That sure sounds like a loaded question so let me give you so more details to help you decide one way or another. I’m talking about a BYOD program where students are bringing their own mobile phones and tablets to school. So the question I am posing is should schools have direct access to those devices at all times and have the ability to manage them even when they are not on campus?
That is what some South Korean schools are doing according to an article on The Verge. Some schools (eleven according to the article) are using this system called iSmartKeeper so it is not huge initiative yet. Anyway, here are its capabilities:
- Block apps at certain times
- Only allow calls (no SMS) at certain times
- Only allow emergency calls at certain times
- Schedule when some apps can be accessed
The system only works with Android phones (no iPhone, Windows Phone or BlackBerrys) and I am assuming is controlled by a central control panel somewhere (probably cloud based).
I know a lot of people that would find this system very appealing – I mean who wouldn’t. You can turn off everyone’s Facebook access with a click of the mouse, or disable all their games with another click. That way you are ensuring that they are more focused, less distracted, even at home. Heck, I bet parents would like that. It sounds great on paper – taking a device and then turning it into a powerful learning tool during certain hours and then letting the user have use it as their personal smart phone on others.
OK, by now I am sure you can hear the skepticism in my tone. This is a huge waste of money and time. Here are the problems.
One, it won’t work as advertised. This is a huge system and huge systems have bugs – no two ways around it. Those bugs will invariably leave students with messed up settings, apps completely locked out or worse – reducing their expensive smart phone down to nothing. It also seems like it takes a lot of time not just to set up but to monitor which is probably another staff member. Honestly, I’d rather hire an integration specialist as opposed to a person who just monitors and manages this system.
Then there starts the game of cat and mouse. We’ve all seen it or heard about it. A school blocks Facebook and then students find ways around it. Then the school fixes that hole and students find another. It sounds like the Dutch boy with his finger in the dike. Now an Android phone gives you lots of choices. You can root your phone or get to the core and find ways around various security systems. It is a smörgåsbord of choices and options.
Then there is the obvious limitation that it only works with Android phones. So students with other platforms are free to do whatever causing inequality within the school itself. If you’re an administrator reading this, a concerned parent or teacher please don’t go down this alley. Instead ask other questions that question instead of finding a system to avoid such questions. Here are some good questions to ask:
- Is a mobile device a good learning tool for your school.
- How do we educate our staff on new classroom management techniques to deal with these new devices?
- How can such a device be leveraged to enhance education?
- How to handle students on non educational apps?
I think you get the picture.