I tweeted a question this morning, and after thinking about it more and discussing it briefly with a colleague of mine Mr. Tim Robinson, thought it deserved more than 140 characters:
— Peter Anello (@pjanello) October 2, 2014
Given my role, I am visible in all schools K-12, where staff and students see me as being the ‘IT guy’. I get stopped in the halls with all kinds of questions, and I do my best to answer them. I know my fair share of educational technology, however, some things are simply out of my realm. One area, for example would have been network security – a year ago; but seeing as it is such an important backbone to student learning in classrooms these days, I learned a great deal about it recently for good reason.
There is no doubt that school boards have differing viewpoints on how secure a network should be for their organization. This ranges from open networks with secure firewalls to networks that are both password protected, secure with firewalls and require user authentication.
Here is an example of two very powerful educational tools in particular that, when required to authenticate through the firewall, become affected by such a setup.
Chromebooks and iPads
Firstly, Chromebooks will not work on a network that requires a prompt for authentication by the student. Chrome OS does not allow for that prompt. There are a few workarounds for this, however, they do not provide that quick, easy access of what a Chromebook is really all about.
Secondly, when the connection for iPads requires authentication to access the internet, they do not work seamlessly either. This is particularly frustrating for students as the prompt does not ‘pop up‘ unless they open an internet browser. If the student wanted to simply turn on the iPad and open an app to work online, nothing would work if a connection is required.
These two scenarios have led to me to beg the question:
How secure do school networks have to be?
I may out of my realm with this, but I think we are at a point in education that we can forgo the excessive security. If schools continue to think that they need to police the internet as some still think they need to, we are in trouble as both leaders and learners. Any number of layers of security should be invisible to students during their learning, providing a seamless learning experience.
I think it is time that schools rethink the difference between what is needed and what is wanted with network security. If we continue to worry about security as some still do, we are not only (in my mind) infringing on their privacy by collecting such things as browsing history, but creating an environment of distrust.
More importantly – harming student learning.