Security Program Lets Michigan Teacher Tame Young & Restless Students

Reading, writing and arithmetic may be getting low marks in public school systems but computer literacy appears to be soaring. Most youngsters eagerly await the chance to seize control of the mouse and keyboard. Today's interactive, graphical programs excite and challenge the senses. 

If used properly, educational software can also improve students' test scores. However, to realize these potential benefits, educators must ensure that computer users perform meaningful work while having fun. 

John Hyre, a technology teacher at Churchill Junior High School in Royal Oak, Mich., has found a way to achieve a productive balance. In addition to his technology teaching responsibility, Hyre serves as the system administrator for the school's "Windows Lab." This open facility houses 32 PCs, accessible anytime by students. The intent is to provide a hands-on environment for youngsters to hone their computer skills. 

Even with staff supervision, students sometimes get sidetracked into "creative experimentation" such as changing applications, switching icons, adjusting color values and tinkering with other settings. Such activities, of course, both detract from the educational intent as well as leave machines inoperable for others. Hyre seeks to control these mischievous tendencies and still maintain the inherent appeal of the lab. 

The solution arrived when Mike Quinn, Hyre's counterpart at the district level, returned from a conference where he had heard "horror stories" about the abuse of computer installations in public schools. He also learned about a product called Fortres 101, by Fortres Grand Corp., of Plymouth, Indiana. The software fixes the problem by protecting any stand-alone or networked Windows or DOS PC from unauthorized use. System administrators decide which applications can be run and which settings can be modified.

Invisible to Users 

When Hyre tried Fortres 101, he appreciated the results. He could control any phase of each computer's operation, including the boot process, file manager, icons, group additions and DOS prompts. The software was installed without altering or removing any system files, and stays invisible to the user. 

"You really can't blame them for experimenting
with their new-found knowledge,
but we want to keep them focused on the learning opportunities."

"These youngsters are truly amazing," says Hyre. "We teach them computer basics in seventh grade. When they reach eighth grade they are 'experts' and start to spread their computer wings by practicing some elementary hacker skills." Hyre adds that Fortres 101 keeps them in check by permitting access only to the programs they need. 

"You really can't blame them for experimenting with their new-found knowledge, but we want to keep them focused on the learning opportunities." 

This article originally appeared in the 12/01/1996 issue of THE Journal.