I’m going to catch up on several things I’ve meant to post over the last week or so, but just haven’t gotten around to it.
First, we held our quarterly SCASA Technology Leader’s Roundtable Thursday a week ago. I knew we were in trouble when a lawyer set up an overhead projector to address a group of tech directors. It went downhill from there. He was there to address a recent ruling that would require school districts to archive all e-mail and instant messages in the event they are needed in a court case. Here’s a quick sysnopsis from eSchool News…
December 8, 2006—According to new federal rules that went into effect Dec. 1, schools, businesses, and other organizations are required to keep tabs on all eMail, instant messages (IM), and other digital communications produced by their employees.
The rules, first approved by the U.S. Supreme Court in April, have been widely reported as important for businesses and other for-profit enterprises. But, according to legal experts familiar with the case, the High Court’s ruling also applies to public schools and other nonprofit organizations.
The ruling–which states that any entity involved in litigation must be able to produce "electronically stored information" during the discovery process–the process in which opposing sides of a legal dispute must share evidence before trial–could have significant implications for school technology departments, especially in places where technicians routinely copy over backup discs and other information housed on school servers.
As you might imagine, our group of tech directors has been struggling with how much e-mail we have to save and just how expensive this is likely to get. The aforementioned lawyer basically said that we should be saving everything indefinitely, which is proposterous. One of our group likened it to asking the Postal Service to save a copy of every piece of junk and personal mail on the off-chance it might be needed in a court case.
Molly Spearman of SCASA gave us a legislative update on technology funding and two other issues of interest. One is the bill to create a statewide broadband WiFi system freely available to all, and the other was the bill to provide laptops to all eighth-grade students in South Carolina. It looks like we may have some state funding restored, but the other two bills have tons of hurdles to pass.
Just today an article came out in the New York Times about Liverpool Central School District near Syracuse dropping their one-to-one laptop initiative.
The students at Liverpool High have used their school-issued laptops to exchange answers on tests, download pornography and hack into local businesses. When the school tightened its network security, a 10th grader not only found a way around it but also posted step-by-step instructions on the Web for others to follow (which they did).
Scores of the leased laptops break down each month, and every other morning, when the entire school has study hall, the network inevitably freezes because of the sheer number of students roaming the Internet instead of getting help from teachers…
…“After seven years, there was literally no evidence it had any impact on student achievement — none,” said Mark Lawson, the school board president here in Liverpool, one of the first districts in New York State to experiment with putting technology directly into students’ hands. “The teachers were telling us when there’s a one-to-one relationship between the student and the laptop, the box gets in the way. It’s a distraction to the educational process.”
I’m not going to use one example as a blanket condemnation of one-to-one computing, but I think it does point out the problems of implementing such a program. Any district (or legistator) that thinks they can prevent these problems is naive. You have to develop a culture that deals with them in a progressive manner.
As for state-wide broadband, I love the idea as a concept. To be able to open my laptop anywhere and get a signal would be extremely cool. However, you have to wonder how this will be regulated. The problems with porn and hacking are going to be amplified. If a kid can bypass the school’s network simply by hitting the state’s, then they have effectively circumvented any safeguards you might have in place. Any attempt at filtering the state’s network would be seen as censorship. This doesn’t even begin to take into account the battle that would be fought between service providers. Nice idea, but I just don’t see this happening.