Schools Give Kids Free iPads, Immediately Regret It

Schools Give Kids Free iPads, Immediately Regret It

The Los Angeles schools’ billion-dollar big idea to give every kid an iPad has skidded to an embarrassing stop after the first recipients — including a valedictorian candidate — figured out a way to crack the security imposed on the devices to play games like Temple Run.

LA Unified School District is now demanding the $US678 gadgets back as the games-playing — and Facebook-posting and Twitter-using — speak to a plan big on good intentions and thin on sensible execution.

The Associated Press reported on the fiasco over the weekend, quoting laughing teenagers describing the games they or their classmates were playing. One freshman explained how hella easy it was: go to the settings, delete the profile put on the device by the school district, set up an Internet connection. Presto.

“They kind of should have known this would happen,” student Maria Aguilera told the A.P. “We’re high school students after all. I mean, come on.”

Yesterday students at three high schools were told to surrender the iPads and kids at other schools are not allowed to take them home, reports the LA Times. The initial rollout went to 47 campuses in the district; the A.P. reported that more than 300 students were able to crack the security on the iPads.

One of them is — or maybe was — a candidate for valedictorian. It stands to reason that the smart ones would be the first to test this thing’s limits, no?

“He wasn’t threatening me but he told me millions of dollars of technology had been compromised because of me,” the student told the Times.

This is kind of a big deal because the iPads were not supplied by some do-gooder benefactor opening his or her wallet. It’s being funded by school bonds, $US500 million for the iPads, another $US500 million for infrastructure. One guy on the committee overseeing the spending says “the district hurried the iPad rollout.”

The program’s advocates are adamant about its necessity; LA Unified’s superintendent today called it an “astonishing success” and said he viewed it as a “civil rights issue.

“My goal is to provide youth in poverty with tools that heretofore only rich kids have had. And I’d like to do that as quickly as possible.” Just don’t be surprised when they use the things the way rich kids do too, I guess.

LA Students Get iPads, Crack Firewall, Play Games [The Associated Press]
L.A. Unified’s iPad rollout marred by chaos [Los Angeles Times]


    • I agree, surely they could have something like what has done in other places and have a specialised tablet for it, not fork out huge amounts of money for ipads.

      You could probably get an android based tablet created and design it so it can only be used with approved applications. I’m pretty sure India made a bare-bones tablet for their schools for something like $35. Surely you could get something a bit higher specced for a lot less than the $600 they were paying.

      • Though a specialised tablet with a customised version of android probably would have ended up costing much more. For one there’d be the costs associated with making the customised OS which I wouldn’t be too surprised if they had to pay somewhere in the tens of thousands for. Not to mention they probably aren’t purchasing enough to really get a bulk discount or even its own production run.

        • I’m pretty sure they could twist a few arms with $500m for the tablets and another $500m for the infrastructure. Not surprising that it is funded through bonds. California just doesn’t learn. If an Australian state or territory wanted to borrow a comparable amount to give students iPads people would be screaming blue murder.

      • Yeah, I’d say pretty much anything could be jailbroken. The challenge would be to make it so it couldn’t be done by the average user.

    • Evernote not so much comes to mind as leaps into mind yodeling draped in the stars and stripes

    • I use them in my school (Year 10) personally right now, we mostly use it instead of a laptop, although they allow us to put whatever we want to on them, it isn’t locked, although we did have to pay a $100 fee, which isn’t that bad.

    • They’re pretty standard here these days.
      Some schools/teachers make the mistake of thinking they’re a replacement for laptops/computers.
      Other schools/teachers effectively use them as supplementary teaching devices for motor control in young kids, coordination, student engagement, that sort of thing.
      When used and planned for appropriately they can be a good asset to have.

  • When I worked in a private school IT dept in Brisbane we chose NOT to go with ipads because of this very reason. We chose to go with laptops due to the fact you could lock those suckers down via group policies then of course, there’s the image you make for the laptop itself. Given you cannot make the actual image for the iPad, I’m surprised this wasn’t picked up by the IT dept at this school… morons.

    • I have rolled out thousands of iPads in schools at this point and you are able to lock them down completely, the way the students would get around this would be that they put them into restore mode and reimage them.

      It takes about 15 minutes and is very easy.

      Technically you could do the same thing with a laptop but you need to have a windows CD and not just plug it into iTunes.

      • Generally you also lock down the boot order and BIOS on a PC. Yea, it’s easy to reset on a desktop (pull the BIOS battery), but a lot harder on a laptop.

        • We had a student replace the HDD. Pretty clever. He had a little trouble as he had to set it up with Windows first then put it in as he couldn’t boot from CD.

          I let him get away with it in exchange for telling me how he bypassed our restrictions.

          • There is a separate SSID for the kids and they know the password. For students that prefer to use their own computer “here is the wifi password, you’re on your own”.

          • Ah that’s nice of you guys, a few of the schools down here make the kids come in and have their personal computers added to the network by the admins.

    • As a general rule, if you have access to the hardware, it is not possible to prevent any system on it from being hacked. Imposing limits via group policy just makes it a bit harder.

      It sounds like the problem here was common to all schools and therefore was due to a configuration passed down from their equivalent of the Department of Education. (Which may in turn have been created at the behest of an Apple salesman looking for a large sale.)

      • “He wasn’t threatening me but he told me millions of dollars of technology had been compromised because of me,” the student told the Times”

        Whoever the “He” was is trying to pass the buck because “He” totally screwed up and didnt lock the devices down properly….

  • First of all:
    “They kind of should have known this would happen,” student Maria Aguilera told the A.P. “We’re high school students after all. I mean, come on.”Yes. No kidding.

    Second of all… what’s the big fucking deal? As long as they’re getting the appropriate use out of the thing, who gives a shit what ELSE they do with it? Inappropriate use doesn’t negate appropriate use if the appropriate use does still actually happen.

    ‘I bought you a tool, not a toy, dammit!’ attitude is seriously naive. No, fuckwit – you bought both. It’s not like there isn’t a loooong-historic precedent for this. Say, for example… genitals.

  • iPads are a media consumption device primarily. I don’t see the benefit of using these in schools above K-3 classes where there are maths and learn the alphabet apps.

    • Yeah early childhood and Education Support are where they are useful, otherwise you are better off with a laptop.

  • For a billion dollars, you’d think they might have been able to create their own custom-made tablets…..

  • You will never find an instance of a device connected to the internet that kids have not tried to bypass. They should of known this from the start. Blame lies entirely on the project manager and the stakeholders.

  • Yesterday students at three high schools were told to surrender the iPads and kids at other schools are not allowed to take them home, reports the LA Times.The problem with copying and pasting someone else’s article is that you can screw up on the chronology. This all happened a couple of weeks ago.

  • If they really had youth in poverty in mind, I’m pretty sure that they would have managed to allocate a billion dollars in better ways. If they don’t want them to be technologically impaired, a $100 tablet would have sufficed just as well, and the other $500 could have been invested in nutritional needs or other stuff.

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