A complaint letter to the academic system
To Mrs. Beasley
I am mostly writing this email off of a few things I have heard from teachers and students that I have some issues with. Mainly was that I am told that next year the school is requiring everyone to use school issued laptops, and that those laptop screens are being monitored. Before anything else is said, I will say this. I am a straight A student, I have no reason to be writing this other than it affecting my learning. I have never played games in class, and do not intend to. I recently (in January) got a new computer to help with school. The reason I am assuming the school is issuing these rules is because they don't want kids playing video games in class, and not participating in things. I participate in class, and have never once played games during class. So here is my issues; There are 2 problems I have here, one with this issue I am writing about, and one with the general school's computer system in general.
My first problem is with the school computer issue. Not having the ability to use a home computer limits several things. I often will go work on things with other people after school. Having any type of school computer would almost entirely negate this. Unlike the school's thoughts on technology, we do still use desktop apps. From what I have heard from students who have gotten school computers, they are not allowed to install things on computers. I don't play games, I simply install things for hobbies I do (software development, video editing, other things requiring apps installed). This issue likely affects a lot of people, and is the main reason why I bring my own computer from home. My other problem is with the screen monitoring. Suppose somebody had like YouTube open to listen to music while they work (I know plenty of people who are good students and focus due to this). Having screen monitoring will either do nothing, because the teachers won’t watch, or just catch the kids who don’t find workarounds to the monitoring (I already have an easy workaround, I will share it, and my fix if you are willing to implement my solution to these problems). There are simple workarounds to every single “block” implemented by the school.
Enforcing school computers will honestly make it easier for kids to play games in class/cheat on tests. The reasons for that, are that the computers are very lackluster on security, and home computers actually prevent much more. The only efficient solution is a very strict whitelist (a list of things that are allowed, nothing else is). The school currently blacklists (a list of things that are not allowed, everything else its) certain sites, and this doesn’t work well. There are always other sites that have these games/cheats on them, and there are browser extensions that can proxy (a browser middleware that sends the request to the site through, and encrypts it, thus hiding the requested site’s address) to negate the blacklists. My proposed solutions (I discuss this in more detail later), is simply have the teacher stand where she can see everyone’s screens. From experiments I have “run” myself, nobody has games open when the teacher is in the back of the class. They can’t risk it. If this issue doesn't make much sense, I would understand. Not everyone is incredibly tech literate, so if this issue doesn't show anything, I'm sure my second one will.
My other problem is with the school's computer system (not the device, but like how they handle using computers in class). I keep hearing that you "shouldn't play games in class", and "only use school approved websites", on and on. I hear these rules, I understand them. I'm sure the row of 10 kids in the back of my Language Arts class all shouting whilst playing their games during silent reading know this as well. We all know this, and while a simple rule like this will keep an honest student (myself, like 50% of the school) from going off task, it ultimately means nothing if there is nobody there to enforce it. This next part might be sounding like I am going on the offensive and complaining about a teacher, that is not the intent. I am simply stating facts.
There are 2 ways this could be playing out, and none of them would be solved by the school monitoring our screens and enforcing us using school devices. Scenario one; our teacher just doesn't notice that these kids (which probably happens in other classes too, my Language Arts class is just my best example) are playing games. I would state this one as 99% impossible. They mainly do it during silent reading/work time. This is when nobody is talking except for them. They are shouting at the top of their lungs "oh i just got a kill", "whats your lobby", and other nonsensical gamer talk. If our teacher can't hear this when I am covering my ears because the noise is bothering me so much, then convincing our teachers to watch some software that monitors kids' screens isn't going to make a difference. Or, things could be scenario 2, which I have had immense conversations with my parents about; Our teacher notices (like 99% likely), but either doesn't care, or is too scared to intervene. Again, not meant to be on the offensive, just stating facts. I am gonna say that for this example, they do notice kids playing games. So this already cuts out the screen monitoring part. If the teacher doesn't care, that is simple. You shouldn't be punishing all of us who are doing nothing wrong just because the teachers aren't willing to do their jobs well enough. The other option was one my parents pointed out, this one is a bit more grim. Proceed with caution; teachers aren't willing to intervene out of fear for their own, or others students' health and safety. They are worried that these kids will physically harm them if they are asked to stop playing their video games. This is slightly less likely, given our district, but is always a possibility. If this is the case, take away their school computer!
So then you will say they might just bring a computer from home, I highly doubt that. I know of almost no kids who bring home computers and play games in class for 1 simple reason, trust. Their parents trust them enough to let them have their own computer. Most parents know (I mean believe, home computers are honestly better at preventing game playing) that school computers stop kids from playing games, so having a personal computer is a sign of trust. The better solution is just taking kids' school computers when the get caught, and have teachers actually look and notice. A simple solution is have the teacher stand in the back of the room, Mrs. Zareh does this, and nobody goes off topic on computers. It provides the aspect of fear, and that is all that is needed to deter the kids that play games. For us more academic people, we wouldn't be fooled by that, but luckily, we are smart enough to care about our learning and to know that games in class harms our learning. Easy fix.
Let me finish this off, if this email came across as offensive or rude, I apologize. I tried to write this in as kind and polite a way as possible, but that was very difficult, given the topic. This screen monitoring thing is only harming those who are honest and good students. There are always workarounds, be it vpns, ultrasurf, using a hotspot, anything. Enforcing school computers just harms us good students that wouldn't break those rules and just inconveniencing us. If these kids are looking to play games, they will play games. Enforcing school computers and screen monitoring is worthless.
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