Just a couple weeks ago Apple announced they were bringing text books to the iPad. Even though I believe it will be a long time, if ever, that we see a good number of schools being able to go to a digital format for text books, this was definitely a step in the right direction. However I feel that tablets have a long way to go before being truly viable in schools, or even in the workplace. The reason for this is pretty simple. Neither Apple or Android have a good way to lock down a lot of the settings and options in their tablets. Now this hasn’t stopped lots of schools and companies from trying to get on board, but that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be drastically improved.
I work IT at a charter school and through a grant they just got 60 iPad 2s. I spent most of my day today trying to figure out how we can make it so that the kids can’t get into the settings menu. After spending a good few hours searching the internet for an app or some hidden setting we overlooked, we gave up. I did find an app that could possibly do what we wanted, but the iPad had to be jailbroken. When I got home I did a little research about doing the same kind of thing with Android tablets. I came across a lot of the same kind of threads of people asking the question of how to lock down their tablet. It seems that it doesn’t matter if it is Android or Apple, there is just not a lot of good ways to secure a tablet. This is something that needs to change if tablets are going to become commonplace in either schools or the workplace.
Some people may be wondering why you would need to lock users out of certain settings on tablets. Well you would need to do that for the same reason that companies lock down their networks. On a computer network you can pretty much lock down anything you want, and the end user can only do what you want them to do. The reason for needing to do this is simple. When you control what the user can and can’t do on a machine, you greatly limit the number of problems that machine has. Some people just don’t know any better than to be downloading software from a bad site, or in the case of kids they just might be curious about what certain settings do, or maybe kids or adults just hate their schools or jobs and want to be hateful towards the piece of equipment they have that doesn’t belong to them. Whatever the reason, there is a real need to be able to lock down computers and tablets.
In my research today one thing I found out is that by either rooting an Android tablet, or jailbreaking an iPad, you can achieve the level of security that is needed. This isn’t good enough however because most schools and companies are not going to want to void the warranties on $30,000 worth of tablets just to achieve the security measures they want. Instead they will just give them to the IT guys to reset whenever they get too messed up, because it’s cheaper that way and they don’t know any better. Hopefully Android and Apple developers see the need for this to be fixed and create a solution for it, before schools and companies give up on tablets and buy more laptops instead.