Moving to the Suburbs

Currently I am writing the curriculum for technology course for 6th and 7th graders. As I evaluate Web 2.0 applications to use I must walk a thin line between achieving educational objectives using Web 2.0 tools and ensuring student safety. This is a dilemma anyone involved in educational technology must deal with constantly. The questions asked not only include what applications to use but should students be allowed to use personal computers on school networks? What access should students have? How do we keep students from accessing inappropriate websites? Should students be allowed to have email accounts? The list is endless.

Why do we have to fight this battle? Leo Leporte summed it up nicely on his netcast TWIT when he compared computers connected to the Internet like going into a big city. You can find almost anything you want but you can also easily end up in places you should not be too. Leporte went on to claim devices like the iPad is like the suburbs. You don’t have as much choice but it is safer. Apple’s Steve Jobs echoed this sentiment recently claimed that PC’s are like trucks, which obviously have multiple roles, and tablets are like cars, serving a more specific purpose. Should schools move to the more suburban-like tablets because they are safer and easier to operate?

Tablets based on the iPhone OS, Android, or WebOS will only do certain functions. They are considered information consumption devices with a limited creation capabilities. Only apps approved are allowed on the devices (except maybe Android). I know from experience only certain apps will work if the network allows the app to work. Students could jail-break their devices or run off of wireless carriers but apps may not work as well as they could on a Wi-Fi network. Bingo, extra security. Apps for things like Measure of Academic Progress assessments or other testing can be made into apps and allowed to work on tablets. To me this seems like a better solution, especially for K-8 students, than allowing them into the Internet guarded with poor grade chicken wire. Should schools move to the technology version of the suburbs? What are your thoughts?