Balancing Respect and Accountability

A wise upper school head once told me, “If you make rules that can’t or won’t be enforced, you simply lose the respect of students.”

In our middle school laptop program, we recently added Apple Remote Desktop to all of the iBooks. At first we added it simply to improve the way we installed software and updates on all the machines. Then we found the inventory feature works well. Finally, we found that “view remote desktops” works remarkably well, even in a wireless environment. Our middle school technology coordinator is not the “big brother” type at all, but if he observes students using iChat or other programs when they are not supposed to, he shoots them a message directly with Apple Remote Desktop. He’s demonstrated the software to the students so that they can see exactly how it works– including how nine student screens can be observed in real time.

I think we’ve all struggled with the idea of computers empowering students versus computers monitoring students. At this stage, if we consider total use of comptuers by students (at-home as well as at-school), it’s fairly clear that students have plenty of recreational time, and maybe too much time unobserved or unmonitored. If we’re serious about trying to change the culture of computer use so that they are more tools than toys, it’s probably time to have rules that are clearly enforced. I have a lot of respect for the way most students use computers, and even slight increases in accountability may lead to more trust. With that, everything moves forward.

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