Four years ago, Marian began developing a better technology-inclusive learning environment. It started with issuing every student a Marian iPad. Over these four years, there have been bumps in the road, major successes and adjustments made to the overall technology program.
At the beginning of 2017, a major change was made to the Wi-Fi systems at Marian. The administration and technology specialists decided to change to a Federal E-Rate program to receive subsidized technology infrastructure needs and reduce internet costs. According to Technology Director Mr. Billy Deiber, the main benefits of this program are that Marian saves about 40 percent of the monthly internet costs and increases cyber security for students.
The main problem that students have had with this new program is content filtering. Being a part of the Federal E-Rate program means that Marian has one year to comply to all of their regulations, one of these being content filtering. This stipulation requires that Marian must meet the requirements of the Children’s Internet Protection Act.
A board of Marian administration, the Marian technology team and experts from the Federal E-Rate program decided what categories of sites needed to be blocked under the Wi-Fi. Some of these categories include adult content and social media. Marian does not have the resources to individually block or unblock certain sites.
“Students may come across a site that they feel is school appropriate, but has been blocked under the content filtering. Some words can be blocked that have both inappropriate and harmless meanings, but it will all be blocked. Unfortunately, this is a very hard situation where the administration wouldn’t want to open these sites and risk inappropriate content,” technology specialist Mrs. Jane Campbell said.
Some issues with this have included sites that are necessary for learning, but were blocked under a category. “Some of my classmates have come across sites that they were using for research that couldn’t be accessed because of the content filtering. It seems to mostly be around creative and artistic topics that there have been issues,” freshman Ella Meis said.
“If a student comes across a site that she feels is necessary for the learning environment and has no need to be blocked, the best thing to do is inform her teacher of the issue,” Deibler said.
As far as Pinterest goes, it should be unblocked in the upcoming weeks. “The initial blocking of Pinterest was not intentional, and we are working to get it unblocked under the Wi-Fi system,” Deibler said.
Another concern with students was the requirement that all personal devices be limited to the Visitor Wi-Fi network, including personal laptops. There has been some frustration with the lack of connectivity with the Visitor network.“I got a new Mac laptop for Christmas. I was excited to use it at school because it will be the device I use in college and I want to be familiar with it. For the most part, the Visitor Wi-Fi works for my laptop, but sometimes, at crucial times, the connectivity will be lost. Because of this, I get distracted or fall behind in class, it is very frustrating,” senior Sophie Dineen said.
“At this time, we are not allowing personal devices to be on the MHS Wi-Fi. If there are any problems with the Visitor network I encourage students to stop by my office in Etherhaven to try and resolve the issue,” Deibler said. Overall, Marian is concerned for the safety of the students and wants them to be protected on the Marian Wi-Fi system.
Over the course of second semester freshmen will be taking a Digital Citizen class instructed by Mrs. Molly Raabe, assistant librarian. They will meet five times over the course of second semester to discuss topics such as ethical behavior, the digital footprint that is left, privacy and the terms and use policy.
“I hope that through this course students have a better understanding of technology and how it can be both harmful and useful. Technology is such a powerful tool,” Raabe said.
Technology is new and constantly updating. Trying to have a technology-inclusive learning environment is important to the students and teachers at Marian because it is the future of learning.