Digital Life

Back to school tech – who controls your gadgets?

Does your kid's school deny you admin rights on your own devices?

My son is off to high school this year and he needs a Windows notebook in his bag, rather than the iPad required at primary school. Battery life is critical, as he's not permitted to charge his notebook at school, so I followed the school's advice and bought a Lenovo notebook via the recommended retailer's education portal.

The start of a new school year means playing by a new set of tech rules, unless you can work around them.
The start of a new school year means playing by a new set of tech rules, unless you can work around them. 

Our family has needed a new notebook for a while, for playing games and running other Windows-only software, but I've been holding off because I knew my son would need one for school. So you can imagine our frustration when we collected his school notebook at the start of January only to discover that it's locked, demanding an Administrator password.

The retailer couldn't help with the password, as it had pre-installed the image supplied by the school which includes a productivity software bundle. An hour spent trying to crack the password bore no fruit, so we're forced to wait until school starts before we can use this computer that I purchased outright.

I still don't know whether we'll be granted admin rights to the notebook so we can install our own software. At the very least I'd like to install backup software. I will be extremely unhappy if I'm locked out of my own computer, especially as there was no mention of this when I purchased it. Surely I'm not the only parent who feels that way – I don't want to buy a second notebook for home just so my son can install a few apps.

There was no mention of admin rights at the school information night, but I do remember the teacher saying they were introducing a BYOD policy this year with the option to install the school's productivity software bundle. So I figured if worst comes to worst I could always wipe the Lenovo, install a fresh copy of Windows and let my son take it to school as a BYOD device.

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A friend told me that the school may insist on wiping BYOD notebooks and installing its own locked-down image, as they do in some workplaces. I argued with him that many parents wouldn't stand for that, but a search online reveals that some schools have exactly this policy. I'm sure they get plenty of complaints.

I'm gearing up for a fight with the school over admin rights to this computer, although I realise it might be a fight that I can't win. If my son doesn't use the school's version of Windows he might not be able to access the school's network. I don't want to get off on the wrong foot with a new school and I've told my son to play along for now, rather than get in an argument with the teachers on day one. Quietly making friends with the school's IT manager might be a wiser move than arguing with the teachers.

It might be possible to partition the hard drive and dual-boot the notebook with a second copy of Windows to use at home, we'll have to wait and see. I'm hoping there's a way to create a Windows recovery disc first, in case things go pear-shaped.

To be honest it never occurred to me that the school would try to lock us out of our own computer and I'm sure I can't be the only parent who is unhappy about it. What's the tech policy at your kid's school? How do you work around it?

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