• 9 Investigates: Students exploiting classroom monitoring software

    By: Janine Reyes

    Updated:

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Laptops lead the way in educational technology in Orange County classrooms, but the technology is not without flaws.

    9 Investigates' Janine Reyes found out that some websites can teach students how to hack into school district programs to interrupt lessons on laptops.

    Almost 200 service tickets have been filed by teachers for LanSchool, Orange County Public Schools' classroom monitoring system.

    After a bidding process in 2014, OCPS spent more than $266,000 on a license to use the program. It's being used at each of the district's one-to-one schools, meaning schools that issue students laptops for digital learning.

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    "If you have any questions or concerns, you can just email your teacher about it and it (is) just very easy," student Sasha Santiago said.

    Last year, OCPS issued laptops to each high school student, 40 percent of middle school students and some elementary school students -- but there can be challenges with any technological advancement.

    "Every time we are made aware of an extension or site or anything a student could use that would affect security for the district, we incorporate that into our web-filtering service," said Mariel Milano, the school district's director of curriculum, instruction and digital learning.

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    Web filters block students' access to certain sites both on-campus and at home. But LanSchool is a classroom monitoring system program that allows teachers to monitor students' activity. It only functions on-campus because of privacy concerns.

    "We do have access to see what is going on on their laptops at any time," Timber Creek High School principal Kelly Paduano said.

    9 Investigates requested copies of service tickets filed by teachers when the program was malfunctioning.

    "LanSchool won't show my student laptops," a teacher said in a ticket. "It won't block websites. It doesn't work."

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    "All students are 'missing,'" another teacher said.

    The cause of problems may vary, school officials said.

    "It's not exactly like there's one issue that causes every single thing to happen, because (the program is) just as complex as our kiddos are," Milano said.

    Some students have the potential to get pretty complex.

    9 Investigates discovered a wikiHow page that outlines six "lessons" on hacking LanSchool.

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    OCPS said that it's aware of the page and aims to stay ahead of technology-savvy students.

    "Nothing is foolproof," Milano said. "We're constantly staying on top and refreshing that list."

    One instructor seemed to know where problems were popping up.

    "Students are able to find all kinds of extensions that, to my knowledge, cannot be limited in any way through LanSchool," the teacher wrote in a service request. "Students are able to use hangouts, VPNs, unblocked games, etc."

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    OCPS said the technology can't compensate for some old-fashioned teaching tricks.

    "LanSchool is not a replacement for moving around the room and making sure you are up and monitoring students," Milano said. "That is a good professional practice whether or not you have technology in the classroom."

    The software doesn't offer a function to track hacks, but students who are caught hacking could face punishment under the district's student code of conduct.

    It's unknown if any students have tried to hack the software because of privacy laws.

    OCPS's contract with LanSchool, which was extended last year, expires in June.

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