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Students thwart school iPad security

Indiana district hopes to teach responsible use

– A day after Center Grove handed out more than 2,000 iPads to high school students, hundreds of the teens found a way to get around the devices’ locks.

Teachers and administrators had programmed the iPads so that they were the only ones who controlled what was on them. But hours after getting them, between 300 and 400 students found ways to reprogram the iPads so they could download games and apps for social media sites, technology director Julie Bohnenkamp said.

As soon as the school learned what students were doing, teachers inspected each student’s iPad, and the technology department had to reset the hundreds of tablets that had been altered by the students, Bohnenkamp told the Daily Journal.

School officials thought they had found a program that would stop students from using the iPads to open social media, gaming, adult or other websites while away from school. But shortly after they started using it, officials learned the program couldn’t handle the number of devices it was filtering and instead slowed down the iPads or made them crash.

For now, that means the school district can’t stop students from using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or accessing pornographic or other adult websites once they leave school grounds with their iPads, Bohnenkamp and Superintendent Richard Arkanoff said.

Parents concerned about how their students use their iPads have three options: Have Center Grove install the remote filter on the iPad, which will cause it to run slower; use another filter through their Internet provider; or regularly check to see what websites a student has visited, Bohnenkamp said.

School officials knew some students would find ways to reprogram the iPads.

That’s why they required students to read the guidelines in the handbook and reminded them that the iPads are for school use and that the consequences for altering the devices’ settings range from a warning to a day of in-school suspension, officials said.

At Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson schools, about a half-dozen students have tried to stop their iPads from linking to the school’s server, which controls the websites they visit, officials said.

About 1,100 Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson sixth- through 12th-graders were issued iPads at the start of the school year, and administrators found a way to stop the devices from opening websites that were blocked by the school district by linking the iPads to its filter. That means that, if an Indian Creek student wants to connect to the Internet with a school-issued iPad, they have to first connect remotely to the school district’s filter, according to director of technology Perry Ellington and director of learning and instruction Andy Cline.

Center Grove officials hope upcoming updates to Apple’s operating system make it more difficult for students to reprogram their iPads, Bohnenkamp and Arkanoff said.

But while Center Grove will continue looking for new filtering options, Arkanoff said, there’s no way to stop all students who want get to websites the school district doesn’t want them to visit.

“We know kids are going to try and work around a lot of those safeguards that you try to put into place. There’s no foolproof answer to a lot of those things,” he said.

Students can find ways to use the iPads to play games and update their Facebook status the same way students can take inappropriate pictures with school cameras or damage buildings with sports equipment, Arkanoff said.

School officials want students to understand why it’s important to be careful when using technology and the Internet, he said.

Before students use an iPad to post a blog, photo or anything else to a website that Center Grove blocks, they need to understand that the content will be there forever and could be seen by prospective colleges or employers.

“We really need to teach our kids how to be responsible users of technology,” Arkanoff said.