More Smartboard–Usability vs Security?

It’s been brought to my attention by the IT Swami and my principal that students can game the system by tapping each other in or tapping themselves in and leaving. I’ve thought about how to mitigate against this possibility, but there’s that darn usability/security give-and-take-thing rearing up again (it should be said that the Swami gets paid to really care about system security).

My previous system had a similiar problem–I had a seating chart for each class day, and would cross out the names of students that corresponded to the empty chairs on the risers at the beginning of class. I didn’t really care if they were or were not in the room–“not seated” means “not ready to go” means “absent.” The system called for students who weren’t seated when I started to walk over to the chart and mark a “T” by their crossed-out name so that I would know they were merely “Tardy” and not cutting class, sparing them an unpleasant visit with their principal.

Of course many of them took the opportunity to simply erase my “absent” mark. The ones I caught received a thump on the head and a discipline referral before I got wise and simply lopped off the eraser of my roll-taking pencil. But the point is this–the accuracy of the system wasn’t as important to me as was the fact that I didn’t have to stop what I was doing (teaching) in order to check in tardy people myself. I accepted a certain amount of system-breaching if it meant that the system freed me up to be a better teacher.

This system is designed for usability over security, but more than that, it empowers the students to be responsible for their own attendance stats. I’m counting on the idea that students will generally rise to the opportunity to act like adults when given meaningful responsibility.

Some won’t, but most will. And that’ll be good enough.

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