What Will Happen When They Find Out Kids Might Already Have Unblocked Wireless Access At School?

Thursday I sat in an ActivBoard Cadre meeting at another local school in Reno – a school surrounded by homes and apartments – and when I opened my laptop I noted that I had 15 wireless connections available – 3 that were not password protected. So I made use of one while I was in the meeting and was able to access and share things I couldn’t have without the connection. I didn’t get a chance to ask the teacher whose classroom I was in if she had noticed the available connections. I’m sure I’m not the first person to think of this, but I wonder how many schools are located in neighborhoods where numerous wireless connections are available?

I doubt many students routinely bring their own wireless laptops to school – but what kinds of issues would arise if students started utilizing these free resources? What if teachers started to use them? Should they? There are no blocked sites, no IT interference … um … free … what are the implications?

Will wireless routers within a certain distance from schools be required to password protect them? Who is liable if a student accesses MySpace or porn or other school district banned site while at school by accessing a private person’s open connection?

I’m just asking. Lots to consider.

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9 thoughts on “What Will Happen When They Find Out Kids Might Already Have Unblocked Wireless Access At School?

  1. Good questions, Brian. In Longmont, where I teach, there’s now a city-wide Wi-Fi network. I have two students — out of 80 or so — who bring their wireless laptops to school. Two teachers also have wireless laptops that they sometimes use at school — but off the school’s network, of course. One already pays for the service.
    We can certainly continue to filter and create artificially safe spaces. But who are we protecting or helping when we do so?
    What happens when our filters are irrelevant? I don’t know — but I’m starting to find out.

  2. Excellent idea…no just kidding. Maybe. I know my neighbors intrude on myconnection.
    I’m so blocked at school I’m going to think about this as I believe they are considering wireless network installing. Good point.

  3. My daughter has a Sidekick and she has complete Internet access 24/7 wherever she is. We have to teach students to guard their minds….garbage in, garbage out.

  4. Great questions as we continue to fight with filtering unwanted content and fighting to get the content we need to be accessible in the classroom. My daughter played soccer at a very rural school last fall…as I sat there with my laptop one night during practice I noticed that I was able to get a connection from the school (even had the school’s name on the access point). I was shocked and amazed that this level of insecurity was occuring at a public school. I know it’s the opposite of what your article is stating, but our students are pretty smart, they would figure a way to get into something with just a little bit of access as such from the outside.


  5. At my old school, I knew for a fact that there were open wireless networks coming from right across the alley. I even saw warchalk marking them one day! I’m sure there were students that knew about them. And they were probably using them to go to the same sites that they would go to immediately upon leaving school most days. Big surprise and big shocker, eh? This may sound crazy, but it occurs to me that we can’t actually control the students around the clock.

  6. I’m currently trying to provide teachers with a passcode to get around the filters at my school and our thoroughly reasonable, yet currently unyielding, network admin people taught me about the Child Internet Protection Act. I’m told that in order claim that we are “CIPA compliant”, we have to certify that we are doing “everything necessary” to protect minors from inappropriate content.

    Does this mean that schools have to shift from the passive filters to actively jamming in the incoming wireless? If there are not lawyers out there ready to jump into the big pockets of a school district that did not do “everything necessary” to protect children, there are plenty of administrators who are afraid of them.

  7. Someone just told me yesterday about a paint that has an ingredient that blocks wifi that was developed for security that some are starting to paint on the outside of school buildings for just this reason. This was just hearsay – but it sounds like it might be true.

  8. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. The information age has arrived and we just have to get used to it. There will be risks and occasional tragedies but the benefits from having the accumulated wisdom of the world at our fingertips are inestimable.

    Bring it on.