Time to Make Changes with Technology at USC

James Fang, Staff Writer

We get it; administrators don’t want us to plan a World War III using our school computers. These are legitimate concerns to limit which websites students use on school computers, but do the IT administrators understand well what students need? Probably not.

I am a student of Upper St Clair High School. As I am an IB student, I use my chromebook everyday to complete my assignments and draft arguments in the Speech and Debate Club. I can be described as a savvy techie; at home, I would have a dozen extensions running, such as AdBlock to improve my productivity during research or Bypass Paywall to avoid the nasty New York Times or Wall Street Journal subscriptions. As a math student, I sometimes like to load add-ons such as Latex Editor to help me write math equations. I sometimes use Quora and Reddit to read advice from other students who have gone through the same hard classes. It is unfortunate to see that I can access none of these if I am at school with my Chromebook. The restrictions, such as on Chrome extensions and certain websites, can impede student productivity, exactly against what it was designed for in the first place.

The restrictions have many critical flaws. For example, if I want to learn about cardiac bypass surgery for a project in Biology Class, Securly automatically blocks my search results because there is the word ‘bypass’. If I want to access Adam Grant’s eye-opening TED Talk, The surprising habits of original thinkers, I can’t find it on YouTube because of the technology policy. This reinforces the argument that a lack of freedom can inhibit productivity for students because students have harder times accessing the materials that they need to research effectively, sometimes at a lower quality because students now need to depend on lower-quality resources such as excerpts and reviews because they have no way of accessing the direct source. These technologies are not designed with the student’s experience in mind; these are administrators one or two generations older than us, without few experiences of using internet for education as they did not use the Internet for classes. As a student, I believe we should have a say in how we use our technology.

I do acknowledge that I am very lucky to attend school in a district that provides access to Chromebooks. These chromebooks have changed the student experience for the better. Neither do I believe that all restrictions should be thrown out of the window. Unproductive websites such as Facebook should still be restricted. But I will challenge the purpose and the effectiveness of restrictions. Students who use data will be able to access any website on their phones. The purpose of chromebooks is to not only aid students in schoolwork, but also teach them the fundamentals of computer literacy. You don’t make students better by blocking insightful TED Talks. Neither does not allowing them to take advantage of extensions to promote their productivity, as I have described earlier. Most of us are very responsible in the way that we use technology as we know we will lose access if we do otherwise.

It’s time to rethink how we use school technology. I believe that tech administrators should work with students on developing a comprehensive network on how we use our chromebooks and our school emails. As with any technology system, there will be flaws, and I believe continuous improvement on policies is crucial for students to become more productive and internet literate.