With respect to last week’s controversy with the administrative Wi-Fi, it is wise to look at the situation with an open mind. The administration’s view that the students hacked the Wi-Fi and were illegally using the network is understandable. On the other hand, some students felt justified in their actions because everyone seemed to have the password, and they didn’t know the harm they were causing. These arguments have been the subject of heated debate, and there is something that can be learned by listening to both sides.
If an overwhelming amount of students were on the administrative Wi-Fi, perhaps this is an indicator that something needs to be changed.
Just look at the difference between the two networks. One difference is ease of access. To get onto the student BYOT network, a student has to complete forms, get his parents’ signatures, and provide his IP address. After he turns in his forms, the student is given a password to connect his device to the Wi-Fi. Once he is connected the student must set up an account that uses his email as his username, and then he will also have to set up a password. If a student arrives in the morning, he has to type in this username and password, and then he can use the BYOT Wi-Fi throughout the day. This login is only for 24 hours, and the next day he has to login again. Logging in everyday can be irritating because student email addresses are unusually lengthy. Try typing in firstname.lastname@example.org using the tiny keyboard on a Samsung Galaxy everyday.
Once a student is on the WiFi network, his access to anything on the internet is very limited. The network is heavily filtered so a student can’t go on social media, YouTube, the App Store, iTunes, iMessage, blogs, etc. The restrictions, coupled with the cumbersome process of getting access to the BYOT Wi-Fi has deterred many students from wanting to be a part of the student network at all. They would rather use their 3G or 4G network, or, as was proved the case, find a simpler way to get online.
Can we blame students for wanting to be on a network that doesn’t have the restrictions or annoyances associated with the BYOT network? Not really. When it comes to technology, students want to use their devices with no restrictions. However, what students want is not always what is right. Even if the password was made readily available, students should not have been on a network that they weren’t supposed to be on. The administrative network is exclusively for the administration, and students violated the technology code in the student handbook. Students did not know that being on the admin network was overloading the system, and that the overload was causing problems.
The question now is: what good can come out of this? The milk has been spilled, and what is done is done. The announcement from Mr. Hennessy pretty much scared every student who was on the administrative Wi-Fi, and it’s safe to say that it won’t happen again. But can changes be made to the student network to make it more appealing to student use? Can students be trusted to have more internet privileges like Twitter and YouTube? Because of the advances in technology, especially with the advances of the smartphone and tablets, the administration has tough decisions to make with setting technology policies, and also adapting to what students use technology for. Students may have to be patient for a while until a better Wi-Fi system or school policy is put in place.