No Widgets for You!

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Dashboard by DaniGPSo I promised to post more interesting 1:1 tidbits and stories as they popped up.  By the end of last week, two more had appeared.  Here’s one related to the dashboard.

When student accounts were created this summer at school students were locked out of certain areas of the Apple OSX operating system for their own security and to keep us sane.  For example, students couldn’t change the computer’s background or  screen saver, and they also can’t install software.  About midway last week some “weirdness” started happening.  In my own classroom I noticed it on Wednesday.  My students were working on a Comic Life project about the states of matter.  As I walked around the room I couldn’t help but notice that one student seemed to always be way behind the rest of the class.  I nonchalantly sat down next to him to offer assistance.  While I reviewed the project goals and resources with him I casually looked through his computer to see what programs he had open.  Everything seemed fine.  I walked off, but my teacher “sixth sense” told me something else was up.  Finally, towards the end of the period I caught him  He was playing a video game on the dashboard!  For those of you who aren’t Mac users, the Apple operating system has a dashboard feature.  By pressing F12 on a Macbook the dashboard appears and there you can install tiny little programs called widgets that are supposed to assist you.  For example, our Macbooks come preinstalled with Google search, weather, and dictionary widgets.  What I didn’t realize is that students could install new widgets simply by going to the Apple Widgets Store.

Well, by Friday morning it was apparent  the entire student body knew they could do this.  Kids were running YouTube and MySpace widgets, a variety of video game products, and even one called Wallsaver that let them thwart our attempt at preventing changes in the desktop wallpaper.  Simply by pressing F12 students could make their widgets appear and then magically disappear when a teacher walked by.  An impromptu conference in my classroom between a couple of teachers and our technology coach during 5th period lunch resulted in a minor adjustment to the server during 6th period.  This adjustment prevented students from adding widgets to their dashboard.

The moment our tech coach made this change I knew he had just by looking at my students faces.  In the middle of the project you could hear them whispering, “What the heck?”  As each of them pressed F12 their favorite widgets disappeared with a colorful poof and a message saying “(such-and-such) widget may not be used on this machine.”  The students knew we were on to them.  Finally, at the end of the period one of them asked, “Did Mr. Leister (our tech coach) delete all the widgets?”  I simply played dumb.

At the end of 6th period the bell rang and I popped by head out the door.  The buzz was deafening.  Had I not known better I would have assumed a major fight broke out on campus.  All of the kids were focused and chatting, but at a level low enough teachers would have to strain to listen.  As I eavesdropped on their conversations I heard nearly every single kid talking about favorite widgets that disappeared.  “We can’t play video games any more.”  “My wallpaper disappeared.”  “YouTube is blocked again!”  It was priceless. My 7th period class walked in and immediately one student raised his hand, “Is it true widgets are now blocked?”  My response was simple. With a big smile I said, “All I know for sure is that your laptop is provided for academic success and not for entertainment – log on to Moodle and get started with today’s Warm Up.”

Joe

Photo: Dashboard de DaniGP by Pedro Aznar

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