When my local school district began loaning Ipads to all high school students, the District Superintendent was very excited to announce this great new educational opportunity. But exactly how these gizmos were going to improve students’ education, well, that wasn’t exactly clear. We need a better phrase than “underpants gnomes,” for things like this, but that’s essentially what the plan was. Some hopey-changey without much in the way of process or details.
But, hey, some teachers have found uses. Music students can download the necessary sheet music for free from some specified site; English teachers can have their students read some things that are online for free; and my daughter’s Mandarin class is conducted online (with students both in the U.S. and in other countries). That’s pretty cool, except….
The school district is concerned about what students might get up to with these devices that are, after all, school property, so they’ve put blocking software on them to keep the kids out of the forbidden zone. And what ends up being forbidden? The sheet music site, the site with the reading that English students are supposed to write about, and even the specific school approved (as part of its International Baccalaureate program) site for my daughter’s Mandarin class, which the software specifically identifies as “Pornography.”
It’s a good rule of thumb that no bureaucratic effort shall go untainted by unintended consequences, but actually sabotaging the very purpose of your program always stands out as a doozy of a SNAFU.