It never ceases to amaze me how many high school computer science teachers have trouble running developer software (IDEs, compilers, etc) because of computers and/or networks that are locked down too tightly. Either students can’t get access to the command prompt or the IDE can’t access the C drive or perhaps the network access to shares does not allow executables to run. I have even heard of school network administrators objecting outright to programming classes on the grounds that students might learn enough to “mess with” the network or local computers. Imagine that! Students might learn something!
I think at some point one has to trust students. At one school I taught at students were known to bring baseball bats to school. Yes those same tools of violence that are often used in muggings and even murders. But somehow we trusted students to use these weapons only for the sporting event they claimed to be bringing them to school for. Can’t we have the same level of trust for using the network? If a student can learn to behave with a baseball bat why not a network account? The network is a tool for learning. We should be able to teach students to use the network responsibly.
I once bought some lockdown software for my computer lab. The students found ways around it and it became a game for them. Having the lockdown software actually made my job harder. I removed the software, announced serious consequences for making a computer difficult to use or making any other unnecessary changes. Vandalism when down dramatically. Students responded to the trust I gave them.
Setting us computers and networks so that teachers can teach and students can learn is the job of the system administrator. Classroom management and supervision is the teachers job. If a network administrator can’t set up a network so that it can be used in a class maybe they are in the wrong job.
One last rant, when I was a CS department head and Technology Coordinator (always fun to wear a lot of hats) I felt that if a computer teacher could not handle full network administrator rights than I should probably not hire them. Now I realize that not everyone feels that someone needs those privileges or that level of expertise coming in to the job. I’d think one would want to teach them enough to have those privileges by the time they finished their first year of teaching if only to reduce the work load of the network admins. Or am I just way too extreme?