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DCPS’ Internet Blocks Obstruct Learning


BY ERIN STERNLIEB, WEB CHIEF EDITOR

Since winter break DCPS has increased its Internet restrictions for both students and teachers. Any sites with streaming, including sites like WAMU and PBS, are impossible to access. Blocking the Internet is not only a hindrance to teachers, but it reveals a larger problem with communication in DCPS, and is essentially a fruitless effort to “protect” students from something they can’t be, shouldn’t be, and don’t want to be protected from.

DCPS failed to inform teachers of the new Internet blocks before they were implemented. This left teachers hassled to come up with new lesson plans last minute, leading to a loss of instructional time. I can only imagine that this was extremely frustrating for teachers, who already work tremendously hard and spend a lot of time making lesson plans.

While I do not necessarily agree with it, I do understand why DCPS is both required to, and feels the need to, prevent students from accessing certain sites at school. But preventing teachers from accessing the Internet shows an unfair mistrust of teachers. If DCPS doesn’t feel that it can trust its teachers to use resources like Netflix for educational purposes, then it shouldn’t have these teachers in the classroom in the first place.

“Keeping students off the Internet is honestly a futile effort.”

When teachers have reached out in the past few weeks to complain about the block, they have received out of office responses from Chancellor Kaya Henderson, as well as from the department in charge of managing the Internet blocks. I’ve been encouraged by many teachers to reach out to DCPS, because they feel they aren’t being listened to.

On top of this, keeping students off the Internet is honestly a futile effort. My generation has grown up with the Internet, and for us it isn’t going anywhere. Most high school students have unfettered access to the Internet whether it is on their smart phones or computers at home. Students are using the Internet how they want, for what they want, when they want, no matter what DCPS would prefer.

So the only thing that makes sense to me is that DCPS encourages the use of Internet in the classroom. Students should be learning how to use the Internet as an educational resource.

Many of my classes don’t use textbooks anymore, which can be boring and outdated. Instead teachers are using the Internet to provide students with current, interesting, supplemental resources, whether it’s a New York Times article on Mexico, a NPR story on gentrification, or a Khan Academy video on Pythagorean theorem.

“It’s time that DCPS steps out of their way”

This is a good thing. Teachers are taking advantage of the plethora of resources that the Internet can provide. Teachers are giving students materials that are engaging and accessible to them. I’ve been told time after time that my generation has no attention span and that we can only function in front of screens. Teachers are trying to adapt to that, and it’s time that DCPS steps out of their way.

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