Can the Principle of Least Privilege Apply in Educational Technology?

Are your teachers “local administrators” on their school division assigned computers?  Can they install their home printer without your permission?  Can they keep their own software up-to-date?   Are you going through the million reasons this would be a disaster?  Well, it’s not.  It’s not even a disaster if you make kids the “local administrator” of their machines in a 1:1 deployment.  Yep.  It works.

CIOs and CTOs talk about IT as INFORMATION Technology.  I talk about it as INSTRUCTIONAL Technology – technology for teaching and learning.  There’s a BIG difference.

Do kids make mistakes?  Yes.  So do adults.  School is a great place for mistakes to be made and learned from.  So, we teach and trust instead of lock down and control.  It’s really rather simple.

In the Principle of Least Privilege world, you are only given the rights and access to do what someone else perceives you need to be doing.  If your job is to use articles from approved media in order to write a research paper, you will only get access to those approved media and a word processor.  That’s it.  You don’t need that noisy Internet to distract you.  Trust me.

“Oh, but if you allow them to X, they will Y.”  Yes, they do.  For a bit.  Until the tasks you put forth compete with Y…until you have a relationship with them and they don’t see you as the enemy…until they are responsible to a team of peers for work they are compelled to do…until…

And still, they will do a little Y here and there.  They are human.  How will you respond?

So, as I talk about our 1:1 projects and speak to students as the “local administrators” on their computers, I get questions about viruses and hacks and games and all sorts of things.  What I don’t get questions about is kids who install apps that allow them to compile their own code or connect their school computer to their home printer or figure out how to translate a job application in to Spanish so their father can read it and apply for a job or any number of other things that represent exactly what we are going after – mastering lifelong learning skills.

So, we have to re-image a few machines here and there.  That’s why we have student run help desks!

Can the Principle of Least Privilege Apply in Educational Technology?  I don’t think so.  That is, not if you want learning lifelong learner skills to be mastered.  Don’t let your tech folks tell you they have to block Twitter because it’s the law or that kids can’t install software on their own computers because of something Microsoft or Apple did.  Don’t buy it.  It’s not true.

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