Technology plays an important role in our learning at school. Due to potential for misuse, the school has always had some measures in place to ensure that the school-issued Chromebooks are used in a safe and appropriate way. However, recent developments involving new policies and practices relating to these devices have led to considerable outrage and discomfort among the students.
In the past, softwares such as Securely and Hapara have been used to monitor and restrict activity on the Chromebooks, and students generally understood that they were necessary for safety. However, a new software known as GoGuardian is being introduced, and is raising significant concerns about privacy. It gives administrators an immensely detailed picture of what students are doing on Chromebooks. Many feel uncomfortable with this, believing that it is a violation of privacy and in excess of what is needed to ensure the safe use of school devices.
Further discomfort arises from the fact that this program has come under fire in the past for violating the privacy of students. Most abhorrent is the fact that not only does this program give the school access to virtually any information from the screen, webcam, and microphone, but it can perform the same data collection on a personal device should a student log into their school google account on there.
Additionally, disturbing rumors have surfaced about the use of a keylogger on the Chromebooks. Keylogging software records all keystrokes made on a device, and the implications of this are worrisome. Many students use the Chromebooks to check personal accounts, Google and otherwise, believing that as long as their activities are school appropriate, their privacy is protected. However, GoGuardian’s features would give all of their login information to the school, since every key they press is recorded. Although GoGuardian removed their keylogging feature in 2015 after controversy, many speculate that the school could be using a different software for this purpose. Some parents may also worry about their students’ activities being tracked and their students potentially being penalized for bringing their own devices.
The school is also cracking down on the use of personal devices, since it is harder to monitor activity on these. This decision was heavily criticized because it is often easier to use personal devices. Chromebooks are not powerful or high quality devices, so it’s natural that people would prefer to use their own. In addition, the school devices often block websites that are needed for certain classes or clubs. While many teachers currently choose not to enforce the ban, the school is considering removing the CUHSD-Guest network, effectively forcing students to use Chromebooks since no other device can access the DCB network. However, this means that people will no longer have a Wifi network to connect to on their phones, which forces them to use data, which can be costly.
A recent account from one student expressed concern over this possibility. “When I am at school I entirely rely on the school wifi in order to contact my parents via text which they expect me to do which is impossible on a school laptop.” Students also use their personal devices for a variety of school-related activities, such as checking Remind, Teamsnap and incoming emails which is much easier than pulling out a school laptop to do so. It makes [the student] feel more uncomfortable to know that in the future I may be able to do these things.”
Overall, there are several concerns that have come up surrounding the issue of technology at Leigh. The single most pressing issue is the fact that GoGuardian is essentially spyware, and could severely compromise the safety and privacy of students, even on their personal devices. Students are hopeful that the school will reconsider implementing these new practices so that their privacy is respected.