This initiative is to present merits of a legislative effort to replace current school district issued electronic devices with internet access. Most districts in Texas issued Google Chrome Books during the pandemic, but ACTinAction found access to harmful and pornographic materials was common and districts in Texas were more reactive than proactive at limiting student’s access. In addition to access to harmful material, students are also being data mined and shown ads on their Chrome Books. Another area of concern ACTinAction found is districts use data vendors that can have radical ideology added at any time, without the teachers or districts knowledge. As a solution to these problems, ACTinAction wants to students to use what is technically known as air gap devices but referred to as eReaders. Air Gap devices means an electronic device with no wireless or similar access to the World Wide Web or internet. The impetus of the discussion are findings from investigations by ACTinAction into the CyFair ISD issued Chrome Books. These efforts uncovered the vulnerabilities of these devices and the problems of their open access to the internet.
YouTube, Spotify and Twitter were accessible to young children for more than a year before districts blocked access. Dark web materials and pornography were accessible on these websites and there is still no guarantee this will not reoccur on other websites. Link to Blog.
Teachers are having students turn in work on Google documents -signed in with their student email account, sometimes asking pointed questions about personal beliefs and their opinions on different subject matter– which is a survey on students. Parents are concerned about who has access to their children’s answers and where the data is stored. CyFair ISD IT department says data is stored in Google Data Centers around the world.
Curriculum Vendors Adding Transgender Ideology
Curriculum vendors use interactive software that is sometimes stored by amazon and other data warehouses, giving 3rd parties insight to students thought processes and answers. Curriculum vendors can also update their curriculum without the districts knowledge, as was the case in CyFair ISD when the human growth and development vendor added that “gender identity is a feeling” for their 5th grade boy curriculum. Also, CyFair ISD used a math game, Prodigy, that asked children the % of students that are non-binary if 10 out of the 30 are non-binary.
Chrome Books Have Advertising for Students
Students see ads on a daily basis while at school. Cy-Fair ISD had to clean students’ Chrome Books after pornography is accessed so they won’t be shown inappropriate ads.
Many of these issues have been verified by the findings across Texas and the nation. Even drawing action by the Missouri Attorney General against the data mining of school children these devices and platforms allow. Certain aspects revealed:
1. While school districts are diligent in their efforts to build firewalls to protect them from the nefarious forces from getting to these devices it is a difficult task even corporations and military systems get hacked.
2. School districts have another point of failure in that children’s attempt to get around the security and access to the Worldwide Web.
3. It is readily apparent that both school districts and those providing these devices an element of data mining of our children is taking place. Some of these efforts are even sanctioned by school districts and some are being performed unbeknownst to the school district. Both could be in violation of COPPA Children Online Privacy Protection Act.
From these findings and other aspects, an all encompassing dynamic idea of an effort to replace the “Chromebooks” with Air Gap or “eReaders”.
From various conversations, several points brought up are addressed:
1. The ability to turn-in homework on the devices to the teacher.
a. There is a discussion on implementing cursive writing back to the curriculum. This would bring this element of teaching back as homework would need to be generated on paper.
b. Technologically this can be simply addressed by having a secure Bluetooth wireless link with a particular teacher’s printing device. In the classroom, the child can easily press a button that will route to that exact secure printer and generate the assignment on paper.
2. Ability to access internet for research papers. In this day and age, there is the capability to download a complete encyclopedia set or two into the device. Each child will have access to the same knowledge base from which to write their papers. Keep in mind the swap would only be for K-8 grade levels
a. An added advantage of this approach is it levels the access to information across all socioeconomic levels within a school district. Similar to all children across a school district being issued the same textbooks for a given subject matter.
3. Children need to be prepared for a digital age and the ability to corroborate using various collaborative tools through internet-based applications.
a. This point was duly noted. The air gap devices would just be deployed K-8th grade. High School and above may very well need access and be exposed to these tools and skillsets.
1. Air gap devices would be cheaper than the current issued chrome books. Existing chrome books can easily be modified and internet access removed.
2. The data mining taking place with our children needs to END regardless. This makes such data mining impossible. If certain district information is to be gathered, school district can use those methods within their full control to gather and tabulate the data. Parents can be made aware of such surveys.
3. The school districts will be relieved of having to secure devices for every child in the district. Information Technology teams will only have to ensure security for the population of high school students. The teachers are staff would have the same needs as today as well.
4. The issue of technology access divides across socioeconomic levels would be addressed in the k-8th grades. As all would have the same school district issued data sets.
5. Open up access for parents to see their child’s curricula and learning data. Similar to when parents could look over their child’s textbooks to see the material that would be covered.