this is a bad thing. Learning to do something unintended with a tool you're given is one of the best ways to expand your mind. Ain't that the goal of these school thingies anyway?
posted by DigDoug at 7:54 PM on September 25, 2013 [16 favorites]


Good. This is indisputably educational.
posted by figurant at 7:56 PM on September 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


If you don't control it, you don't own it. If you don't own it, you won't respect it. All it would take would be 1 accident/student/year average to sink this program. I think that a truly effective lockdown would result in at least that accident rate, with no malice on the students part.
posted by MikeWarot at 7:56 PM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wanna make sure kids aren't using technology in a manner in which you don't approve? Stand over their shoulder and watch their screens.
posted by HuronBob at 8:00 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Kids given pen and paper, quickly learn how to write notes to each other."

I'm aware of the cyberbullying/sexting/etc concerns but we are getting to a point where kids will have access to the internet from other devices anyway and parents will just have to watch them to make sure they are behaving. The next generation of parents is going to be much better at that.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:00 PM on September 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


They didn't even try to restrict this stuff at my stepdaughter's school when they handed out iPads.

They did talk about a code of conduct, and some kids learned the hard way that the school can, if needed, see everything they've done on it.

The school now has really good data, by the way, on what the rate of needing replacements/repairs is; they probably share that data with schools who are thinking about moving to iPads.
posted by vitabellosi at 8:00 PM on September 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


Back in my day I had to write my own proxy server in Python and install it surreptitiously on the school's one Linux server to avoid NetNanny.
posted by miyabo at 8:04 PM on September 25, 2013 [38 favorites]


The real scandal here is that the LAUSD is paying Apple $1 billion for these iPads. I don't even want to think about the kickback some school board member is getting for pushing this through. What a scam. There are so many worthy things the district could do with a cool billion and what they're doing is buying toys their teachers don't know how to use as classroom tools and punishing students for using them to do what they were actually designed to do.
posted by town of cats at 8:05 PM on September 25, 2013 [189 favorites]


Wow, that's bad...
posted by cornashop at 8:06 PM on September 25, 2013


What kind of valuable technology skills can you learn on a locked down iPad? And they spent a billion dollars on these?

It's nice to see that schools still have no idea how to teach computer stuff, even though I haven't been in a high school for 15 years.
posted by zixyer at 8:07 PM on September 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


The conversation I have with students every single time I bring a class into a computer lab:

Me: Remember, you are not allowed to play games or go on Facebook. You know it and I know it. So don't.

Student(s): That stuff is all blocked.

Me: Yes, I know it's all blocked and I know damn well that you know how to get around it, so I'm telling you not to, and don't be shocked when I kick you out of here for doing it.

...and yes, when I inevitably have to kick someone out for doing it, they're inevitably shocked.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:09 PM on September 25, 2013 [26 favorites]


The best way to lock down apple devices is to jailbreak them first...
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:15 PM on September 25, 2013


The School District Police Chief is involved. Why? What, exactly, is criminal in this?
posted by gingerest at 8:15 PM on September 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


They did talk about a code of conduct, and some kids learned the hard way that the school can, if needed, see everything they've done on it.

A vital lesson for their future lives as citizens of the N S of A...
posted by ennui.bz at 8:16 PM on September 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


Are we pretending there will jobs for these kids other than Steve Jobs?
posted by srboisvert at 8:16 PM on September 25, 2013


Is this going to be a thing, every day?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:18 PM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


The School District Police Chief is involved. Why? What, exactly, is criminal in this?

Because maybe some teenager's life can be ruined over something incredibly stupid and then we can all sleep better at night. That seems to be the entire point of school districts getting involved with the police. It's never something good like, a kid does something horrible and gets taught a valuable lesson.
posted by bleep at 8:22 PM on September 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


They just deleted their profiles from the iPads' security thingy.

So they went to the trouble to lock them down, but didn't bother requiring a password in order to delete the profile?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:32 PM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Didn't they remember we'd do this when they issued TI-85s?
posted by casarkos at 8:33 PM on September 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


I demand a religious accommodation that exempts my children from state issued spyware. We are GNUnitarians.
posted by humanfont at 8:34 PM on September 25, 2013 [52 favorites]


Thank god the kids are alright.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:35 PM on September 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


What are you supposed to do with an iPad aside from surfing the web, emails, using social media, streaming video, streaming music, and taking photos? Don't tell me they were expected to take notes on them, or tap their essay assignments into the notepad app. It's a media consumption device, not a Trapper Keeper.
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:36 PM on September 25, 2013 [45 favorites]


I feel like there's this weird parallel universe where iPads really CAN'T be used to write, draw, produce music and video, etc. and I occasionally wind up bumping into people from there and they have STRONG FEELINGS
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:39 PM on September 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


Textbooks are a medium, ceribus.
posted by mr_roboto at 8:39 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


A billion? No wonder John Deasy is scrambling to fight the local control funding formula.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:41 PM on September 25, 2013


Speirs.org has a lot of writeups by a guy who's been in charge of a school in the UK that's been working with a 1:1 student:iPad project. Real interesting stuff, especially as regards how it's impacted non-tech classes (and things like how they haven't found a single compelling alternative so far).
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:42 PM on September 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


I am a big believer in the power of a good distributed tablet to change education. I think that iPads, used well, can have a phenomenal impact on how well students learn. But you've got to do it right. This is not that.

My girlfriend's school gives their students iPads as well, despite not having enough money to pay for more than half a dozen teachers, and pay them terribly at that (plus they have to clean the school/buy food at the grocery stores/a whole bunch of other shit). Their iPads are little better than paperweights, because none of the teachers has a clue of how to use them in the classroom. It's enraging.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:42 PM on September 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


The breach at Roosevelt High and two other LA schools has prompted Los Angeles Unified School District officials to halt a $1 billion program aimed at putting the devices in the hands of every student in the nation's second-largest school system, the Los Angeles Times reported. The district also has banned home use of the iPads until further notice as officials look for ways to make sure students use the devices for school work only.

I literally do not understand why the school district even wants to stop this behavior. If they forbid web surfing and social media (and Farmville and whatever else) in school to prevent distractions in class, sure, that I get. But why would you suspend, or even terminate, the program because they might be doing something unauthorized with the iPads at home? I mean, it's not like they're hacking into the school computers to change their grades or learning how to cook meth.

For me, the main thing that made any sort of computer tools interesting was to figure out new, interesting, and -gasp!- "unauthorized" things to do with them. When I had my very first computer class in middle school, I immediately quit out of the typing tutor program and wrote a screensaver using the BASIC shell (!). I guess now that would get the entire computer lab taken away.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 8:44 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


While it took them longer, I'm still more impressed by the Ethiopians.
posted by radwolf76 at 8:44 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


D'oh! Ebooks. Okay, that makes sense, and ideally would bring textbook costs down.
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:45 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


That said, if that billion dollars really only went to 300 iPads, given Apple's pretty famous history of educational discounts (the main reason my generation grew up playing MECC games on Apple II hardware) my guess is that either the details are being skimmed over (or ignored) or about $999 million is going to political favors. There's very obviously more to the story than that number in isolation.
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:45 PM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I assume that number would be for the program to give them to every kid in the district.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:46 PM on September 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I assume that number would be for the program to give them to every kid in the district.

It would be pretty sensationalist news reporting, otherwise.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:48 PM on September 25, 2013


An iPad seems like overkill if you are only using it as an e-reader for textbooks and you don't want the web browsing. Something like a Paperwhite would be better but the size is a bit cramped for textbooks.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:50 PM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Or if you want more versatility, I don't get why a cheaper netbook wouldn't be a good option.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:50 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am wary at best when it comes to iPads in the classroom, but I am very much in favor of a 1:1 laptop program for schools. Students and teachers alike will have to adapt, and these programs aren't cheap, but computer literacy is truly becoming a necessity. And not just for college-bound kids--plenty of minimum wage jobs have an online only application process.
posted by zardoz at 8:53 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Artw: "A whole week?"

