In an effort to increase organization and efficiency among students and teachers, the school decided to make SchoolTown the new “thing”. Many teachers have been halfheartedly singing praises of the site in an effort to bring about a more positive approach to its enforced usage. The classrooms continue to echo with obligatory approval, but in the halls, a different story is being told from a somewhat opposing perspective.
Most students tend to see the website in a negative light. The terms “unreliable” and “unnecessary” have been tossed around, and although it is second-nature to students to generally hate anything new educationally being thrown at them, the argument seems to be holding up.
SchoolTown is currently being used as a medium for posting assignments, uploading files and documents, class discussions and chats, and due date reminders. Over and over again I have been told that SchoolTown is a proactive effort to keep students organized. This leaves me wondering, have the teachers actually seen the site? I would be in awe if I heard of a student who legitimately uses SchoolTown as an organizational tool. Not only is it a nuisance to go out of my way to upload personal to-do lists and keep track of my homework on a website when a simple hand-written list could suffice, but like I said, have you seen the website?
Assignments for any and all class periods show up under a tab on the left entitled “To-Dos”. Clicking on the tab leads to a little pop-up screen where not only the current assignments, but every single past assignment shows up as either a red or blue link. Red indicates the assignment’s due date has passed, whereas blue means the due date is coming up.
It may sound nice and dandy, but try searching through an approximate 150 or so links just to locate your homework for the night. While you’re in the midst of the seventh page of the pop-up screen, straining your eyes to find how many pages to read tonight in your textbook, you become angsty wondering why in the world your teacher couldn’t have just told you your assignment, or better yet have written it on the board for students to copy down individually in a medium that suits them best. And we all know the last thing teenagers need is more angst.
Time after time the bell will ring and students all across campus hear the phrase “Check SchoolTown tonight for your homework assignment!” as they are headed out the door. A little piece of me dies inside, knowing that now, not only can I not start my homework until I have access to an internet connection, Microsoft Word, and/or a printer to print out whatever worksheet or papers I need, but I will also have to spend my precious time sorting through a clattered and congested website that could be avoided altogether. Color me irritated.
Sometimes it isn’t even the website itself that bothers me. Sometimes it’s simply the unreliability of the internet. Faulty internet connections and routers are not news to the Lucas/Fairview area. Even SchoolTown itself has crashed or been remarkably slow. At times, some students aren’t able to log in at all. This is no one’s fault, but it sure would be nice to know my homework beforehand or not have to repair a modem just to log on and print out a document that could have just as easily been given to me in class.
I understand where the district may be coming from in this decision to adopt SchoolTown. After all, our generation is always on the internet. So naturally, it would make sense to add an educational component to our second-homes. But that’s exactly the problem. We are always on the internet. So why give us yet another reason to go there when we are only a single click away from distraction?
Most of us have Facebook, Twitter, Google + (or whatever social network site) bookmarked or set as a home page. Therefore, as soon as the internet browser opens, it’s a given that that’s the first place we are going to go. In fact, I’d be willing to bet most people reading this at home have one of the aforesaid social networks open in a separate tab right now. It’s not something our generation is necessarily proud of, but it’s not exactly something we’re going to be able to avoid either. With these distractions so close, it makes it quite a task to stay focused, an encumbrance that could be avoided if assignments were physically given in class.
However, SchoolTown does have its benefits. Although there have been many times where I’ve groaned when I’m told to look up an assignment, there have also been many times where I’ve been thankful that there is a place where I can go download another copy of a document in case I lost it or just need an extra. It is convenient in the sense that everything, documents and assignments alike, are all in one place for all of my class periods. However it can also be inconvenient in the same way, as the site becomes incurably cluttered and confusing.
Not everyone feels negatively towards SchoolTown. In fact, some people aren’t even opposed at all. But as teenagers, we typically do what we want, and those of us who are not in favor of the site more than likely will not use it, or at least try to avoid it in any way possible. From what I hear, the majority of the student body typically tries to keep their time spent on SchoolTown to a minimum if at all.
However, a compromise can be found. Many teachers have listened to students’ feedback and now inform them of their homework in class, as well as uploading it to SchoolTown. Personally, I would be a lot happier if SchoolTown was used as an accessory – merely an addition to the traditional ways of teaching, rather than a primary learning tool. I can see it being more useful as a database for documents rather than an online planner and homework informant. But no matter what the website is being used for, students should become accustomed to it because at least for the rest of the year, SchoolTown is here to stay.