Balancing utility with responsibility on student laptops

ZDNet blogger Christopher Dawson, technology director for the Athol-Royalston School District in northern Massachusetts, offers his thoughts on how much of the capability of laptops given to students in a one-to-one computing program should be locked down, especially when the students are off-campus. "This is not an easy question to answer," Dawson writes. "On the one hand, we have vague mandates to filter content for students and will most likely be responsible for fixing machines on which students install software, encounter malware, etc. On the other hand, anyone implementing a 1:1 program should be trying to make the machines as useful for kids as possible." Dawson continues: "How much of [the] ability to multi-task between the social and the academic should actually be limited? My inclination would be to say none of it. Go ahead and block MySpace and FaceBook while [students] are behind the content filters at school, but once they go home, let the work and play converge." He concludes: "Here’s the kicker: Let the computer and unfettered access to it be a carrot for academic achievement. If students aren’t maintaining decent grades, take away the computer. If the student installs software or bumps into malware, keep them after in detention with a tech who can lead them through troubleshooting and repair. … Not allowing the computers to become natural extensions of the student and providing no incentive to use the computers appropriately … is a recipe for failure."

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