The Access Embargo

Are the school’s technology restrictions inhibiting students’ education?

Photo courtesy of Eli Canter

The district’s investments in technology have been a controversial topic among the student body for years. This year’s restrictions on the iPads, WiFi and computers are already causing usage issues for many students in Mamaroneck High School.

One of the most significant problems with this year’s round of iPads is the deleted App Store. Though the school has provided a custom-created MUFSD App Catalog, this “store” started the school year missing many valuable apps: Notability, MyHomework, and the increasingly popular MHS Schedule by Harrison Crandall ’17. Without access to these apps, completing worksheets, taking notes or working on other essential daily tasks has been impossible. These apps and others are slowly appearing on the Catalog, but the year has gotten off to a rough start for many–and students may still have favorite apps that the administration doesn’t know to include.

Software limitations are not the only emerging iPad-related issue: Apple products are not made to last. It’s part of Apple’s booming economic cycle; good products with a short life that keep people coming back for more. Students who have had the same iPad for four years are concerned about the safety and security of their work, especially because of cases of iPad crashes that completely wiped all data when students forgot to back everything up on Google Drive. As much as iPads have dominated the scene and the conversation, they are far from the only technology the school employs. Students logged into the school WiFi have found themselves repeatedly frustrated by the strict limits placed on its usage. Not only are entertainment sources, such as YouTube, Complex, and VICE blocked, but some educational materials are also caught up in the blanket restrictions. There is no clear way to apply to get these blocked sites whitelisted, so students and faculty alike have to wait until they are outside of school or resort to using data on their cell phones. The settings are so strict that even a search for the phrase “gay marriage” is not allowed.

Student emails also present difficulties. Students cannot send or receive emails to or from any email outside of the mamkschools.org domain—which means they can’t receive password resets, among other communication, from Turnitin and other educational sites, or correspondence from anyone outside of the high school without using their own personal email address. Additionally, students keep most of their notes and work on accounts on Turnitin, Google and other sites. If the student email is deleted after graduation, students could lose all of their work.

Of course, the implementation of technology is bound to run into problems, and the results of doing so are not all bad. One positive change, among many others, has been the switch from eChalk to Google Classroom. While not all students agree yet, many find Google Classroom much more user-friendly and helpful. Having access that Mamaroneck High School gives its students is a valuable tool, and one that not many high school students get. We simply ask that administration places just a little more trust in its students, and grants them the ability to search, download and send what is needed for a truly assistive educational experience.

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