LAUSD Cracks Down on 21st Century Skills

I don't usually get this mad.

But if you give a child a powerful learning tool, and then deprive him of the right to use it, what kind of message are you sending? If you ruin months of hard work carried out by hundreds of teachers in the process, you've sabotaged dreams and dedication beyond count.

And if you wreak all this havoc at a cost of $1,000,000,000 to the taxpayers, you're probably a bureaucrat for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).

About a month ago, LAUSD rolled out a program to issue an iPad to every student in the district. Last week it came to light that hundreds of students had found a way to bypass the security software on the devices. Mind you, the students weren't necessarily visiting FaceBook during class time, but after school.

Although these kids may have visited some websites that are prohibited by LAUSD policy, this is not a serious transgression. That students would figure out a way to get around the security is hardly a surprise.

What's surprising and serious is the district's overreaction to the whole affair.

For a week or so after the security breach, the students were asked to leave their iPads at school. This effectively precluded any use of the devices for homework, flipped classroom learning, research or projects. But at least they wouldn't be listening to iTunes on taxpayer-funded technology!

Yesterday the district opted for a more extreme solution. Recall the iPads.

Never mind all the workshops and trainings the teachers attended to prepare for this program. Forget all the hours of lesson plans that involved used of the technology.

All the rhetoric about 21st century skills and giving kids the tools to be at the forefront of technology? That's all fine and dandy, but not if someone is visiting a forbidden site. (Incidentally, some websites which I routinely use for research and lesson planning, sites that get a clean bill of health from McAffee Site Adviser, are inexplicably forbidden.)

Students were ordered to “surrender” the controversial tablets, under penalty of... Well actually, there's no penalty, and around a third of the students refuse to give up their devices.

I almost want to give the defiant 33 percent a high-five.

Imagine asking the kids in the school orchestra or band to give up their instruments because someone used a trombone to play jazz after school. Or banning paper and pencils because a few students use them to write notes or draw offensive pictures.

If the school is concerned about lawsuits over cyberbullying, why not just make the parents sign a waiver?

It's impossible to control every moment of every student's life. This is not how democracy works, and it shouldn't be how education works. High school students need a means to experiment and discover their interests and talents. We've given them a powerful tool, and then taken away their right to use it.

How can we expect them to learn about responsibility, if we give them none?


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