Students and cell phones were a match made in heaven. Young people tend to be intensely social, highly inventive, and fundamentally averse to authority. With their quick-twitch muscles at peak performance levels, they can summon and send an astonishing amount of information on devices hidden in purses, pockets, backpacks, and even hats and shoes, without having to stare directly at the screen for more than a second or two at a time.
It is a model of adaptive evolution. It is also the source of increasing worry for parents, school administrators, and school IT professionals.
The problem with cell phones in schools
With unmitigated access to the internet on campus, students can (and do) cheat on exams, view and share grossly inappropriate images, and take bullying and revenge to whole new levels. Girls who have a grudge against another girl have been known to slip their phone under the wall of a bathroom stall, take pictures of the girl, and broadcast them on the web. Locker rooms are also a place where cell phone cameras can pose extreme threats to personal privacy.
What’s more, younger and younger children are being equipped with cell phones. In an April 2012 article in CNET, “One-fifth of third-graders own cell phones” we find this arresting statistic: “According to a new study, 83 percent of middle schoolers, 39 percent of fifth-graders, and 20 percent of third-graders have a mobile device.” The privacy of young children is threatened by the presence of these devices in the hands of their classmates.
Because of how easy it is to cheat via cell phones (texting test questions to people, taking photos of test pages, etc), some cities (like New York City) actually ban them in their public schools. But because of their size and portability, cell phones are all too easy to conceal and everyone acknowledges that they are still found on campuses throughout the city.
A May 2012 article in The Atlantic, “Do Cell Phones Belong in the Classroom?” highlights the use of cell phones even when they are officially banned: “An April 2010 study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project and the University of Michigan found that in schools that permitted students to have cell phones, 71 percent of students sent or received text messages on their cell phones in class. In the majority of schools — those that allow students to have phones in school but not use them in the classroom – the percentage was almost as high: 65%. Even in schools that ban cell phones entirely, the percentage was still a shocking 58%.”
So the reality is, no matter what it says in a school’s official policies, cell phones are probably here to stay in the hands of students. And as one school administrator in Ohio said, “We’re scared to death about what’s coming on campus. We know we have to control it.” That same Ohio administrator also said that they are trying to “catch up” with the technology being used to get around their rules with handheld devices while on campus. He recently purchased ZENworks Mobile Management precisely because it will help him take control of these issues.
Using ZENworks Mobile Management to control cell phones in schools
ZENworks Mobile Management is a powerful tool that can help you manage this reality. It lets IT manage an extremely diverse array of mobile devices without significantly increasing IT overhead. It installs in hours. And its automated, over-the-air enrollment makes device management an entirely hands-off process. Plus, one ZENworks Mobile Management server can run multiple back-end e-mail servers, rather than the 1:1 ratio other tools require.
Here are some of the features that make ZMM so useful in controlling cell phone usage in an academic environment. With ZENworks Mobile Management you can:
- Define and enforce security policies
- Disable hardware features like the camera
- Prevent access to the internet for cell and tablet users who refuse IT oversight
- Prevent iOS devices from backing up or restoring from iCloud
- Grant and block rights to specific apps (like Facebook)
- Track end-user text messaging and phone logs
- Push specified mobile apps to the device
- Provide secure access to read-only files and shared files
- Push out email notifications to all users, or groups of users
- Keep track of where students are – Location tracking allows admins to know whether or not students are on campus (for attendance/security) or to track a missing device
- Push down WiFi configuration and any updates to the configuration will be automatically applied to the devices, e.g. change in the shared key
- Use Apple’s Volume Purchase Program (VPP) for iOS applications
How it works
Since students and faculty use their personal devices at school, you can’t install ZENworks Mobile Management on the phones before you distribute them like you can with company-issued devices. However, for BYOD (Bring your own Device) users like students, you can still take control of what they can use on campus.
You give users the option to download the ZENworks Mobile Management app when they attempt to use their cell phone or tablet to access the school’s server and email. (Your school can set it up so that getting school-owned email is important to students, by making it the only conduit to receive announcements, class assignments, grades, and news about activities.) In order to proceed, they must accept the policies IT has defined, which means they accept the IT control those policies allow.