But but... DIGITAL NATIVES!
posted by symbioid at 8:54 PM on September 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


miyabo: "Back in my day I had to write my own proxy server in Python and install it surreptitiously on the school's one Linux server to avoid NetNanny."

Back in my day, we had netware and what is this internet thing people are talking about?
posted by symbioid at 8:56 PM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


That said, if that billion dollars really only went to 300 iPads...

I imagine halting the program in progress means that it has not yet been completed and therefore, there are more iPads to come perhaps.
posted by juiceCake at 8:56 PM on September 25, 2013


Wikipedia has the LA school district at about 700,000 students. That's a TOC of ~1400 per student. Almost three times the retail price of $500. That's amazing.
posted by Mitheral at 8:57 PM on September 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


What?
posted by Drinky Die at 9:04 PM on September 25, 2013


I imagine that some of the money is for the people who unpackage each individual unit, and set up the security so that the students can't visit Facebook. Money well spent, I say!
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:07 PM on September 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


BI firm takes iPads over laptops

But instant-on is far from MicroStrategy's major justification in using the iPad.

LaRow said its total cost-of-ownership should prove far more prudent with the iPad than with laptop computers.

In fact, LaRow said the company compared the TCO of iPads and laptops and the result was "wildly in favor of iPad." Microstrategy typically spends about $1,000 a year to support each laptop over a three-year life cycle, including software licenses, maintenance and hardware. By comparison, the company concluded that the iPad would cost just $400 a year, though it is expected they will last only two years, he said.


If I was a Los Angeles taxpayer, I'd be pretty happy with school administrators going after that kind of savings, especially if students can run the kinds of apps needed to do schoolwork and get regularly updated textbooks and other digitized class materials.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:09 PM on September 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


Well, that makes more sense. Thanks for the link BP.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:11 PM on September 25, 2013


Wikipedia has the LA school district at about 700,000 students. That's a TOC of ~1400 per student. Almost three times the retail price of $500. That's amazing.

Enterprise support costs. IT staff to support the program. Offsite iPad training for teachers and administrators. Full-time iPad trainers for the school district. You're not thinking bureaucratically enough.
posted by killdevil at 9:12 PM on September 25, 2013 [14 favorites]


When I had my very first computer class in middle school, I immediately quit out of the typing tutor program and wrote a screensaver using the BASIC shell (!). I guess now that would get the entire computer lab taken away.

Heh. We were all sat in front of Commodore 64s and Vic-20s one day, in grade 2, and told how to load up some lame mouse-run-away-from-cat game. While we were all playing, the teacher informed us that computers weren't just for games - they could also be used to paint and draw and write and other things

I immediately found the [ESCAPE] key, hit it, then started typing PAINT... DRAW... at the BASIC prompt.

The teacher went apeshit.

By the time the next class came around I'd figure out 10 PRINT "HELLO!!!" 20 GOTO 10
posted by Jimbob at 9:15 PM on September 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


I am wary at best when it comes to iPads in the classroom, but I am very much in favor of a 1:1 laptop program for schools.

Absolutely.

Imagine it's 2023. The vast majority of families no longer have a computer at home -- they just use phones and tablets for Internet access. Poor students and middle-class students alike have access to those resources. But you still need a computer to write an app, build a robot, edit a movie, write a college-level essay, or do basic tasks at a white-collar job. Only the richest will have access to real computers, and they will create all the content that the rest mindlessly consume. The poor will have a massive disadvantage in doing college coursework, an even more massive disadvantage in the professional working world. Pundits will wax philosophically about how for a brief moment in the early 2000s, the rich and the poor had access to more or less the same technology -- but those days will never return.
posted by miyabo at 9:18 PM on September 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ah yay, kids are learning that computers are things that should be locked down by authorities with severe consequences for experimentation.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:24 PM on September 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


You say that like that's somehow not always been the case
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:29 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Control issue.

Bureaucrats and IT admins MUST have control and access at all times.

Most big corporations are like this...as are most schools and universities...and lately, we know who else can see and store everything everyone does....
posted by CrowGoat at 9:32 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sometimes I think Little Brother should be required reading for administrators, because for all it's faults, that book is great at showing hacker kids and how they can do anything to get around this shit. And showing how they think, which apparently these bozos all forgot. But I'm also scared it'll give them ideas. (The administrators, not the kids.)
posted by NoraReed at 9:33 PM on September 25, 2013


Wikipedia has the LA school district at about 700,000 students. That's a TOC of ~1400 per student. Almost three times the retail price of $500. That's amazing.

You know they're not paying retail.

However, that's completely in line. Indeed, I think they're lowballing it. Buying the iPads, that's the easy part. It's managing them, getting the software/books you need onto them, actually getting them to the 700,000 students*, dealing with the fact that if 1 in 1,000 is bad, you have 700 bad ones you need to find and replace, and of course, wiping and reloading them at the end of term, replacing ones that are lost, stolen, or just fail, which means having spares ready to go.

Never mind all the lost chargers and broken cords that will happen if you put 700,000 computing devices into the field. Hell, handing them to 700,000 IT professionals would cost more than that, and now you want me to hand them to 700,000 kids?

And, of course, you have to have push deployments. There's no way you're plugging in 700K cables. That takes a lot of effort to setup and maintain esp. when you don't passlock the effing profile.

I've been doing IT for too long, and there are really only two core truths about hardware.

1) Transistor count per area doubles every 18 months.

2) The hardware itself is the cheapest part of the deployment.

I was wondering about the $1B until I heard that it was 700K students. And if it's going to dramatically reduce the cost of the textbooks, then you know, they just might be onto something here.


* You don't think this is hard? Assume class size of 30. You deliver 40,000 packages. Even if you do it by school, it's still quite the logistical effort. Once again. You deliver all the packages. And the backups. And the accessories. However, compare it to this -- if they don't have to pay to ship textbooks around, this will be the deal of the century. As hard as it is to ship an iPad to 700,000 students, that's a piece of cake compared to shipping 5 textbooks to 700,000 students.
posted by eriko at 9:39 PM on September 25, 2013 [15 favorites]


An iPad seems like overkill if you are only using it as an e-reader for textbooks and you don't want the web browsing.

Yeah, it didn't even occur to me because I figured if they just wanted an e-reader, they'd use an e-reader. So why use an iPad that's locked down to be an e-reader? To start brand indoctrination and getting them used to walled gardens, I suppose.
posted by ceribus peribus at 9:42 PM on September 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


If you give someone physical access to the device, they can break it. Period.
posted by empath at 9:45 PM on September 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Bureaucrats and IT admins MUST have control and access at all times.

You know the saying, "it's your device, you own it, you should be able to do what you want?"

Bad news: That company computer is not your device. That school provided iPad is not your device. You want to do whatever on your own hardware, go for it. Apple Store is over there, Microcenter is over there, Frys is over there, and go google Raspberry Pi.

But when you're using their computer, you follow their rules. Or you don't use it. Because it's their device, they own it, and they get to do what they want. Esp. in a climate where they get sued if you download the wrong thing or send the wrong thing. On your device? Go for it! Have fun! Rock on! You want to drive at 100mph? Get your own car and go for it. The company van has a 70mph limiter, and GPS tracking, and you're fired if you disable it or misuse the vehicle -- because it's *NOT YOUR CAR.*

And so forth. There's a reason I have a company phone and my phone. I do what I want with my phone. The company -- who pays for, provides, services, etc. -- does what they want with theirs.

The reason these rules exist is because people either cheat or screw up, and the owner of the device catches hell for it. If some TV show gets "KIDS WATCHING PORN AT SCHOOL", who's going to be fired?

