Montgomery Blair High School's Online Student Newspaper
Saturday, March 24, 2018 3:31 pm
Feb. 6, 2018

Chromebooks should be used to their fullest potential

by Rebecca Wessel, Staff Writer
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 '' 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.
Students who try to switch accounts will encounter an error that the webpage is blocked. Victoria Sampson
Students who try to switch accounts will encounter an error that the webpage is blocked.

While there was no specific incident that sparked this change, it was done proactively to prevent a situation arising where a student was inappropriately contacted. "We found out students were able to log off and access their personal accounts. Other people could have been inappropriately contacting them, so we wanted to make sure that your safety and security was paramount. We want to try to be proactive as much as possible, Cevenini explains.

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. "Its 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 Chos 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 cant 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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  • Alum16 on February 7, 2018 at 3:10 PM
    I'm betting that this has nothing to do with safety or security and everything to do with liability. It obviously does nothing to prevent students from being contacted, and I'm sure administrators know that. What they care about is if something does happen, a school Chromebook isn't going to be mentioned in the news report.
  • A . Parent (View Email) on February 15, 2018 at 1:41 PM
    There is no reason whatsoever for students to be accessing personal Google accounts during school hours. All MCPS students can access their MCPS Google accounts from home. So the scenario where they "complete work on their personal account" makes no sense. They can and should do school work on school accounts while at home, or transfer homework from a personal to a school account at home or using a USB. If they forget, well, that is on them, not MCPS. Also, And, if a student does not have a device at home, how is access to private email at school going to help their school work? MCPS is not obliged to provide students with tablets for private emails? There is the library for this! It's another example of the drug addict begging for more drugs. MCPS CTO Mr. Cevenini is doing the right thing protecting MCPS students from the tracking, adds and distractions that come with a personal Gmail account.
  • A. Parent (View Email) on February 16, 2018 at 11:04 AM
    Hi Silver Chips staff, do you value the freedom of speech and the free flow of ideas that are the backbone of democracy and the US Constitution? If so, why didn't you post my comment to R. Wessel's piece about personal emails at school? I submitted it yesterday pointing out the weaknesses in this argument. I am a parent, educator and MoCo tax payer. Don't censor what your community has to say. Do not be afraid to stand up for what you believe. Remember what the genius Voltaire said: I wholly disagree with what you say and will contend to the death for your right to say it.
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