The ZMM app brings down policies from the server that governs the device. Connecting to the ZMM server via any Wi-Fi or cellular source allows the device to stay current with any updates to the policies. It will also allow the user to retrieve email if the ZMM server is proxying their ActiveSync email. If a user uninstalls the app or they become non-compliant, they lose connection with the ZMM server and email stops working.
If the ZMM app is on the device, the device is restricted all the time – whether the student is on campus or off, during school holidays, etc. The impetus for users to enroll with the ZMM server and keep the ZMM app on their device is connection to the server and access to email.
What you can block on student cell phones
You can block the use of the device browser and third party browsers on iOS and Windows Mobile devices. You can’t block specific sites—you either allow access to the internet, or you don’t.
If you want to block apps like Facebook, there are controls available for iOS devices (iPhone/iPod touch/iPad) in this area. Apps can be blocked by using Apple’s rating system. Applications that violate rating restrictions can be blocked from being installed. Even those installed prior to the rating restriction or those installed over iTunes will be hidden on the device. Admins can also block application installation altogether and they can block iTunes.
You can disable specific hardware features, including the camera. In addition to disallowing the camera, iOS devices can be restricted in the use of Apple’s Photo Stream. One restriction erases Photo Stream photos from the user’s device and prevents photos from the Camera Roll from being sent to Photo Stream. If there are no other copies of these photos, they would be lost. Another restriction can prevent a user from posting and sharing a Photo Stream album with other iOS users or through the iCloud Web site.
Tracking text messages and phone logs on student cell phones
If you suspect someone has been using their phone to cheat or bully, you can use the Audit Tracking Policy to investigate and prove it. (Assuming they are using a device that supports Audit Tracking.)
You can search the text message logs – they record date, subject, message body, message origination, etc. Phone logs can also be searched – they record date, call duration, call origination, to/from phone number, etc.
Of course you can’t prevent aggressive messaging – ZMM does not filter or block messages based on content. But if students know that the content of their messages is being recorded and that phone logs of their calls detail date/time, call duration, call origination, To/From phone, etc., this is a powerful deterrant. It means that you will be able to discover that they sent the bullying or cheating messages, and you can prove it to their parents, school authorities, and law enforcement agents.
Keep in mind that there might be limitations to any policy, since some device platforms might not support the functionality. For instance, iOS devices do not support text and phone log audit tracking, but IT Admins can disallow texting altogether on Windows Mobile devices. Check out the Device Functionality Comparison Table to see what kinds of policies are possible on the different device platforms.
Easy to Administer
You can remotely add new rules without touching any devices. Administrators create Policy Suites, which are collections of policies such as application control, audit tracking, file share permissions, security settings, and more. You can even set alerts to automatically bring your attention to problems, violations or changes in security settings.
Another important benefit is the ability to push files and messages to all teachers, or all students, or everyone at the same time. Email messages can be sent from the server to all users, groups of users, or to individual users. This could be used to send an email warning to all users when there is a security threat on campus.
Supports most device platforms
ZENworks Mobile Management supports most popular platforms:
- Apple iOS 4-6 iPhone, iPod and iPad
- Android v 2.2-4 (enhanced functionality with NitroDesk – TouchDown v7.2)
- Windows Mobile 6.1 & 6.5
- Windows Phone (support via ActiveSync)
- Symbian S60, 3rd Edition, v9.1
- Most ActiveSync devices
- Support coming soon for BlackBerry OS 10x (support via ActiveSync)
Try the free eval
With ZENworks Mobile Management, you can take giant strides in the battle to keep academic environments free from cheating and bullying, and remove some of the distractions that interfere with learning. To get more information, check out the ZENworks Mobile Management product page. Download the free 60-day eval and see for yourself how easy it is to install and use.
How are you doing it?
We’re having a contest right now that you can get in on. If you already use ZMM, or another ZENworks product, to control mobile devices, laptops, etc., in schools and universities, let us know how you are doing it. Write an article and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org – with the subject line: Contest – ZENworks in the Schools.
We will have a panel of ZENworks experts judge the articles. Prizes will be awarded as follows:
1st Prize: $300 Amazon Card
2nd Prize: $200 Amazon Card
3rd Prize: $100 Amazon Card
TIP: Judges will be looking for creative uses of any ZENworks product or combination of products that give IT the ability to enforce security and safeguard students. We’re looking for details, screenshots, and interesting results/outcomes.
Please submit your article by December 1, 2012. Good luck!