Random Thoughts

What we do when we put them in a bubble

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An e-mail from a student I had last year and has moved (Posted with permission).

He’s in 9th Grade:

We have alot more academic freedom here, and there are
several computer cliubs that I can choose from, but the school has put some
pretty unreasonable restrictions on computer usage. I’m starting to feel a
bit tech-deprived. Here are the rules on the library computers (which are
about the only ones that work right now)
1. You cannot download software
2. You cannot modify the computers
3. No games
4. No inappropriate content
    The second two rules are fine, but the first two, I think, are stifling
student creativity on the computers. For one, none of the computers have
Firefox, and they’re extremely slow. The first rule prevents you from
downloading Firefox, or any other cool programs, and the second rule
disallows us from messing with the configurations in IE to make it faster.
I’m hoping they’ll let us protect our S: Drive folders with Novell options.

What happens when we put them in a bubble, when we do not allow them to experiment (see post below)?

[tags]21st Century Learning[/tags]

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I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Hi Jeff,

    I can see things from 2 points of view. I have been in the classroom and definitely want to encourage students creativity. However, from the techsupport side, if we allow students to download software and modify the computers, we run the risk of spyware, viruses, and the possibility of students “hosing up” the computers.

    In the case of the library computers, I would want each student to have the same experience of having a reliable computer each time they sit down to use the computer. If a student has so messed with the computer that it has become inoperable, that is not fair to the other students. In our school, the students share a computer between a morning, afternoon, and evening adult class. If they modify it to their personal pleasure, it does not give the other person who sits at that computer the same experience. The adult does not want to look at a screen saver of a teen heart throb.

    In our school we are preparing them for the workplace. (I work at a vocational school.) In most businesses, personal email is not allowed. You are not allowed to load your own personal software, or modify it in any way. We are trying to teach students to treat their computer in a professional manner and that if they spend their time playing around on the computer rather than doing their work, they most likely will get fired. They do explore modifying the computer as some of their curriculum. Our students do have one on one computing. They get to do lots of creative things, such as making video, etc. We just teach them that if they want to change computer settings and download software, do it on their own home computer, because they won’t be allowed to do so on their work computer.

  2. Hi Jeff,

    Interesting post. I would have said exactly the opposite of your student about what was reasonable and unreasonable. No games is not reasonable and no inappropriate content is so vague as to be meaningless.

    Given my district responsibility for seeing that over 2500 computers are functioning with minimal tech staffing skews my view of the first two rules for sure. First, these are institutional machines, not personal computers. Unreasonable and creativity stifling or not, few bankers, doctors, lawyers, and probably Indian chiefs, have the freedom to alter their office computers.

    Seems to me that one can be plenty creative within the software itself. Has anyone exhausted the potential of Photoshop, iMovie, or even PowerPoint. Do you need to be able to modify and install software to be write a sonnet?

    Sorry, Jeff, you student’s lament sounds more like a hacker’s whine than a legitimate complaint to me. I guess I am getting old.

    Oh, were I the librarian in the kid’s new school, I would tap into this guy’s expertise. He sounds like a real asset if his talents can be channeled.

    All the best,


  3. Jeff,
    Unless the school has a policy about using Microsoft products only, I would think that the library staff might be willing to add Firefox so that it is available to all students. Students could talk to the librarians about the relative merits of IE vs. Firefox.

    Jeff C.

  4. Hi Jeff,
    Perspective from a teacher of younger kids, third graders. I am fighting – hard – to keep the student machines in my classroom (all 17 of them) as wide open as possible. Imagine the battles. I’m with 1-3 above, all the way. It is my job and responsibility, to watch, guide, and teach – every single moment that my kids are on those computers. Mess up, don’t play by the rules – and you don’t use them.

    But my rules will hopefully let them reach out, experiment, control their working space (with concern for their community), take charge of, and even direct(!) their own learning. – Mark

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  6. Jeff, I posted this blog on May 15 about the Hillsboro School District and this very thing. I honestly think a lot of administrators, librarians and board member are afraid because they simply do not understand.



    Fred was an ordinary man. He loved TV and watched Scrubs as often as possible. He ate macaroni and cheese every Saturday night. Of course he had to live in a one room apartment because he would not leave his living room.

    You see, Fred was afraid of catching a virus. He had heard that if you leave the living room you would or could catch a terrible virus that would invade his system and cause him to simply shut down. So he did not go out into the world. He did not talk to people, even those living next door and he never tasted or experienced any of the wonders of life. People that knew him wondered if his creation had simply been a waste and if his body could not have been used better by someone less fearful. Fred lived a long life, free of virus and devoid of experience.

    I was told that the Hillsboro School District would not allow it’s teachers and their students to open and participate in blogs from around the world because they were fearful of a virus invading their system. The blogs I sent from China to my granddaughter in February about the Chinese New Year celebration were never opened. What a shame and waste of computer learning. They could have learned so much about other cultures and their celebrations. The world may be getting ‘flatter’ but it may also have a huge firewall built around it.

    Fred needs to get out more!!!!!!

  7. Doug said it — the first two are reasonable – the second two not so much. While I’d like to see computers somewhere that students can download on or program with, I also recognize the value of everyone having a machine that works when it’s their turn to use it.

    Is DeepFreeze a tool that would allow for the flexibility that you’d like? i understand that it’s like a do-over for your computer every time it boots – or once a day or so, depending on the configuration. Would a tool like that alleviate some folks concerns about providing a consistent, functional computer experience for everyone while still providing room for students, in the right settings, to explore and fiddle and tinker?

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  9. Personally, I think the games and inappropriate content are normal rules for a computer lab. As far as the not downloading certain things, or anything at all for that matter is a bit too far. For some classes, teachers may need their student to download something or something along those lines.

    And firefox should also be allowed to be used. In my opinion, it is a better browse. But thoses are just a few of my opinions and i agree with this student about school computer labs for the most part

  10. Allison Fishbein Reply

    With the level of advanced technology that we have in today’s schools, I feel that there is no excuse for such strict rules in a school’s computer lab. Limits can be placed on students through codes on computers, so that they are unable to download games, instant messengers, or other things that teachers are opposed to. However, restricting downloads of programs such as Firefox, which I have found from my own personal experience to work better than other browsers, seems way overdone.

    In my high school, if we needed to access a program for download or a certain website, we could simply call our librarian over and get them to override it, if appropriate. If a school’s lab is unable to perfectly modify student usage to an appropriate amount, this system seems like the next best option.

    All in all, the fear that people presently have involved with exploration in technology is nonsensical. In the most general terms, if we do not explore, then we do not discover, and we do not learn as much as we are capable of learning. It is students like this one who spoke up to a past teacher in an email who need to take the step forward in their overly restricting school systems and break down the boundaries between their curiosity (or necessity in many cases) and strict limitations.

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