LAUSD Works to Ensure Students Stay Focused on Learning During Tablet Rollout

LOS ANGELES – During the first phase of a major transformation toward technology-enabled classrooms, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) became aware of a glitch in controlling what students can access on newly issued tablet devices when taken off campus. Recognizing student safety as a top priority, the District has taken steps to ensure it has 100 percent control over what is accessible. Precautions include limiting tablets from being taken off campuses; increasing technical capabilities of remotely controlling tablet content that is known as mobile device management or MDM; and holding students, educators, and parents and guardians accountable for responsible technology use.

Background

The Common Core Technology Project (CCTP) is a major capital investment in technology-enabled classrooms preparing the District for Common Core State Standards, which was adopted by California as well as 44 other U.S. states. The process includes placing a tablet device into the hands of every student and every teacher, creating new modes of interactive and individualized learning, as well as increasing student digital literacy and readiness for computer adaptive assessments. An essential component of the project is mobile device management software that allows schools remotely to control what a tablet can and cannot access, ensuring an appropriate and safe online environment for students. Without this system, a user could browse the Internet without restriction. As student safety is of paramount concern, having the right MDM system in place is essential to the project’s implementation.

Recent Challenges

Through the current MDM system, the District learned that approximately 340 high school students removed MDM software; thus potentially opening their devices to access content that was non-educational when they were outside the District’s firewall.

The District found that the problem was isolated to three high schools – Theodore Roosevelt High School, Westchester Enriched Sciences Magnets and the Fine Arts Academy at Dr. Maya Angelou Community High School – all participating in Phase 1 of the Common Core Technology Program, a project that is preparing classrooms for a modern 1:1 student-to-tablet learning environment.

Upon identifying the risk of breaches to the MDM system, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy immediately ordered a moratorium on allowing tablets to leave campus until the District can be 100 percent certain the problem has been resolved and students are using the devices safely and appropriately. On Monday, all tablets were re-routed through the District’s device-enrollment process ensuring the MDM systems were fully installed and functioning correctly. The District also has ordered that tablet deployments be delayed at any school that is unprepared to keep tablets on campus full time.

Addressing Challenges

The Apple Corp., the tablet supplier and a major partner in the CCTP implementation, is preparing to release functionality that will allow the District to lock down the devices and prevent student tampering in an upcoming release of the company’s new iOS 7 operating system for mobile devices (i.e., iPhones and iPads). Meanwhile, Airwatch, the District MDM solution provider, is exploring options that will increase the District’s control over aspects of the device. For example, the device is locked so that only District-issued applications are accessible during non-school hours and weekends.

The District is also ramping up its cyber security awareness campaign, ensuring that every student, employee, and parent or guardian is properly educated on responsible use of technology, with a heavy focus on students’ physical and emotional safety. The promotion of digital citizenship—responsible behavior when using technology—is being incorporated into the curriculum and leveraged to create new leadership opportunities for students. Accordingly, the District is updating its discipline policies to ensure consistent and effective practices for intervening when a student is found violating the basic principles of digital citizenship. They are also doubling up on mandates for parents and guardians to return acknowledge form that must be signed by each household where tablets could potentially go home.

Upon Board of Education approval for additional use of Bond funds for investment in classroom technology, additional phases of the CCTP are expected to rollout in the coming year. Safety programs, led by the Los Angeles School Police Department in partnership with 12 additional local law enforcement agencies, are focused on a multi-pronged strategy including the innovative application of technology that allows agencies to disable and track devices that leave the hands of District-authorized users.
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