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Should Students Have Unrestricted Access to Chromebook Apps?

Should Students Have Unrestricted Access to Chromebook Apps?

Carefully selecting the Chromebook apps students are allowed to download can help school administrators comply with Internet safety policies.


The challenge of balancing freedom with Internet safety is a dilemma all district administrators face when deploying Chromebooks to individual students. Whether or not students are able to take their computers home, they have control over an Internet-optimized device for at least six hours a day, and teachers shouldn’t be tasked with regulating the websites each student is visiting at every moment.


For some schools, the answer is simple: only give students access to administrator-approved programs. In mid-April, the Council Bluffs Community School District switched from an unrestricted system to a no-nonsense policy that limits students to a handpicked list of Google Play apps. Opponents may view the policy as too restrictive for students who enjoy exploring the app market in their free time.


Yet, Chief Information Officer David Fringer says the ongoing surge in easily accessible, professionally designed educational apps makes it easy for teachers to find effective digital learning tools for their classrooms.


In the meantime, Council Bluff administrators went forward with plans to remotely uninstall any unapproved apps currently on student Chromebooks. The district has pre-approved over 100 programs, and if students feel adamant about a particular app or extension, they can ask teachers to submit the program to administrators for consideration.


Restrictive policies are beneficial for reducing distraction in classrooms, but the Council Bluffs district also considered the new rules an uncomplicated solution to complying with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). In order to receive federal E-rate funding, schools and libraries must satisfy the Federal Communications Commission’s criteria for censoring obscene content on public computers used by minors.


In the case of Council Bluffs, Fringer is confident that the parent and teacher community supports the policy change, and any dissenting students will adapt. When making a similar decision, administrators should consider the best way to reach a mutually beneficial compromise. An all-or-nothing approach may prevent students from independently finding tools that help them process information more effectively, so putting an approval request system in place may ease the transition for students who value total freedom.


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