Blocking usage of personal Gmail accounts limits what students can do with learning tools
As technology becomes a more essential part of our education and lives, certain security precautions taken by MCPS have begun to limit the range of what students can accomplish with the free technology they are provided at school.
In September of last year, MCPS decided to block the 'accounts.google' page on Chromebooks, preventing students from signing into any other email account other than those issued by the school. The laptops are powered by Google Chrome OS, and function only with internet access.
The blocked page has become a hassle for many students. When they complete work at home on their personal accounts, switching from one to the other is nearly impossible to do at school.
MCPS Chief Security Officer Peter Cevenini explained that the blocking of the page was done to protect students. "We're always looking to tighten up our security. We're trying to lock things down. Your normal student email account is a closed system so that you can only email teachers and fellow students in Montgomery County and that's a protection practice,” he explained.
By locking the page which allows students to log into personal email accounts, it does hardly anything to prevent them from being contacted inappropriately. It only prevents them from seeing and encountering this problem while on a school computer.
Due to this issue, senior Raquel Revelo ends up having to use her phone to perform a series of steps involving logging in and out of her accounts to effectively transfer an assignment between the two accounts. "I use my phone more to send things to this account. I have to explain to the teacher that I have to transfer it, it takes longer. Most of the time the teachers are annoyed by it," she explains.
As a result of the block on the Google accounts page, some students have begun to bring their computers to school, but this is not an option for many students, such as Revelo, who do not own a personal computer. For those that do, they risk having the computer being damaged or stolen.
Bringing a personal computer should not be the only way students can regularly access personal email accounts from school, as personal accounts are necessary for many programs and activities students are involved in. Due to the safety precautions placed on school emails, they cannot be used to contact any outside sources.
If students are unable to access personal accounts, it prohibits them from accessing files that they create outside of school that may be necessary for academic endeavors. "Email is pretty much linked to a lot of the things you do," junior Ryan Cho explains. As a programmer, Cho constantly has to email files to himself and often uses GitHub to manage his coding projects, which requires him to have an account set up through his personal email. "It's good to have windows open where you have your school stuff on one side, and personal stuff on the other, Chromebooks just don't allow that," Cho explains.
Not all students share Cho's luxury of having a personal device to bring to school. Many students spend longer than just the six-and-a-half hour school day in the building, and for some students, home access to computers is limited. Freshman Eden Mengesha choses to stay after school some afternoons to catch up on schoolwork. "Sometimes my computer at home might not work so I come here and then I can't access all the things that I want to," Mengesha says. In order for students fully take advantage of the expensive devices the school provides, access must be granted to use personal email accounts on Chromebooks.
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