Laptop policies cause student concerns
granting every student a free laptop for the entire school year, the Park City School District faces the inevitable problem of balancing security with innovation. Although the computers allow students to utilize basic applications such as Pages and Google Chrome, restrictions on downloading software have left some students feeling that the laptops’ full potential has yet to be reached.
Among them is senior Max Johansen, founder of the PCHS Tech Club.
"Until things change, the computers are essentially glorified typewriters. We can do minimal research and basic word processing but beyond that the computers are highly restricted. It’s like the school distributes free textbooks but we are only allowed to read the first chapter and the rest of the book is stapled shut," said Johansen.
Although Johansen praised the district’s one-to-one program and the three computer science classes offered by the high school, he claims the district still has a long way to go.
"Even in AP computer science and computer programming the computers are severely restricted so we can only do the bare minimum of what is required for that class," explained Johansen, who views a more open laptop policy as critical to the district’s commitment to ‘excellence in every field."
"We need to implement a more open and responsive software installation process. Right now it can take up to a year, or longer, for software to get approved and installed and there’s no appeals process if a piece of software is denied," he explained.
Sam Kottler, also a PCHS senior, agrees.
"The process is really, really slow. In AP computer science, for the first couple weeks of school we had nothing that we could use to program so basically there was nothing we could do in that class," said Kottler.
Joe Stout, Director of Information Technology for the Park City School District, disagrees with the students’ claims that installing software is excessively difficult.
"It used to take a year or two to put software on. We know that that’s been an issue. This year we’ve rolled out a piece of software called Self Service. When a piece of software is approved we can put it on Self Service and then kids can install it themselves," stated Stout, who added that software can be put on the computers "in two weeks."
"We do need teachers to request software. If a student wants it, we make sure a teacher really is the one requesting it and if the teacher wants it we look at it and make sure it works with our system and then we put it into self service" said Stout.
How long software installation takes "depends on how does the teacher request it. Do they go through the proper sheet? Then they take it to the school technology committee, they figure out is this something we want in our building, who’s going to fund this, and then it kind of moves up the ladder," he added.
Stout named the cost of certain applications and limited hardware space as some of the reasons why students can’t be allowed to download applications at will.
"We have to test each piece of software and make sure that it doesn’t create problems with the software we already have on the system," said Stout.
For Johansen, Stout’s explanation is not enough.
"We’ve achieved our goal of basic computer literacy, everyone knows how to type, send emails, and use Google, but in the modern era we need to know more. To effectively take advantage of the resources the school has distributed we need to open up the computers."
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Compensation is the largest issue left on the table after a contract governing most every other aspect of teachers’ employment was negotiated earlier in June.