Not the kid.
posted by eriko at 9:47 PM on September 25, 2013 [18 favorites]


Buying the iPads, that's the easy part. It's managing them, getting the software/books you need onto them, actually getting them to the 700,000 students*, dealing with the fact that if 1 in 1,000 is bad, you have 700 bad ones you need to find and replace, and of course, wiping and reloading them at the end of term, replacing ones that are lost, stolen, or just fail, which means having spares ready to go.

Yup. I've worked on rollouts, one of them I was technical lead on a rollout for a company that has less than 1% the employees that LAUSD has students, and they are murder. Unless you've been in the trenches you simply have no idea. There's almost no way that you can give an employee or student something out of the box -- it has to be configured for your hardware, for your network, with userids and accesses set up, given a suite of approved software that IT has been trained to support, QA'ed to within an inch of its life, and that's all before it leaves the IT shop (ideally a workroom dedicated to this purpose set up like an auto assembly line). Once any of this stuff hits the field, all bets are off. If you have even the slightest variation, that is going to be your biggest headache day in and day out. We're not even talking here about what needs to be done to the network, the connection hardware, the servers at each school. It's madness even at a single-digit percentage of the scale. 700,000 students across hundreds of sites? I don't even.

And there's no way this is just about e-books, either. Smartboards are big right now at the local school level -- like most things they are touted as being more revolutionary and more effective and more game-changing than they are, but they are a thing. We're not just talking textbook e-books, either -- we're talking library e-books for writing term papers and so forth, with all the licensing and complexity of check-out and check-in procedures that entails. There's stuff out there for parent-teacher communication, for reviewing homework, for enabling tutoring on a scheduled or emergency basis, and I can't imagine that a district as big as LA's wouldn't want to be plugged into some of that. Sure, they could make this a stripped-down, basic program, but then they're missing out on half the benefits.

No, $1B is totally reasonable especially if certain maintenance, repair, and support costs are built into that, and yes, it would end up being a hell of a bargain.

(For comparison, I worked as a subcontractor on a Y2K project where the basic top-level contract deal made the newspapers, and it was for ten years and $1 billion. This was more like 700 sites globally and thousands of employees, but you see how the scale is in the same ballpark. By the way, we made it to Y2K without significant disruptions, but most of the project was late and underdelivered, and the top level got fired. This stuff isn't easy by a long shot.)
posted by dhartung at 10:11 PM on September 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


A long time ago I knew a guy who went to college at Caltech. This being about the time that ATMs started being rolled out around the country, one ATM manufacturer was concerned about whether their design was secure.

So they brought an ATM to the Caltech campus and set it up in a public area. Then they challenged the students: anyone who could get money out of it would get their next term's tuition paid by the ATM company. (Of course, they had to reveal how they did it.)

It cost them a lot of tuition money. Those students found all sorts of problems. But I'd venture to say the ATM company thought it was money well spent.

There is no better way to find security holes in a system than to turn loose a horde of students. This isn't the last thing they're gonna find, and it was only the first 300 out of 700,000?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:39 PM on September 25, 2013 [30 favorites]


symbioid: "miyabo: "Back in my day I had to write my own proxy server in Python and install it surreptitiously on the school's one Linux server to avoid NetNanny."

Back in my day, we had netware and what is this internet thing people are talking about?
"

Back in my day we had CP/M (and an upside down and reversed screen driver I helped with). What is this network thing people are talking about?
posted by Samizdata at 10:47 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hmm. We could teach the kids valuable media literacy skills, or we could just lock everything down.
posted by klangklangston at 10:54 PM on September 25, 2013


Imagine it's 2023. The vast majority of families no longer have a computer at home -- they just use phones and tablets for Internet access. ... Only the richest will have access to real computers, and they will create all the content that the rest mindlessly consume.

I'll leave a tip here for future poors, hook up a mouse and keyboard to your tablet, put it on a stand, bam, real computer.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 10:56 PM on September 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm a bit shocked that LAUSD sprung for this cost at all. When I graduated 25 years ago we weren't allowed to take textbooks home because there weren't enough books and they got damaged/lost too quickly. My school was about 3500 students at the time and we usually had golf pencils and bulk low quality paper in class. Not sure that I have a point other than I am an old and man the district has changed. I wonder if they'll try renting ad space on the iPads to subsidize more goofy software locks?
posted by last night a dj saved my life at 10:56 PM on September 25, 2013


Wow, a lot of you are really out of touch with modern education. The internet is the go-to tool for research. Students don't thumb through 30 year old encyclopedias anymore. And the teachers have extremely powerful tools now; School Loop being the most prominent. Students and parents can track grades, assignments, projects, etc. on a daily basis. Let's name a few other handy tools, all in one place: eBooks, graphing calculators, calendars, photos/videos, musical instrument tuners, countless more. $1 billion well spent.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:03 PM on September 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


The internet is the go-to tool for research.

Yeah, that's what made the locked out web browsing so weird. I'm assuming at this point they meant they evaded the filter on browsing, not that they locked it out entirely?
posted by Drinky Die at 11:05 PM on September 25, 2013


Don't tell me they were expected to take notes on them, or tap their essay assignments into the notepad app.

My son, now a HS sophomore, has been using an 3G iPad w/ an BT keyboard to do exactly these things and more since 7th grade. Despite many years of OT, his handwriting is illegible and labored but he types plenty fast. I initially considered getting him a laptop but battery life was a huge consideration (the iPad goes all day on a charge) as was setting him up with his own network access so he could email classwork to the teacher before leaving the classroom, just as his fellow students turn in their papers (schools/districts will fight or drag their feet to avoid allowing students onto their wifi network. The 3G connection neatly sidesteps this problem and only costs $20/month). Finally, an iPad was a lot easier for both him to use and for me to support as well as having the advantage of built-in traceability should it go missing.

It's a media consumption device.
With the right apps, it's quite a bit more than that. He uses Notability to record lectures and take notes, it syncs your notes to the audio so when you replay the lecture, the notes you wrote at that moment pop up. He uses Inspiration to develop story maps, and now that he's in HS, a 99 cent app has replaced the ~$100 graphing calculator we would have had to buy. His teachers regularly ask him to take photos of the whiteboard to email the rest of the class, he uses iStudiez Pro to keep track of his assignment deadlines and of course, he uses Dropbox, Wolfram Alpha, Khan Academy and a half dozen other productivity apps that he's picked out that fit his preferences for getting stuff done.

I could write another paragraph or two here but his grades went from a D average to an A- average within the quarter he got the iPad, a change so startling that it inspired his middle school to seek out and win a grant to supply iPads with a similar app configuration to one of their 7th classes as a test project.

Oh yeah, he's almost done writing the second novel of a trilogy, entirely written in Notepad. The first novel is ~65K words long.
posted by jamaro at 11:06 PM on September 25, 2013 [71 favorites]


I'm assuming at this point they meant they evaded the filter on browsing, not that they locked it out entirely?

It's not just a case, I'd think, of restricting access to adult sites. It's that these kids have been given an expensive piece of computer equipment, and if they do things with it that are not Strictly Approved it's vaguely Communist or something. Hence, the notice in the article that the kids explicitly gained access to social media sites. It's not that they were doing bad things, just Things They Oughtn't. Things They Don't Need To Be Doing. You know, fun things. Enjoying things they didn't themselves personally work and pay for.
posted by JHarris at 11:12 PM on September 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Students? Enjoying themselves on school time? SOON THEY'LL BE DANCING
posted by DoctorFedora at 11:16 PM on September 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


If it's outside of school hours, I couldn't care less if a student is doing fun things, but if they're in my class, and I'm trying to use computers (or tablets) to do something like take a test, read a passage, do a computerized activity sheet, hell yeah I'm going to care if they're browsing Facebook. Students will waste away looking up pictures of celebrities when given the chance as opposed to their own learning in English (which is my field).
posted by Lord Chancellor at 11:18 PM on September 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Presumably they'll learn their lesson when they either do exceptionally poorly on the tests, and discover that they have to pay attention during classes after all, or when they do well on the tests, and discover that they can get by in life without exerting maximum effort at all times.

