Opinion: Computers Are Both Frustration and Temptation for Students


School computers are an important part of an FCPS student’s life. They’ve become increasingly crucial after the COVID-19 pandemic which had students’ entire days controlled by their computers and it doesn’t look like students and teachers have recovered from their technology hangover. This is probably why FCPS schools have been a bit lenient when punishing students for misusing their computers. But teachers are quickly losing their patience as a new pandemic is taking place in schools: the gaming pandemic.

Simply put, gaming during school has been a problem this year. In order to address the problem, the county has taken measures to stop this by tweaking their filters, blocking countless sites; even sites that teachers use to provide students with an interactive learning experience.

That hasn’t stopped students from playing games or otherwise being off task with their computers.  Using proxies, VPNs, and alternative browsers, students at Longfellow still have access to sites, no matter if they were blocked previously or not. Over the winter, students found a popular browser called Vivaldi, which allowed students to access all sites no matter if they were blocked or not.

One solution to the problem of excessive student gaming in classes is interactive activities, designed to engage students. With block scheduling being new to Longfellow this year, some teachers have not mastered this skill. According to an article by the National Association of Elementary School Principals, a middle schooler’s attention span is between 10 to 12 minutes. The same article states that middle school students learn better with interactive activities than by listening to their teachers.

Not only do many students misuse their computers by playing games, they also misuse them physically. They drop them on the floor, break the keyboards, etc. From what we’ve witnessed, the school doesn’t often punish students for breaking their computers. If you break it, you’ll probably just get a new one, free of charge. This results in students not really caring whether they break their computers or not. Students forget that having a computer is a privilege and not a right. Some schools don’t have any computers, and students should be grateful for what we have.

Now, to the other side of the coin. It’s not uncommon to hear students complain about the quality of their computers. Complaints I’ve heard regularly are that keyboards are not working correctly, that the computers are slow and glitchy, and that they have terrible battery life. And while it’s true that students should be grateful to even have computers, they should also be able to expect to have good quality computers. Many students even say that their computers have been broken since the beginning of the year and that they received them like that.

Rethinking the consequences of misusing computers, both the physical handling and the tendency to go off task, might make a difference, but so will more breaks during 90 minute classes and more interactive activities that don’t involve computers.  The firewall that blocks students is simply not going to do the trick.