The Harbinger Online

Technology Travesty

Thank you, Shawnee Mission School District (SMSD), for my brand new MacBook Air. l am now encouraged to have my own computer out in every class in order to provide myself with “more resources in the classroom and to open up far more options for [myself] to learn,” according to the Digital Learning Initiative Page on smsd.org.

In all honesty, I applaud your efforts in attempting to move forward as a school district. Enhancing an already technology-minded generation with, hopefully, an easier, more efficient way to learn is truly innovative. And, before I begin to bash your efforts, I’d like to admit that I will be the first one to congratulate you if this “Digital Learning Initiative” achieves everything it was intended to. I would love nothing more than to be proved wrong. And, I’d like to give a sincere thank you to the teachers of SM East for spending so many tireless hours to attempt to get this deployment (of all words, you picked deployment? This is school, not “Star Wars”) to work. But, I digress…

I’m so happy, dear SMSD, to have a new laptop. I thank every kind citizen in Kansas that I see for generously paying for my opportunity to play 8 Ball Pool in each classroom — without punishment, may I add. Speaking of bending rules, this brings me to my first point — the extent of security. Google Images is blocked… yet Miniclip, a gaming site, is not? There are certain things that we need as students in order to function on a day-to-day basis. If Google, Bing and Yahoo images are all inaccessible, this keeps us from finding open pictures to use for projects and assignments. Yet, those are blocked and gaming websites are not. It almost seems like you want us to waste our time.

This is merely one example of a paranoid district attempting to shelter their students from the apparent horrors of the internet. The only way for students to learn to use the internet safely is through trust. My advice would be to keep the internet relatively uncensored, and teach students about how to use the internet safely, instead of blocking any website that may potentially hurt their ‘learning environment.’ And no, showing a video about the dangers of social networking in the library did not help this cause. Nobody learned anything new about the internet from said video other than how ‘Brian’ allegedly cheated on his girlfriend.

Furthermore, it is beyond foolish to ask students to take tests on their computers. There is no way to lock a student into taking a test, so a student has nearly any tool they wish in order to complete their test. There is only one teacher in a classroom at a time. It’s a cake walk to cheat. Take a vocabulary test, for instance. When a word that is spelled incorrectly is typed in a word box, your computer automatically recognizes this and corrects it. You can then right click and pull up an option for your Mac to define the word. You’re now, essentially, completing a typing exercise rather than a vocabulary quiz.

Making that foolish ambiguity even more foolish than this sentence, there is a cap on the school’s paper usage. The teachers don’t know when this cap will occur. Could be tomorrow. Could be four months from now. I don’t know. You don’t know. They sure don’t know. Sweet. The real point here, is that eventually you will be, essentially, forcing students to have the option to cheat, as the whole school will be nearly paperless on this mysterious date. You’re not only saving forests, but students’ grades as well. How nice of you.

Next, it didn’t even take two hours for students to crack the security systems on our MacBooks. Quite honestly, that is embarrassing. It shows a lack of organization and thoroughness. If you’re going to attempt to block students from a perplexing amount of sites, I would urge you to look into ways students are able to cut corners.

Fun fact: Blue Coat, the security system on each school computer, which “protects” students from the horrors of the internet, implements “Security technology [that] can focus on prevention and prohibition—and instill a culture of fear,” according to their website. Wait… “instill a culture of fear?” Why is there a security system on my school computer that claims one of its purposes on its home website is to instill fear?

Another fun fact: Blue Coat has recently admitted that their equipment is being used by the Sudanese and Iranian governments. What? The same equipment that SMSD uses to censor students is the same equipment that totalitarian governments, who have been known to sponsor terrorist organizations, use to censor their citizens? Yikes. At least now I understand Blue Coat’s initiative of ‘instilling fear.’ I’m scared alright.

Now, I’d like to take the opportunity to comment on some of the more productive things I can do on my laptop, other than schoolwork. I could make myself a hologram, or ride a roller coaster in Photo Booth. I could, potentially, FaceTime every student in the Shawnee Mission School District by the end of the year. I could play a chess match in the “Chess” application while participating in a fantasy football draft with my classmates. I could download the widget “Chia Pet,” and feed and water my very own Chia Pet every day of the school year, until he has a healthy amount of virtual grass growing out of his back. Then, I could take five minutes out of my math class in order to virtually shave said Chia Pet. The possibilities to usefully waste my time are endless, dear SMSD. Yet, I cannot watch my school compete in sporting events at home, as all smeharbinger.net broadcasts are blocked. Splendid.

Hit me up anytime at 3040052@s.smsd.org if you want to FaceTime me during class. (Don’t forget that extra “s”).

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