I, unfortunately, learned the latter lesson at some point in high school and much of college. It has not benefited me much in the subsequent decade.
posted by DoctorFedora at 11:21 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is this going to be a thing, every day?

If you're saying what i think you're saying, which is that "outrageous new news about something with apple! some apple thing hacked! more inside!" as an FPP every day then yea, i'm getting really tired of it too.

Especially this one, which reads like it would be the second or third story of the night on the local news station.
posted by emptythought at 11:33 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


He uses Notability to record lectures and take notes, it syncs your notes to the audio so when you replay the lecture, the notes you wrote at that moment pop up.

Notability does that?! Wow, I have that one but haven't really explored its feature set regarding audio. Your kid is awesome. (Well, for the other reasons you gave too. Plus one for him!)

I'll leave a tip here for future poors, hook up a mouse and keyboard to your tablet, put it on a stand, bam, real computer.

Is calling people by an adjective that describes them a thing now? I remember seeing "olds" recently. Count me as not in favor. Anyway, if the tablet is Android, maybe, but iPad has holes in its feature set that I would not have appreciated as a kid -- namely, a cheap means for development.
posted by JHarris at 11:35 PM on September 25, 2013


Lord Chancellor, I can sympathize in that case. But you can probably do that by encrypting the WiFi, or at least turning it off during school hours. (Unless you gave the kids all mobile wireless iPads. And paid for their connection. If you did, I really need to start looking for that fountain of youth, then move to LA.)
posted by JHarris at 11:38 PM on September 25, 2013


last night a dj saved my life: "I wonder if they'll try renting ad space on the iPads to subsidize more goofy software locks?"

They're hoping to have access to cheap/free textbooks (in PDF, eBook or whatever form) via the tablets. If that works, it'll be a major savings and maybe even pay for the tablets.

jamaro: "a 3G iPad w/ a BT keyboard"

I think that's the key. Without a keyboard, most tablets are pretty hard to use for any decent amount of text input. Even there, I think those small keyboards are probably ergonomically bad for the kids long-term.

The best school technology policy I've seen in recent years is just giving the kids a Macbook loaded with some useful software when they start high school. Of course, that's a private school, so they can afford to spend more. Maybe Linux laptops? Regardless, I'm really not a fan of tablets, at least the way I've seen them implemented so far. I don't think I've yet seen a school that issues keyboards along with the tablets. And tablets are so restricted and tied into privacy-destroying modes of work.

When I think of technology in schools, I'm often reminded of the William Gibson line (I think it's in the Bridge trilogy somewhere) about how being poor makes you really good at obsolete technology.
posted by jiawen at 11:41 PM on September 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Presumably they'll learn their lesson when they either do exceptionally poorly on the tests, and discover that they have to pay attention during classes after all, or when they do well on the tests, and discover that they can get by in life without exerting maximum effort at all times.

If this is the thought process, I want to claim summary powers to immediately send a child home who is not being attentive or is being disruptive in class. If we're going to suddenly throw college-level expectations of maturity and connection to outcomes, I want professor powers over my classroom.

It turns out 14 year-olds are terrible at determining what is productive to them and what is not.

Lord Chancellor, I can sympathize in that case. But you can probably do that by encrypting the WiFi, or at least turning it off during school hours. (Unless you gave the kids all mobile wireless iPads. And paid for their connection. If you did, I really need to start looking for that fountain of youth, then move to LA.)

I'm not saying the school wasn't sloppy and that there isn't a much better way to do everything (money being spent, which tablets, locking them, wifi policies), but I'm not going to look at kids surfing photos of the shoes they want for 30 minutes as being some sort of triumph of learning.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 11:48 PM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Is calling people by an adjective that describes them a thing now? I remember seeing "olds" recently. Count me as not in favor."

To kill the joke: It's an ironic reappropriation of othering language used to show solidarity; "olds" is almost always used by olds as if spoken by youngs slagging olds. Ditto "poors." It carries connotations of bad, teenage internet grammar too.
posted by klangklangston at 12:26 AM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


And what are your feels on the matter?
posted by DoctorFedora at 12:39 AM on September 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


...why is it a problem that the kids are accessing social media sites from their school ipads at home? Presumably, there'd be a teacher there to make sure they're not slacking off with other activities during lessons, why the hell is it bad that they can use the ipad as a fucking ipad when they get home?
posted by Dysk at 1:26 AM on September 26, 2013


I'm not big on the "if you want to do that, do it on your own device" argument for people who frequently can't afford their own device but will have to keep up, intellectually and socially, with people who can. It reinforces the rich/poor social gap.
posted by NoraReed at 1:51 AM on September 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm not big on the "if you want to do that, do it on your own device" argument for people who frequently can't afford their own device but will have to keep up, intellectually and socially, with people who can

It's a particularly stupid argument when said device is provided by a public institution, funded by the public. As far as I can see, it's like being told when and where you can read a library book.
posted by Jimbob at 2:06 AM on September 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm a teacher in an inner city school and the thought of one billion dollars being spent on iPads makes me want to cry. On a sort of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, decent food, a safe functional clean building and a social worker is way up there, 'new' technology not so much. But those type of expenditures don't really have the right profit margins, do they? But I know all that is a little off topic...
posted by bquarters at 2:12 AM on September 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


Heh. We were all sat in front of Commodore 64s and Vic-20s one day, in grade 2, and told how to load up some lame mouse-run-away-from-cat game.

Come on, Radar Rat Race was fun!
posted by winna at 2:26 AM on September 26, 2013


> ...it's like being told when and where you can read a library book.

You were never caught by the teacher for reading sci-fi novels during class time, then.
posted by ardgedee at 3:58 AM on September 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm a teacher in an inner city school and the thought of one billion dollars being spent on iPads makes me want to cry. The local school district is pushing a similar program here. This is the same school district that does not have enough money to buy books for every student. They do not have enough money to pay for after school programs for reading programs. They do not have enough money to pay for a specialist to work with children with dyslexia. They are getting grants to purchase iPads (as with all grants, my first question is who is going to pay for this when the grant money is spent?). Why aren't there grants to buy books? I make my house payment by working in IT and I simply do not understand these programs. When I was a kid I regularly dropped my book in the mud, or it got wet in the rain, but it was still readable into the next year (as evident from all the 3rd and 4th generation books that were in the same condition!) I am not much better as an "adult" having cracked my iPhone screen 4 times and my iPad twice (yes, I am a klutz but damn...a book would not do this).

Maybe I am jaded from knowing too well how technology is not an answer to everything (as evident by how many co-workers as me for help when Blackboard is not working, or they can't access their assignments on their iPad..and no I do not work in education.)How money is never "saved" by spending money on a new gadget. How no piece of electronic junk ever works like it is supposed to. Maybe I'm just turning into a luddite with 20+ years in this crap but I just don't get it.
posted by dukes909 at 5:02 AM on September 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


That school provided iPad is not your device.

Its the duty of the program administrator to maintain control and the duty of the users to completely circumvent that control in novel and hopefully-not-hardware-bricking ways.

Although the Grand Illusion might have phrased that differently.
posted by Slackermagee at 5:06 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


But you still need a computer to write an app, build a robot, edit a movie, write a college-level essay, or do basic tasks at a white-collar job.

No, you don't. And I hate to break this to you, but tablets are computers. It's interacting with the system in a way that's unfamiliar, but this is because you have preconceived notions of how work is supposed to be done with old fashioned technology. Increasingly, people are no longer doing it that way, as it's expensive and inconvenient. I get it, I miss Unix workstations, but you know? PC's and Macs generally do everything they used to do, at a vastly lower pricepoint. Now the heyday of the desktop and notebook is waning, fast... just the way things are in tech.

Anyway, if the tablet is Android, maybe, but iPad has holes in its feature set that I would not have appreciated as a kid -- namely, a cheap means for development.

