You shall not pass (sorry)

Well, the iPods came back again today along with some feedback from the pupils. The one criticism of the project caught my eye as especially problematic to solve – the password problem. This was a pupil who had logged out of her account and was unable to sign back in.

Now, I never got a chance to talk to this pupil face to face, which is a shame because I’d have liked to have asked her “Why didn’t you email either me or your teacher to ask for help?” because I could have solved her problem in less than 5 minutes.

It’s the awkward issue of using a network intended for private use for, effectively, public applications. iTunes, Kindle, Overdrive – all of them are based around the concept that only one person can have access to your account, only one person can consume this media, because sharing doesn’t (legally) exist in the brave new world of digital media. If you don’t like this, you can go and cram that eReader… no, I’ll leave the rant there.

I’ve already stated that loosing a smartphone or similar device is almost the same as loosing the credit card that is linked to it. I’m doing something very irresponsible – I’m giving a credit card to a teenager. No, correction, I’m giving part of a school budget to a pupil. Daily Mail readers will surely be gnashing their teeth at the very thought.

The problem is that both iTunes and the Kindle store, no matter what restrictions you place on their usage on the device itself can both still be accessed – bypassing any restrictions placed on the device – on a PC. Therefore even though I’d locked out installing new apps and buying anything outside of iBooks and Kindle on the iPod itself, if they were armed with the login password pupils would have free reign to buy music, games, etc, etc via iTunes and pretty much anything in the world via Amazon.

With the individual cards carrying under £30 that I have been using, this would be an annoyance rather than a disaster, but would only require an absolute guarantee that costs would be recouped from the pupil, or similar sanctions enforced – although how this would fall within school discipline policy is another matter. It could simply mean continual monitoring of transactions (more and more time consuming the more pupils are involved – and of course neither iTunes or Kindle is particularly friendly in regard of bulk monitoring, although it can be done with a bit of lateral thinking) and confiscation of the eReader – although what happens if the eReader is classes as essential school equipment?

Of course, if more than a handful of pupils were kitted out with eReaders it becomes possible that a school would throw out the idea of individual accounts (the additional admin of a credit card for every pupil would be massive) and plump for a central departmental card. Containing possibly hundreds or thousands of pounds, if a more ‘rebellious’ student had full password access to this Amazon or iTunes account they would think that Christmas had come early.

It all leads back to a single solution – that someone needs to develop an educational account system for schools to apply to eReaders and allow them to access comercial reatailers – not just educational providers. A two-tier system that would allow pupils limited access to log into their accounts only on their portable device and only with their purchase restrictions in place.