August 11, 2015
When your child starts school in the next few weeks, they may be taking a laptop, tablet or phone to school so that they can access work and content to assist with their education. As parents, we assume that our kids will behave responsibly and obey school rules for online activity.
Most parents have had to sign a school digital policy, detailing exactly what “acceptable behavior” looks like, but how many of us really read the ‘acceptable usage policy’ before we signed it?
I recently had a conversation like this with a colleague here at AVG. They stated that they had signed no such policy and had no clue what I was talking about. Sure enough, a few days later they confirmed that they had signed it and did not read or know it even existed. We assume that all the signatures are for things we fully understand; after all, we went to school, how different can it be?
Check the school policy
Take a look at the policy from Virginia Minnesota Public Schools, in section XI – C, it states ’must be read and signed by the user, the parent or guardian, and the supervising teacher’. I bet the majority of parents signing this never read it and probably don’t even remember signing it.
It’s important that when we send our kids to school with gadgets, that we respect the school rules on devices and usage. My own son went to a school in the Bay Area that even stipulated a minimum specification for the machine, processor, memory etc.
Purchasing a device
As a basic principal, I think its accepted that laptops are productivity devices and tablets are content consumption devices. This is of course changing, as more tablets appear with keyboards and are becoming a hybrid of the two.
When we purchased my son’s laptop, I made sure it was robust ( in fact it has a metal case rather than plastic!) and on advice of the AVG IT department I purchased accidental breakage insurance for the laptop. Sure enough, they were right and we are already on the second one!
The school my son attends has strict rules on laptop use. A teacher needs to give permission for devices to be used in a classroom and there are penalties for use without permission. I like this structure. I watch my son doing homework and gone are the days when the homework needs to be carried back to school. Electronic delivery straight back to the teacher and a log system that shows submission dates and overdue work makes school life very different from my school days.
If in doubt, check
What I am keen to learn about is how school policies stand up to wearable devices. For example, take a smartwatch that allows texting, reading emails and some basic app functionality. Can a child wear this in class and look at their watch during a lesson? I think this makes policing device use challenging for educators as technology moves to devices that are less obvious and wearable by the user.
Be sure that when running to the shop to get your kids new devices this summer that you connect with the school and ensure what you are buying fits with both their recommendation and also that you understand the usage policy and can re-enforce this with your kids.
August 11, 2015 by Tony Anscombe