Like this?
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:10 AM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


The big issue I have with using ipads in my classroom is that its a pain in the neck to update software and find out how individual students are doing. Administrators have to lock down control for the apps because all it would take is one kid to run the account dry, but that means the same administrator spends inordinate amounts of time in the app store. Say we're using garageband. We have no usable system for sending me songs besides saving it as their name and having me go through 20+ devices to look at those songs each class. Laptops+Cloud solves a lot of those issues.
posted by lownote at 5:10 AM on September 26, 2013


Sounds like an insufficient or messed up MDM installation. There's a variety of tools that leverage the management hooks provided by apple, that can be used for managing devices incl. profiles, software updates, app purchases... but it sounds like they just tossed a configuration profile on there and didn't even lock it down. smh.
posted by frijole at 5:13 AM on September 26, 2013


We have no usable system for sending me songs besides saving it as their name and having me go through 20+ devices to look at those songs each class.

Umm.

This was the top hit in google for "email garageband file iPad." It's not that hard to figure this stuff out, as opposed to setting up SMB shares.

(That said, I prefer Android, and am very interested in Ubuntu on tablets and phones... but the iPad has some seriously solid educational apps which may make it a better choice for schools.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:16 AM on September 26, 2013


This was the top hit in google for "email garageband file iPad." It's not that hard to figure this stuff out, as opposed to setting up SMB shares.

Two of my comp sci friends told me that one of the best classes forced them (or maybe it was the professor that forced them?) to google for the methods necessary to solve the various problems assigned to them.

The ability to recognize the limits of one's knowledge and successfully google beyond them is probably going to be, if it isn't already, one of those despised, jargon heavy resume fluff phrases. In addition to being absolutely essential for programs like the one discussed here.
posted by Slackermagee at 5:34 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


One upside: if there's any way that we can avoid having to depend on the backwards Texas-sourced textbooks that are all about denying evolution, climate change, and a secular government, I'm all for it. I wish it wasn't locked within Apple's ecosystem, but that may end up being a small price to pay for not having crazy Jesus freaks controlling what public school kids learn.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:39 AM on September 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Airwatch MDM can create a contained App Store, and most of the profiles can be protected with passwords, but some can't.

I worked on a mobile POS project that had iPod touch as the client platform. Meeting PCI compliance was difficult. There are very few controls that cannot be easily circumvented, and in the end we issued a "wipe server" facing the internet so that if any device connected via a non-trusted external network it would be presumed compromised and stolen, and factory restored over the air.

You really can't lock em down, not to any meaningful degree so long as Apple retains the keys to the garden.

Literally, jail breaking them at that time (2012) was the only way to build a platform we could control enough to not go to such a terse and extreme manner we had to.

But yeah, airwatch can easily force a contained App Store, but you still have the issues with the "one Apple ID per person" architecture.

I think the best thing to do is give people a stipend and go to the "BYOD","SYOD" model. Leave them off protected nets entirely.
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:41 AM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Like this?

Codea looks pretty neat, and I'll probably drop the dime to check it out, but I have to mention: even in their glossy demo they have a hard time getting the cursor to work the way they want it to - they do the stutter tap, and it doesn't look intentional. THAT is the flaw with trying to code (or really write) without an actual keyboard, in my experience.

Select, copy, paste, and cursor movement is way too cumbersome to do anything like coding as I know how to do it. At some point (and maybe it is here for the "Digital Natives") either people will evolve their skills so that it is not an issue, or development tools will evolve so that it is not an issue, but for me (or presumably someone who works more or less like me) it is difficult to the point of impossibility to compose anything more than a few tens of lines on a virtual keyboard.
posted by dirtdirt at 5:45 AM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah I'm on the record here as being firmly on the "tablets aren't real computers, if you want to do any actual computing you need a computer!" team.

But I finally got an iPad a few weeks ago. And you know what? It's not that bad at all. Pythonista, for example, provides a great Python programming environment with libraries to make good use of the iPad's graphics/touch screen. Garageband and other music applications like Nanostudio still blow my mind. And Evernote and Mendeley are more effectivr study tools than I ever had available in school or undergrad. There's definately room for improvement, and being able to code an iPad app on an iPad (ideally using something other than the horrific Obj-C) would be the ultimate test. But it ain't bad at all.
posted by Jimbob at 5:46 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


is difficult to the point of impossibility to compose anything more than a few tens of lines on a virtual keyboard.

Yeah, ssh-ing to a Unix shell is a main painful thing on a iPad. So muc reliance on Ctrl-key combinations makes it very clunky.
posted by Jimbob at 5:50 AM on September 26, 2013


I figured if they just wanted an e-reader, they'd use an e-reader.

There's ebooks and ebooks. There's no point buying e-readers that are too frustrating to use, or don't have the content you need.

My impression is that Kindle, for example, has been pretty much focused on displaying plain reflowable text at the cheapest possible price; fine for novels, not so much for textbooks or reference books or books with pictures or etc. They've made some move toward more textbook-like features with KF8, but since they're sticking to the market-leader-proprietary-format-monopoly strategy, it's a wonky ecosystem -- the format is weirder than epub3, less featureful, harder to develop for, and ties publishers to a single platform. An iPad lets you use those Kindle textbooks if you want, or switch to basically any other publishing platform (nice for negotiating textbook prices, incidentally), and has the processing power to support whatever comes along without being frustrating to use.

I'm not saying an iPad in particular is the right call or even necessarily better than paper textbooks (I would have to have some clue what it's like to provision a school district of 700,000 students first), just that there's a lot in play beyond "what's the cheapest way to put words on a screen."
posted by jhc at 6:41 AM on September 26, 2013


Something doesn't seem right about the assumptions here. I find it hard to believe that any textbook publisher will turn down an opportunity to make money. My bet is textbook prices never drop for the electronic versions.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:45 AM on September 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


In my college algebra classes for the last three years, I have used the same textbook but always told my students to just by the online copy. The price of the online copy has increased from about $60 to almost $100 since I started doing this. As new copy of the dead tree version is ~$200, so they still come out ahead, though.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 6:48 AM on September 26, 2013


Dumb question: what exactly is the problem with the kids using facebook and surfing the web? What is the security software -- even if it worked -- protecting them from?
posted by ook at 7:01 AM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dumb question: what exactly is the problem with the kids using facebook and surfing the web? What is the security software -- even if it worked -- protecting them from?

At my school, Facebook and things like that are blocked on the school network. At one point in time, we were trying out a program called Achieve 3000 that determines students' reading levels and then presents them articles and activities at their reading level to help strengthen their critical reading skills (so the same article has different versions to correspond to different reading levels). We had them in a makeshift computer lab doing this, and I'd routinely discover kids googling their favorite celebrities, shoes, and themselves (and teachers). They'd waste as much time as they could. I mean, I was there doing the rounds, but that didn't stop kids from playing as many flash games as they could and acting like I couldn't tell that they had a tab open when I passed.

The point is, many kids are really bad at determining their own educational requirements and cultivation. If given a choice between training their reading ability and talking about what they want to do Friday night, they will waste hours each day doing that. Actively observing only does so much as it's hard for me to teach and observe what's on screens at the same time (and ignore that I have to stop teaching to deal with issues).

I know some people on Metafilter were great students, or were those really smart slacker/hacker types that created their own education, but the majority of students are not like that. They aren't upset that they can't code Linux from their pads. So, in the end, us being responsible for their learning environment, we're the killjoys.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:34 AM on September 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


The School District Police Chief is involved. Why? What, exactly, is criminal in this?

Because maybe some teenager's life can be ruined over something incredibly stupid and then we can all sleep better at night.


That is exactly right. Kid uses parents debit card, scammer drains bank account using school distributed iPad, parents sue because the the thing your kid uses at school shouldn't be the vector for all sorts of bad things. Like it is in the real world. I haven't even gotten into "Susie starts an online romance with 40-year old from Idaho and he drives her off to god-knows-where."

