Earlier this fall, I posted 5 Considerations for Allowing Students to Use Personal Computing Devices on School Wireless Networks, which was a quick summary of considerations for administrators contemplating providing students with Wifi access in their buildings. Recently, I’ve received some comments and emails from various school systems who want to know more about how we are providing that access. Some even want to know how we dealt with administrative and IT department reluctance to let go of the “control” that comes with allowing students to use their own computers and technology devices. It’s really quite simple, the control we feel by requiring students to use school district technology is quickly becoming an illusion. As technologies continue to evolve, we are going to have to to be more progressive and realize that such control is gone.
As students begin to use smart phones more and more, our battle to control what they bring into our schools is lost. These smart phones that provide mobile hot spot access give students Internet access that we have no way to control. Then there’s the mobile Wifi devices. While these are not currently in wide spread usage, I expect as prices come down, you’ll see students using these to access the web, thereby bypassing the school’s network entirely. Add the fact that whole cities are offering citywide Wifi, and you have yet another control issue. If your school happens to be located within a city, you have to consider how you’re going to “control” students’ access to this network.
The real issue is how can we maintain students’ safety and network security, not control over what technological devices they use in our schools. We can effectively help students be safe while accessing the Internet and maintain network security by using a strong combination of hardware-software solutions and simple monitoring by staff. A well-written procedure or policy outlining Guidelines for Student Access, Consequences for Violating AUPs, and Disclaimers can help guide schools in providing wireless access to students. I explained more about these in my earlier post here.
If you would like a copy of our Procedure for Granting Students Access to Internet, just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be glad to send you a copy of our procedure.