“How are you getting access to YouTube?” asked a teacher at a workshop I was facilitating in a small rural school district, beads of sweat forming on her upper lip. I felt the heat, too, already having shed my tie earlier one summer day in a school where the chairs were up on desks and classrooms shuttered against trespass. “Our district usually blocks access.”

“Oh,” I replied casually, “I’m using my Android phone to access the Web via 3G speed.” My eyes carefully scanned the room, wondering if anyone else had noticed my illegal use of a mobile device to bypass the District’s content filtering…yes, I’d been spotted. The technology specialist headed my way. I timed the delivery of my question to coincide with her arrival. “Would you like me to show you how to tether your Android phone to your computer?”

Smartphone wave challenges enterprise security” is the title of one article (by Ellen Messmer) in the August 9, 2010 issue of NetworkWorld magazine. The question they are asking is, “how will the enterprise prepare to exert management and security controls in a multi-operating system smartphone enviornment, or figure out how to secure data on a device that the employee, not the enterprise, officially owns?”

A few minutes later, I found myself giving an impromptu session on PDAnet, an Android phone app that works for free on sites (not HTTPS though), or if you pay the $20, one-time software registration fee, works unrestricted on Mac and Windows computers. The technology specialists in the room, including the one classroom teacher who wielded a newly purchased Android phone, listened attentively. In this one act play, I had shifted the power to access the Web back into teachers’ hands. Was I the hero or villain?

Whatever the label, many educators–including myself–find the cost of paying for a mobile wireless card (like those available from AT&T, Spring, Verizon) to be exorbitant. Even Clear, which boasts sub-$30 fees per month for 3G/4G speeds, can add up. But why can’t you use your Android phone with PDAnet to get the job done?

SMARTPHONES MAKE A DIFFERENCE

If you’re like me, you probably use your phone quite a bit when on the go. But did you know that 40% of American adults use their cell phones to surf the Web, e-mail, or use instant messaging, according to a study from Pew Research Center in Washington? More research found the following (Source for this information):

Overall, 59 percent of adults in the U.S. go online wirelessly, via Wi-Fi or mobile connections, on cell phones and laptops, up from 51 percent a year ago, according to the Pew report. Among all cell-phone owners, 54 percent used their devices to send photos and videos, 23 percent accessed a social networking site, and 11 percent made a purchase.

But working off a small screen and keyboard (if that) can be a bit of a pain for grown-ups. As a result, some are turning to Apple iPads with 3G to get things done…but there are some who just want to combine their “low-cost” smartphone with a netbook to connect to the Internet. Tethering your phone can be the best way to achieve that, as can taking advantage of other services.

HOW TO BE A HERO…OR VILLAIN

With everyone headed back to school, I’m wondering if you’re ready to bypass District policy in regards to social media and Internet connectivity? Consider that school districts are spending millions on protecting children and sheltering staff from salacious and sinister sites. Unfortunately, some of those sites include web sites with instructional resources you just have to have.

If you are one of those teachers that won’t take “No” for an answer (read the previous blog entry), then you have several routes:

  1. Tether Your Android Phone
  2. Tether Your iPhone – Check out Reason #1 from Steve Dembo. Although be careful about that 2gig limit on data transfers may cripple you on AT&T’s network (bias: I don’t like AT&T as a result of my experiences with them and my opinion of those services).
  3. Purchase Clear.com Wireless or some similar service through AT&T, Verizon, etc.

The best approach? Tether your Android phone. No bias here, of course, since I own one (smile).


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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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