Its one thing when its the parent's equipment is the vector, another thing when it is the public schools.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:34 AM on September 26, 2013


Wow. I'm seeing some " information wants to be free" levels of naivety here.

And for why simply allowing unfettered access is s bad idea:

Day 1: Several thousand cases of porn being downloaded with school equipment are recorded. Several thousand students are suspended, several teachers and administrators are fired ( including the head of the ipad program) and placed on the sex offenders registry. Multiple million-dollar lawsuits are filled by parents.

Day 2: Girl meets great new friend on Facebook using school property.

Day 15: There have now been 10,000 incidents of harassment and sexual harassment using school property. Ten students have so far been suspended, and investigations are proceeding. Parents are filling lawsuits.

Day 26: Girl goes off to meet Facebook friends without telling parents. After manhunt she is found in Arizona. If we're lucky she's alive; if we're real lucky she hasn't been raped. Parents sue school district, replacement head of ipad program is fired.

Day 33: pictures of students from school found on child porn sites and Reddit; source is cameras on school ipads. The replacement for the replacement ipad administrator is fired and may be facing charges. Parents sue.

Day 87 ipad fiasco leads to overturn of school board. New "reformer" board head diverts funds to charter schools.
posted by happyroach at 8:35 AM on September 26, 2013


I know some people on Metafilter were great students

I was a great student, but I cannot imagine I would have been capable of adequately managing my internet use as a teenager. (I can barely manage it as an adult sometimes.)
posted by jeather at 8:44 AM on September 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's not like some big jailbreak either. They just deleted their profiles from the iPads' security thingy.

I'm an Australian primary school (rough US equivalent: K-6 elementary) netadmin, and I've just set up 60 of these things. As I've found out while doing that, iOS is actively hostile to centralized control. There is simply no way to lock down an iPad; just can't be done. The iPad is a personal device by design, and the person whose hands it's in has full control over it at all times.

You can't even push apps wirelessly without user intervention. There are mobile device management apps that help (I'm using Meraki Systems Manager) but all of them rely on Apple's MDM APIs, and those APIs do not allow them to install stuff without explicit user approval. I've had to resort to putting a sticker on each iPad with a school Apple ID username and password on it, and training teachers to type that in whenever the Meraki app installation push notification rudely interrupts whatever they're doing.

We also have 30 Android tablets; Meraki can't do silent app installs on those either. All it does is provide push notifications with links to the selected apps in Google Play.

All our students are under 13, so none of them are entitled to Facebook or Google+ accounts. I can prevent access to those on school tablets, because none of them have 3G and the only way out to the Web from the school wifi network is via our proxy server.

The main policy motivation for getting a personal-devices program going at the school is to teach healthy and responsible device use habits and online ethics. There's a generation of teenagers growing up now to whom the idea that a personal device can be switched off simply doesn't occur; apart from the whole online bullying thing this causes some fairly horrible sleep deprivation because kids will ping each other at three in the morning.

It's my fervent hope that we will be able to inculcate a healthier relationship between user and device if we start early enough. Because as things stand at present, the kids might as well be wearing electronic ankle bracelets. I don't think we should be slaves to a technology that costs thousands of dollars per user per year to fund.
posted by flabdablet at 8:52 AM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Rereading my comment I can see I wasn't clear. I was amazed they spending 1/3rd of their budget on the hardware. A hardware, which on preview flabdablet relates, is notoriously un-enterprise friendly at least at the school level where you have users that will both actively subvert any security protocols and whom are essentially immune to the regular sanctions such behaviour would generate at the workplace/secondary education level.

I'm not up to speed on what Apple has been doing in this regard but for just one example their insistence that every device be tied to an apple account is a head ache of immense proportions in an education setting. Or the ability to brick devices with software updates.
posted by Mitheral at 9:57 AM on September 26, 2013


"Day 87 ipad fiasco leads to overturn of school board. New "reformer" board head diverts funds to charter schools."

Ah, yeah, the ol' slippery slope to apocalypse!

DAY 90 CATS LYING WITH DOGS FIRE IN THE STREETS IPAD NUCLEAR CODE HACKS
DAY 91 SEWER MUTANTS VERSUS CHUDS IN A BATTLE FOR THE SOULS OF SURVIVORS
posted by klangklangston at 10:03 AM on September 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yeah, all this "Learning to do something unintended with a tool you're given is one of the best ways to expand your mind" stuff? One kid does the actual learning and then everyone else just copies it so that they can begin sending pictures of dicks to each other. In the meantime the teacher is stressed out enough just trying to teach the kids about earth science. If some kid bricks his iPad because he was coloring outside the lines then that's time lost learning the actual subject of the class. Just because you can make a beautiful stick man sculpture out of your pencils doesn't mean you should do it right before biology.

My wife's school just switched to iPads for what seem like pretty good reasons. First they save a ton of money on textbooks. Second the classroom software they use is pretty solid and eliminates a lot of "dog at my homework" or "I forgot it at home" excuses. If a student isn't doing their assignments they run out of excuses REALLY quick. And their current grades are available to them right there in front of their faces, complete with all the assignments they haven't bothered to turn in. Finally there are plenty of useful apps the teachers can request to be installed for their classes - Garage Band for some of the music classes, a geologist compass for earth science, etc. Also the internet isn't restricted on the iPads themselves, however the school network does have pretty tight filtering.

So between cash saved on text books and the apps that aid in learning, they are turning out to be money pretty well spent from the looks of it.

I compare this to local Catholic school that went all iPad last year. Students owned their iPads instead of them being owned by the school so there was little lock down. All I've heard has been how they add little to the classroom compared to the distraction they cause as students fiddle with them like toys. Like someone mentioned above, there is a difference between how people (especially kids) treat things that they own vs. things that they don't (and can get in trouble for breaking).

(In terms of cost, don't forget insurance. All the iPads at my wife's school are insured. Part of the insurance requirement is that they have these super-strong cases that they come in. The IT guy tested them by running over his iPad in his wheelchair a few times to no effect.)
posted by charred husk at 10:32 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


for just one example their insistence that every device be tied to an apple account is a head ache of immense proportions in an education setting

It would be fine if the device could just be set to use a retained password for App Store access. But Steve Jobs was "serious" about security, and passwords are a Vital Security Feature*. Even if you're about to install an app that the associated Apple account won't be charged for, Proper Form must be seen to be observed.

The officially supported Apple method for doing bulk app rollouts is to use something called Apple Configurator which (naturally) only runs on a Mac and requires a cabled USB connection. Horribly expensive charging trolleys with little bays to put Macs in are available for this purpose.

Our initial 90 tablets are all we're going to buy, I think; we will eventually move toward 1:1 device access via a Bring Your Own Device program, which it seems to me is really the only politically feasible way a school can handle these things. Technical problems I can deal with - social ones are what we're embarking on this adventure in an attempt to nip in the bud.

We make a good-faith (and, I must say, generally successful) effort to keep school-run screens porn and bullying free, and the parents know that. But it would take a pretty unreasonable parent to cause us grief over little Johnny behind the shelter sheds shocking the littlies with Goatse on his own device collected via his own network connection, especially when he and his parents have both signed up to a code of conduct permitting use of private devices inside the school only in supervised settings.

