Classrooms of the Past


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I wrote this in December 2007, after my English 11 teacher enforced a no-tech policy I thought was contradictory to some of the school's other policies

These ideas, at this time, do not necessarily extend to cell phones and iPod usage - which should be covered in a seperate discussion.

Haverford High School currently has a technology policy which prohibits external electronic devices from connecting to their network and being used during class. This policy is hypocritical because they have accepted over $200 million as part of a "Classrooms of the Future" program to purchase technology for classrooms. However, they prohibit students from using technology which students bring to school themselves, enforcing a "classroom of the past". This sends a powerful message of hypocrisy related to the use of technology in school. For some reason school purchased equipment is acceptable, even though it shares the same risk of being used in an attack of the school's network.


Recently, Ms. Reilly, my English 11 teacher assigned the class to read a passage from a poem. She told students to look up words that they did not know. When I came across a word I did not know, I looked it up on my Nokia N800 internet tablet. The N800 is like a small laptop which fits in your pocket. Ms. Reilly asked me to put it away. She did not care that I was using it for school purposes and following her directions. When I asked her for a old-fashioned "dead tree" dictionary, I was told that there was none, and I was to look the word up at home. Ms. Reilly is a recipient of a "Classrooms of the Future" grant. In this case, she was indiscretionally following orders.


Haverford's policy also restricts students from using electronic devices as personal organizers. Some students have expressed that they wish to carry PDAs or use their cell phones to keep a calender. However, under under current school rules, students are forbidden to organize their lives on electronic devices during school. The school provides paper organizers each year, but electronic calenders can be shared and kept up to date easier. The real power of electronic calenders comes from their ability to be viewed and updated in multiple places. The principal uses an electronic calender to make appointments, however students are forbidden from doing so during school.

Classroom Distractors

While the school's worry about electronic devices in class is understandable, discretion should be allowed according to the current circumstances.

It would up to the students to use their devices appropriately. Just as it is inappropriate for a student to read a book while the teacher is talking, it is unacceptable for a student to be text messaging or surfing YouTube during class. The school does not ban books merely because they could be a potential distractor during class, so it should not ban electronic devices. Teachers should guide students about acceptable usage, rather than prohibiting all usage. Some students already understand what is acceptable. They should not be restricted because others do not.


Electronic devices should be able to use the school's network connection to access the wealth opf information available on the internet. Security is a concern regrading this. However, student-brought devices contain no additional security risks against network attacks than school-purchased laptops. Any security devices on client machines could be bypassed by using seperate, bootable operating systems. These operating systems could be configured to run the same software which could be installed on non-restricted computers, such as the ones students would bring.


In addition, the current wireless network uses out of date and insecure methods of encryption, or none at all. However any wireless encryption could be bypassed by merely plugging a computer in to a orange Ethernet port. Thus, student-provided electronic devices provide no additional security risk of network-based computer attacks. These risks are better addressed by punishing those who try to take advantage of the system, rather than block it out all usage.

Additional security measures should not be implemented to further restrict the access of devices to the internet. The network exists at school to help the educational process, not to be a model of iron-clad security.


Thus Haverford High School should end the hypocrisy of electronic devices and provide a policy in which students, with discretion, can leave the "classroom of the past" and enter into the "classroom of the future" by organizing their lives and accessing the wealth of information avalible on the internet.

-Michael Plasmeier