Doing spot checks on student laptops. No surprises, thank goodness.


At The School at Columbia University, we have a 1:1 laptop program, and we don’t filter. So kids are feasibly free to access any online site they want. However, we have the students and parents sign an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) at the beginning of the year, we reinforce using technology academically/respectfully/responsibly, I always walk around the room looking at screens and asking kids what they are doing, and we don’t allow students to use the computers when unsupervised.

Of course, we deal with infractions, but frankly these occasions are probably just as frequent/infrequent as at a school with filters in place.

Today, I am scanning all of the 8th grade laptops while they are away on a trip. I’m just quickly looking at the web histories on the various browsers we installed on each machine (Safari, Firefox, Chrome) and poking in their desktop folders. Yes, kids can erase their histories, but a blank history or glaring holes in a history is a red flag that more digging needs to be done, in which case we may run a program like FileJuicer or something similar.

So far, out of the about 30 machines, I’ve come across 3 kids that are clearly using their school laptop to access Facebook, gaming sites, and/or YouTube. I plan on talking to each child personally when they return to school. In the meantime, I chose the low-tech approach of posting a physical sticky note on their screen.

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