*Passwords on devices without real keyboards are a true pain in the arse. After our Android devices arrived I'd gravitated toward a standard form for mobile device passwords: five groups of four randomly selected lowercase characters separated by dots, which yields 98 bits of entropy without being too hideous to type, and is also reliable to transcribe. But apparently my 98-bit passwords are not strong enough for an Apple account: Apple wants at least one number and at least one capital letter in every password (and no spaces - WTF?) which mandates more error-prone screwing about with mode shift keys every time. Bah.
posted by flabdablet at 10:41 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Charred Husk: That's an interesting solution in that they do not "own" them. That adds a social-level of security, true, kids don't want to have to tell mom and dad they broke it...But still, there's hardly any measure of real security that can be applied.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:54 AM on September 26, 2013


Annika Cicada:
That adds a social-level of security, true, kids don't want to have to tell mom and dad they broke it...But still, there's hardly any measure of real security that can be applied.
Physical access is root access - that's just a truth that has to be dealt with in these situations. Social-level security is the best bet, really. My wife's school really tries to hammer home the idea that the iPads are tools and not toys. If anyone has hacked one yet it hasn't been obvious or damaging. It may help that her school is a school for the arts so they tend to have all sorts of apps pre-installed relating to their artistic major to keep them satisfied.
posted by charred husk at 11:03 AM on September 26, 2013


I would also expect the learning results in classrooms with these devices in use to have much more to do with the talent and training of the teacher and the social atmosphere of the class than with the ownership of the devices.

We already have quite a few kids who bring their own. As the school's roving IT troubleshooter I get to see all our classrooms in operation, and I've noticed no consistent classroom behavior differences between kids using school-provided devices and those using their own. I do see differences between classrooms.
posted by flabdablet at 11:06 AM on September 26, 2013


Something doesn't seem right about the assumptions here. I find it hard to believe that any textbook publisher will turn down an opportunity to make money. My bet is textbook prices never drop for the electronic versions.

This isn't the 1950s, when Americans could just expect their offspring to dominate the world. Our society's children have to compete with countries that simply do a better job of education. It's sink or swim time.

As a taxpayer, I could live with electronic books being overpriced for what they are, so long as kids get updated materials. Especially in biology, which these days is changing faster than just about all other hard sciences.

Kids should be given the best foot forward that is possible for us to give them, and as iPads apparently were evaluated by full-time education professionals (who, yes, know their job better than Metafilter) to do that job better and more efficiently and therefore serve more kids than handing out fragile and expensive laptops, then this is progress and society should embrace that progress wholeheartedly, if it cares even just a bit about how the next generation turns out.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:07 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Physical access is root access

Yes, on tablets and phones. Not necessarily, on devices that can boot from networks and/or encrypted drives.
posted by flabdablet at 11:09 AM on September 26, 2013


flabdablet:
Not necessarily, on devices that can boot from encrypted drives.
[Enters Intel AES-NI backdoor password installed for the NSA and cackles.]
posted by charred husk at 11:12 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's what went wrong - the restrict all mechanism rarely works well.

A more effective approach, for learning, is to give the students free reign design the curriculum to make active use of the devices a mainstay of classroom use. Hopefully, most of the students most of the time will be active and engaged.

Twittering? Facebook? Not much different than drawing cartoon pictures of your teacher, but that's not going to work so well for your grade, will it? Never did.

I had a kid (and when I say kid, I mean he was a 17 year old freshman) in one of my classes who after multiple reminders to please get on task, thought it was better to surf for rims for his car. He got what he had consistently earned for his 3.5 years in 9th grade. I've only given out two flunking grades for a term and he was one of them.

You selectively filter the IP connections, which will work for many cases (and in fact, to be CPIA compliant, you have to do that, and you want that to get ERATE discounts).

I know the principal of Science and Leadership Academy and giving the kids active access is part of what he encourages.

There will be problem with damaged (software or hardware) machines. There will always be.

When I was tech director (along with teaching and running IT) at the smallest school in MA, I wanted to make all the machines that students had access to into linux boxes connecting to a honking server so that they would be easier to keep sane. I was shot down in multiple directions on that. There was a computer in each classroom, three in the library and two labs of 18-ish each. I was in the library once a week because some kid had taken a machine out in some way, but that's a fire that needs to be put out quickly when 1/3 of your resources are gone. Had we actually had resources other than me and some money, fixing damage done by the srudents could have been done on logout.

I was testing some code I had running on my firewall that let me see what was going by at any one time and associate it with a user name and, if needed, add a block on the fly. It was running pretty well. A kid came in the lab to do some "internet research", which in this case was checking MLB scores. I quietly blocked the site. It took him about half a minute to ask, "Mr. Plinth, is the internet down?" "No, Brandon. The internet's working just fine. How's your research on last night's ball games going?" He flushed bright red - and he got the point: I never moved and I could find out what he was doing and block him. Here's the power - you let that run through the school rumor mill and the amount of misuse goes way down. The problem with this approach is that the logging was only in there for me to be able to track things that were in severe violation of the AUP (this was needed for two events - the first was a kid who intentionally put offensive images up on a lab machine and then denied it, the second a kid who printed a bomb threat) and it doesn't scale well to a larger district as a tool for recourse for general dickishness. It also depends on the school tech people being more savvy than the students or being able to turn the really savvy ones into your minions effectively. Even then, some kids are savvy but will always be dicks.

tl; dr: Aesop was right. The most effective policy is an open one, but it needs to come with resources (training, repair/maintenance) and recourse.
posted by plinth at 1:40 PM on September 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


DoctorFedora: "Students? Enjoying themselves on school time? SOON THEY'LL BE DANCING"

And with the dancing comes the reefer, and with the reefer comes the easy girls, and...
posted by Samizdata at 1:43 PM on September 26, 2013


I'm a firm believer in the value of kids having access to technology at school, and learning how to use and turn it to their advantage. I also believe that its incredibly important for them to learn to view technology as an enabler, and something they can control, not just passively consume. So, I'm amused at this news, because its inevitable, and kind of cool too.

However I am a huge skeptic of the LAUSD iPad program in general, partly because WTF 1 billion dollars when class sizes are too big, buildings are shitty and so on, is this really the best use of funds? Additionally, behind the scenes, this is a massive cash cow for textbook companies like Pearson, who have wangled their way in and grabbed a district-wide contract with LAUSD to create shitty educational software - which is basically just gamified textbooks. So money is being drained out of LAUSD which is already under-serving its kids, and straight into the pockets of Pearson et al. It makes me angry. Finally, and most importantly, I question what value the iPads add to the educational experience, if the curriculum doesn't really support them. You can't just shoehorn them into a traditional curriculum and put textbooks onto the ipad and call it done. How are they really getting a billion dollars of value out of this? Is it actually improving classrooms in any tangible way? I don't mean test scores, but are kids more engaged and learning more? I have my doubts. I suspect the whole thing has just been dumped into teachers laps, and they are left to try and figure out how to integrate iPad usage into lessons with little support and a whole bunch of IT headaches.
posted by Joh at 3:17 PM on September 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


@Slap*Happy I teach 7-14 year olds. I cannot suggest to a majority of those students they go ahead and create soundcloud accounts. Even with the older ones, there could be some negative ramifications. I'm not dense, just handcuffed.
posted by lownote at 4:34 PM on September 26, 2013


Blazecock Pileon: "as iPads apparently were evaluated by full-time education professionals"

I am a full-time education professional, and I'm not convinced of the propriety of iPads. I've seen them used in classes, and I find that laptops work better. About five years from now, I expect tablets will be a much more mature technology, and may be better for classroom purposes than laptops are. But right now, the way I've seen them implemented, laptops are superior.

And really, iPads were probably evaluated by professionals just like me: fairly tech savvy, but not perfectly so, and working within the constraints of large human organizations as best they can.

Joh: "However I am a huge skeptic of the LAUSD iPad program in general, partly because WTF 1 billion dollars when class sizes are too big, buildings are shitty and so on, is this really the best use of funds?"

It's a tricky balance for schools. They really do need to give kids experience with technology; it's not an optional skill for what kids are going to need in the future. But yes, huge class sizes are just as big a problem as not having access to technology, and poorly thought out, poorly implemented technology programs are of dubious value.

I think a big part of the problem is that iPads are easy to quantify and smaller class sizes are not so obvious. As I mentioned in the recent tuition thread, schools can point to shiny new facilities much more easily than they can point to quality teaching or life-long skills, so they tend to quantify whatever they can and deemphasize the rest.
posted by jiawen at 7:26 PM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I suspect the whole thing has just been dumped into teachers laps, and they are left to try and figure out how to integrate iPad usage into lessons with little support and a whole bunch of IT headaches.

