The Octagon is a school publication, run and read by SCDS students. It includes an online edition and is present on several social media platforms, allowing students worldwide access to campus news.
Ironically, the one place that denies students this access is Sacramento Country Day School.
As with most school WiFi networks, Country Day’s student WiFi has a strict firewall to keep students out of trouble.
Recently, due to a change in Internet service providers, even more sites were added to the long list of blocked URLs. The reduced access reopened the familiar question: “Why are all my favorite websites blocked on the school WiFi?”
In response, we’d like to make a case for the unblocking of a few sites.
Let’s start by thinking about this from the tech department’s perspective. There are two good reasons for blocking sites: excessive bandwidth (data capacity) and lack of academic value.
Considering the ubiquitous student complaints regarding the school’s Internet speed, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that certain sites are blocked due to the bandwidth they consume. Sites such as YouTube, Snapchat and Spotify require the sending and receiving of significant quantities of data.
However, according to an Octagon poll, 44 percent of high-school students use a VPN (virtual private network) or some other means of bypassing the firewall in order to view blocked sites. In other words, bandwidth-eating sites like YouTube are being accessed over student WiFi every day.
Considering that these sites are already, though illicitly, being accessed on a regular basis and have not had a catastrophic effect on the school’s Internet, it seems reasonable to request the unblocking of sites that are blocked solely due to bandwidth.
On the other hand, although the firewall fails to totally prevent students from browsing data-heavy sites, it may act as a deterrent. Perhaps if the deterrent were lifted, many more students would browse sites they hadn’t previously visited at school, thereby further slowing the WiFi. But if so, the sites in question could simply be re-blocked, and no harm would have come of trying.
The other reason for blocking sites is lack of academic value. For many sites, this is justified; for some sites, it is questionable.
YouTube, aside from being the host of the world’s largest collection of cat videos, is a valuable learning resource that is often used as a supplement to in-class teaching. Khan Academy blackboard explanations, language tutorials and scientific demos are just a few examples of the useful and academic videos YouTube has to offer.
Twitter, one of the recently blocked sites, is also a valuable source of information. Currently, Twitter is the fastest, most quickly updated news outlet – important issues are tweeted about on Twitter before reporters have the chance to formally lay down information on traditional news sites. Thus Twitter is an integral part of staying connected with the outside world.
On top of that, school organizations use Twitter to keep students updated on campus events. The Octagon’s tweets remind students what time Friday night’s game is, where to go on Back-to-School night and which colors to wear during Spirit Week – all of which currently can’t be accessed by students at school.