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Board Quizzes Administration on iPad Issues

By Tim Jones

May 11, 2015 – Lingering technology questions were the topic of discussion at Buena Park School District’s board meeting May 11. Board members felt they had good cause to question. The first round of iPads and Macbook Pros are set for teacher pickup at Beatty Elementary School May 12.

Teachers are excited. Board members are worried. Securing this capital expenditure that walks out the classroom door everyday in the form of iPads could mean damage to the district’s bottom line.

Issues emerged. How students access information, how individual iPads are tracked, and how these devices are repaired were main topics of discussion.

The top concern was content. While district tech personnel could not guarantee 100 percent control over website and application content, administration officials carefully explained their plan to prevent student access to unwarranted content.

Students will find their school-issued iPads can function like their consumer counterparts. However, one difference will be apparent when students begin to access information. Restrictions come with the student iPad, Assistant Superintendent Ramon Miramontes said. Content will be filtered through the district office server.

Whether they are at Starbucks, their classroom or home, almost every bit of information delivered by the new iPads will be screened thoroughly to prevent unauthorized use of school district property. This is the message delivered by BPSD.

“It will be just like using the computer in the computer lab,” Superintendent Greg Magnuson said.

Tech leads explained the process. Malicious websites are constantly added to a list of inappropriate websites and material. The list is available to school districts. Using this resource that’s constantly updated, inappropriate websites are flagged and blocked by the district server.

If a student tries to access these sites, the district server will “kick it back,” Miramontes said.

While the district’s technology lead, Jim Connolly, said undesired content “could possibility happen,”  administration believes they’ve taken all possible steps to prevent such a scenario from happening.

Board members also expressed concern about stolen or lost iPads, along with repair costs. Miramontes addressed both issues. He said the district has done its homework. So far, he said these concerns haven’t been an issue in many school districts he has studied.

“We track them just like a textbook,” Miramontes said. For repairs, “Apple Care will take care of the majority of issues.”

All iPads will be covered by an Otterbox, a protective shell that has more than 300 positive reviews on amazon.com. While Apple Care and protective cases will solve most problems concerning wear and tear, administration was careful to point out costs won’t be covered 100 percent if an iPad gets lost, stolen or broken.

If something unexpected happens, safeguards are in place to lock or erase information, making any wayward iPad “a useless brick,” Miramontes said.

Apple IDs and emails will be required to operate the iPads. If parents refuse or don’t want to provide emails, district personnel will help them. IDs can be created at school. For those students who are left out of the process and need homework content only found on iPads, photocopied work will be sent home, Miramontes said.

All iPad concerns will be discussed at parent meetings in August.

For information, call (714) 522-8412