As noted in the previous post, there are a few areas of concern when using Windows (or Mac) computers: namely, these operating systems are designed to allow the user to have a lot of control over everything they do — including things we may not want our students to do (intentionally or, more often, accidentally), like moving shortcuts or icons, deleting/uninstalling software, or installing unapproved software apps.
One major first step to prevent such behaviors is to establish a Technology Acceptable Use Policy (a.k.a. Agreement or Contract) for students and parents to sign. This document outlines the fundamental rules and requirements for using 1:1 devices in the classroom, and outlines possible consequences for non-compliance. By signing the document, students and parents acknowledge that they are aware of the rules and will abide by them.
However, even with the above measures in place, accidents do happen (and sometimes students — especially adolescent ones — can make some poor decisions.)
For these reasons, it is a good practice to install software on the devices that will prevent such problems from occurring. One way is to ensure that students have a non-admin login, which would prevent installation of software and would minimize malware threats. However, it doesn’t prevent moving or deletion of desktop icons and shortcuts, and it can cause problems when admin access is needed — for example, if a website plugin needs to suddenly be updated.
The solution I have used over the past few years to avoid these issues is called Deep Freeze, by Faronics. This software freezes the configuration of a computer so that, upon reboot, any changes that occurred are undone and the system is restored to that designated “frozen” state. This does not actually prevent changes from occurring on the machine. Students can log in with admin rights, can make changes to the system, can update web plugins, or could even install software on the fly if they need it — however, none of those actions will stick. They will not persist forever; when the computer is restarted, all of the changes made while frozen will be wiped out:
Tips for Using Deep Freeze at School:
- You can set “Allow Windows Updates” setting to automatically ensure that, while the rest of the computer is frozen, the Windows OS is not frozen and can be updated as normal via Windows Updates (otherwise, you will have to unfreeze the computers and manually check for updates at scheduled times.)
- You can also allow scheduled update time slots and scripts to make sure certain programs can automatically update. This can be useful for software that requires updates, like Flash (and other Adobe software. But especially Flash.)
- Students will need to be taught that they cannot rely on saving and accessing their files locally! If you save any work to My Documents, for example, that work will be erased and will disappear with the computer is rebooted! The solution to this is to store files outside of the local device: you can create student folders on the LAN (local area network for the school), which will allow students to access those files from any computer while at school. An even better solution could be to use “cloud storage” solutions such as Microsoft SkyDrive or Google Drive. This is part of Google Apps for Education, which is popular because it is free for schools and provides 30 GB of storage space for every student. It is the solution we — like many other classrooms — are using.
Click here for technical details and documentation regarding how you set up automatic Windows Updates or updates for other programs, while keeping computers safely frozen.