That's pretty much what happened with the previous Government's one-laptop-per-high-school-student program here. They funded the actual computers: training and ongoing IT support, not so much.

When I started hearing rumbles from the district Catholic Education Office about 1:1 iPad programs in primary schools I was pretty convinced that we were lined up in the sights of the same kind of farcical Can=Must idiocy. But we had a trainer out to present CEO's ideas and he changed my mind.

Early in his presentation he showed us this, to which my immediate reaction was dismay. If we were going to be required to do in classrooms what the dad who made that video was doing to his kid, I wanted no part of it.

When we got to the end of the video and the trainer called for comments, the consensus view - not just mine - was that what was going on there was pretty much the opposite of self-directed activity, and was in fact a textbook example of tech being used for no better reason than because it was there. And the trainer agreed! In fact, he said, the very reason he'd opened with that video was to make it perfectly clear that CEO's policy folks were fully aware of the seductive nature of the shiny and new, and that the push for classroom iPads was not coming from an empty desire to be seen to be keeping up.

We do have teachers who are really excited about the potential for these toys to keep kids focused and productively engaged (some of which we've started to see in our own classrooms since the initial batch of Android tablets went in last year). We have access to training sessions from teachers outside our school with more iPad experience; there's already a huge body of knowledge about what works and what doesn't.

We also have a few teachers who would obviously feel far more comfortable if all the tech would just go away (including all the computers and the interactive whiteboards - all of it!) and I'm sure some of those are going to feel a bit lap-dumped.

But if I understand CEO's policy aims correctly, the teaching-tool aspect of personal devices is not the main motivation for getting 1:1 programs up and running. Rather, that's an acknowledgement that these devices have already become ubiquitous, are increasingly capable and need to be taken seriously as a social phenomenon, coupled with a belief that early schooling is an appropriate place to start establishing norms for healthy device use habits and healthy relationships with the people on the other side of them.

It's easy to write off observations about the way ubiquitous personal Internet access is changing society as "moral panic". But the flip side of that is blithe assertions that bullies gonna bully, haters gonna hate, kids gonna look at porn, 'twas ever thus; these strike me as lazy ethical blindness. Personal devices raise genuine issues requiring actual thought and real policy responses, and I feel quite fortunate to be in a position to watch all that stuff happening at close range.
posted by flabdablet at 9:34 PM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Enters Intel AES-NI backdoor password installed for the NSA and cackles.]

[sleeps soundly knowing that Salsa20 and AES have so little in common.]
posted by flabdablet at 10:34 PM on September 26, 2013


It's easy to write off observations about the way ubiquitous personal Internet access is changing society as "moral panic". But the flip side of that is blithe assertions that bullies gonna bully, haters gonna hate, kids gonna look at porn, 'twas ever thus; these strike me as lazy ethical blindness.

And the flip side of that is "Parents gonna sue".

We just recently had a huge thread about online harassment, and now people want to enable that sort of crap with no controls: "Here ya go kids, those of you that survive are gonna be ELITE". Fuck, why don't peope go whole hog and recommend the school hand out guns?
posted by happyroach at 10:54 PM on September 26, 2013


This is exactly why I believe that BYOD is the only politically sustainable way for a school to run a 1:1 devices program.

It has to be done by getting parents actively involved. It has to be perfectly clear to the parents what the program is for and that participating in it is in the best interests of their children. And that last part? That has to be demonstrably true.

This is a high bar. I'm interested to see whether the school that employs me can clear it.
posted by flabdablet at 11:23 PM on September 26, 2013


flabdablet:
This is a high bar. I'm interested to see whether the school that employs me can clear it.
The whole experience seems to be going pretty well in my wife's school, though this is only the first year. I'm sure this subject will come up again next year as a FPP - I'll see you then and keep you updated!
posted by charred husk at 6:27 AM on September 27, 2013


How is BOYD going to fly for the 22% of kids living below the poverty line or the 45% of kids part of a low income family.
posted by Mitheral at 7:05 AM on September 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


Oh I'm sure it'll be fine for them if they just emphasize the importance enough. That makes money appear, right? iPad money?
posted by NoraReed at 7:33 AM on September 27, 2013


Our school has 350 students. We already have 90 tablets. If our school parents get on board with an eventual 1:1 program, then as a community we should be able to achieve that with majority BYOD and not cause anybody more grief than their kids would be giving them anyway.

I expect we'll also be making old tablets we replace available to school community members at low cost, as we currently do with PC workstations over four years old.

I also expect that most of the BYO devices will appear in the more senior grades, and that by the time we're anywhere near 1:1 the prices for a school-suitable device will have dropped a fair bit (sub-$200 Android tablets get more capable every year). Tablets will also be displacing textbooks and stationery to some extent, which will help offset their cost.

I am both personally and professionally opposed to using technology in schools just because it exists, but I am also quite convinced that that's not what the Catholic Education Office is trying to do here.

As a school, our move toward 1:1 is a response to the fact that society as a whole is clearly already going that way. We're not out to push device uptake along; we are trying to help kids stay in control of the devices we're pretty sure they're going to end up with anyway, and learn to use those in positive, constructive, healthy and ethical ways.
posted by flabdablet at 8:15 AM on September 27, 2013


I teach 7-14 year olds. I cannot suggest to a majority of those students they go ahead and create soundcloud accounts.

What? Who said anything about soundcloud? Just have them email the song to you as an attachment. If you need the data file rather than the sound file it creates, have them use one of the free SMB clients floating around out there to find and upload the .band file to a shared drive.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:51 AM on September 27, 2013


Is this going to be a thing, every day?

I think you will enjoy this story too.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:53 AM on September 27, 2013




"Some." Oh yes, and we get to say which ones. Because We Know Best.
posted by JHarris at 4:20 PM on September 27, 2013


How is BOYD going to fly for the 22% of kids living below the poverty line or the 45% of kids part of a low income family.

That's why we have taxes, which, in theory, are intended to pay for centrally-managed programs like these.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:22 PM on September 27, 2013




LA Times: There is a crisis in California's schools. More than a quarter of a million children, most of them from poor and minority backgrounds, lack the technology they need to succeed in school.

But what they need has nothing to do with mobile devices or educational apps. It's a technology nearly 800 years old: eyeglasses.

posted by Drinky Die at 1:48 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


LAUSD has thrown in the towel. They're taking back all the iPads.

"Hacking reports." Ugh.

Wow, now that's petty. I bet they spin it as "A few kids spoiled it for everyone," instead of "we have absurd notions of what kids should do with things we give them."

Although I wonder if the iPads given were 3G ones, and if the internet access in question was mobile access on the school district's dime. That would be a problem -- but in that case, the kids should have been given WiFi ones instead.

If it's the case that parents are complaining that their kids were given an Infinite Porn Box, the school should have worked with the parents to install parental controls they consider suitable.
posted by JHarris at 4:16 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


DM: You find 72 gold pieces, a Dagger +1, and a cardboard box with a sideways '8' on the side.
Fighter: Huh. I open the b--
Magic-User: YOU FOOL! Do you know the forces you're playing with?!

posted by JHarris at 4:18 PM on October 2, 2013


the school should have worked with the parents to install parental controls they consider suitable

The point about iPads is that none of that stuff actually works. The only technical measures that can stop an iPad user doing anything they damn well please with it is to put your controls somewhere other than the iPad, because anything you install on an iPad can be trivially removed.

And if the school didn't already have some kind of porn filtering on its internal network, it was Doing It Wrong anyway.

Misuse of school iPads at school is a social problem, not a technical problem. The fact that the school sought to impose technical controls on the program as initially rolled out makes it perfectly clear to me, at least, that they hadn't thought it through.
posted by flabdablet at 10:03 PM on October 2, 2013


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