Thursday, January 29, 2009

Personal laptops on the school network

I have been noticing a lot more of our students are bringing their personal laptops to school. (I have not seen any netbooks yet, though.) The main reasons seem to be both for taking notes in class and for moving files onto a flash drive in order to use one of the school's computers to print their homework.

I began to think about allowing students onto the wireless network with their personal computers for both printing and for Internet access. In addition, they all have Google Apps for Education accounts and would be able to work in their online space. They would still be behind the content filter, so that would be covered. The only real problem I considered is that we would have to make it very clear to them why we only allow streaming at certain times of the day (lack of bandwidth).

I posted a quick note on Twitter, asking my esteemed PLN about the process at their school or district. I received 16 answers in about ten minutes (hardly a scientific sample) but I really just wanted to get a feel for what others are doing.

11 allow the use of personal laptops at least over the wireless network
4 do not allow the use of personal laptops
1 will be offering it soon

The interesting part was the anecdotal 140-character explanations. Here are a few.


"Our district won't allow our teachers to connect laptops (purchased by the school) to connect to our network!"

"No official policy on it but the practice is to let students/teachers/staff/student teachers/outside consultants on network."

"We encourage, but do not yet require student laptops -- allow access to hot spots."

"Not allowing interfaces at present but anticipate allowing wireless interface in near future."

"We do, but there is a process in which they need to participate."

"We officially let kids on with personal laptops if they have testing on file that indicates the need. Unofficially- we let all."

"None of the 13 school districts allow any of their students OR teachers to hook their personal laptops to the school network."


I envisioned just giving students the wireless access code to use, but then, after surfing right through the WAP and the content filter with my iPhone to any site I wanted to visit, I realized that not all devices would be allowed to be on the internal network and the WAP code would have to remain a secret. I will do some more testing, but the iPhone seemed to go directly through the filter for some sites that I know are filtered out by the Sonic Wall subscription.

Just beginning to think about the possibilities....