Student speaks out against newly blocked websites


Leah Johnston

Websites are blocked on school-issued chromebooks

To the students, staff, and other administration at Massapequa High School:

Recently, it has come to my attention that the school has blocked a large number of educational study websites, including Sparknotes, Shmoop, and CliffsNotes, across all Chromebooks. These websites are intended to provide valuable information such as plot summaries, key themes, and character studies for many important literary works. When used in conjunction with one’s existing knowledge, these sites can help student readers better understand their assigned texts. By blocking these sites, students’ access to important knowledge is sabotaged. Unblocking these sites will improve student education by enabling access to important literary information.
In the past, many educators have seen the use of websites like SparkNotes as akin to cheating. When students exclusively pull information from these sites without touching a page of their summer reading, then they have taken shortcuts which hinder their own education. However, the majority of students use these sites as a source for notes about tricky chapters or to review and clarify what they have just read. In these cases, these websites do not replace students’ education, but rather improve it. In place of blocking these websites for all, teaching students how to effectively use these sites to improve their understanding of books is a much better way to ensure student education.
Blocking certain websites is not inherently bad. Sites which contain or promote violence, pornography, and unlawful behaviors should be blocked on school property. These sites contain information which is inappropriate for school and potentially illegal. However, educational review sites do not contain such immoral content. Sparknotes, for example, promotes itself as containing “Today’s Most Popular Study Guides,” while Shmoop describes itself as “Your one stop shop for everything academic.” These websites serve a purpose among students to help provide quality academic information. Blocking these websites to prevent cheating decreases students’ opportunities to learn effectively. In place of a complete block on review sites, teachers should teach their students how to use these sites positively. Stealing text from these sites word-for-word is dissatisfactory use of these sites, whereas using Sparknotes to review for an important test, in conjunction with one’s own notes, is a useful way to bolster one’s understanding of an assigned novel. By unblocking review sites such as Sparknotes, Shmoop, and CliffsNotes on school computers, students and educators will regain access to important, useful educational information which can help improve their overall academic performance. If the purpose of school is to provide an education to all, blocking educational study sites seems hypocritical to that very purpose.

Sincerely, Andrew O’Brien, a junior.

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