Parents see cyber bullying increasing with ‘iPads-for-all’ school initiatives

Aug 28, 2014 by

FOREST GROVE, Ore. – At least one parent in Forest Grove, Oregon is learning the hard way that passing out iPads to middle schoolers can create more headaches than the devices are worth.

Last year, officials at Neil Armstrong Middle School distributed iPads to all 855 students as part of a pilot project aimed at transforming classroom instruction into an all digital learning experience.

The program, which cost taxpayers $500,000 over three years, started out as a well-intentioned move toward modern learning and compliance with the national Common Core learning standards. But roughly a year later, the plan is beset by many of the same problems plaguing other districts that have attempted similar initiatives, reports.

Forest Grove school officials fitted the devices with software to prevent unauthorized downloads, access to inappropriate websites and other non-educational uses, but students quickly circumvented the the precautionary measures, according to the news site.

“Children are natural explorers and problem solvers and they really wanted to figure out how to solve the problem of getting around the security,” Principal Brandon Hundley told KATU. “There was a single proxy server that these kids got access to in December and that was when we recognized this was a bigger problem than we anticipated.”

For parent Mandy Keilwitz and her daughter Amber, a 12-year-old at Neil Armstrong Middle School, the security issues soon turned into a nightmare. Amber gave out her Apple ID to share her music with friends at a sleepover party, and a short time later her contacts started receiving obscene messages from her personal account, KATU reports.

“I was freaking out just a little bit and I texted back on the phone ‘Who is this? What are you doing?”” Keilwitz said. “They started taunting me: ‘your daughter is a slut, your daughter is not a virgin, your daughter (expletive) my (expletive).’”

The hackers also changed Amber’s password to shut her out of her accounts, and since district officials refused to take Keilwitz’s complaints seriously, she was forced to return the device and remove her daughter from school, KATU reports.

“For those three months before anyone was listening to us and actually taking us seriously, everything was up in the air,” Keilwitz said. “I was scared to death because she was getting death threats and things like that too, because people thought she was sending those messages.”

School officials continue to ignore the problem, Keilwitz said, but Forest Grove police are now investigating the cyber bullying. District officials, meanwhile, are using a different online filter this year in hopes of cutting down on unauthorized use, the news site reports.

The problems in Forest Grove are only the most recent example of issues plaguing schools that have given away computer devices to all students. Numerous other districts – including schools in Hoboken, New Jersey, Riverside County, California, Fort Bend, Texas and Los Angeles – have had their own issues with security, licensing fees, repairs, unapproved use, and other unanticipated problems.

Many are ditching their programs as a result.

Just this week, Los Angeles schools superintendent John Deasy suspended the district’s contract with Apple Inc. to provide devices for students. Within a week of distributing iPads to students in 47 of the city’s schools last year, many learned to circumvent the district’s firewall protections to surf social media sites, play games, and download things they shouldn’t.

Some school officials attempted to control the situation by forcing students to keep the devices at school, while others set different rules, which further complicated the issue and the entire project quickly unraveled at the seams.

That program, which ballooned from an estimated $30 million to roughly $1 billion, was also beset by internet access issues and other connectivity problems.

An internal report recently presented to the district’s school board showed the bidding process for the LA initiative was also problematic, as Deasy and his top deputy have a very close relationship with executives at Apple and Pearson Education, the software provider for the tablets, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Of course, Deasy framed the decision to cut ties with Apple as a positive move, when it reality it was the only way for the district to save face over the boondoggle.

“Not only will this decision enable us to take advantage of an ever-changing marketplace and technology advances, it will also give us time to take into account concerns raised surrounding the (project),” Deasy wrote to the school board in a memo cited by the Christian Science Monitor.

via Parents see cyber bullying increasing with ‘iPads-for-all’ school initiatives – powered by Education Action Group Foundation, Inc..

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