Announced by the Howard County Public School System on February 28th:

Effective Monday, March 1, 2021, video streaming services—such as Netflix, TikTok, Hulu, Showtime, Snapchat, Tumblr, Xbox live, Fortnite and HBO—will no longer be accessible on the HCPSS network or on HCPSS-issued devices. These services are not approved instructional technology sites and use of these sites has created network performance issues.

Currently, non-instructional websites account for 65 percent of HCPSS network usage and present potential security risks. With the increased network demands for hybrid learning and the increase in the number of technology devices being used on the HCPSS network, staff and students are experiencing buffering during some of their hybrid instructional sessions due to users accessing these non-instructional sites during school hours. The use of non-instructional video streaming services is one of the major contributing factors for the reported internet performance issues.

HCPSS will continue to monitor our network usage and make adjustments as we seek to provide all staff and students an effective instructional experience that limits lag time and any frustrations related to slow bandwidth.

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I understand blocking the video streaming services on the HCPSS network. These sites can be a big drain on network and internet bandwidth so this policy is understandable.

The block on all HCPSS-issued devices is a bit more confusing because “device” is not defined.

  • If device is meant as HCPSS issues WiFi devices I get it. This would add significant internet traffic onto those devices that may be costing the school more money depending on the plans the school has in place for those devices.
  • If device is meant as Chromebooks then I am not sure why this policy would be needed. You can block those video services at the network level (for the most part) in schools to reduce network bandwidth and students with HCPSS Chromebooks could still enjoy video streaming services at home on their family network with no affect on the school systems network or internet bandwidth.

Have thoughts? let me know in the comments.

Scott E

3 COMMENTS

  1. Is there a concern that a virus could infect a Chromebook during “off network” activities and then be introduced into the network when the Chromebook is connected for official learning activities?

  2. Students aren’t meant to be using the school-issued chromebooks for personal use; only for school. Now, I have no personal objection to students making modest personal use of school-issued computers on their own time, but it’s fair for the schools to nix it.
    I know that some parents have had specific issues with keeping their children from misusing the school computers during virtual instruction. Most parents aren’t going to have the technical skill to block streaming sites at the network level, or if they do, they’d be banning their entire household rather than just the chromebook (I set up a proxy server to restrict my child’s access to certain websites and to cut him off altogether outside of school hours, but that’s a pretty advanced technical solution, and also blocking at the network level is very imprecise when dealing with cloud services. It’s hard to completely block all ways of getting to YouTube without also interfering with Google Meet). The parental controls a parent would typically use with a self-owned device can’t be installed by parents on the school-managed chromebooks.
    My children’s daycare went as far as to ask the schools whether they could provide a list of approved websites, so they could block streaming sites on the facility’s firewall to help keep the kids on-task, but the biggest offender was YouTube, which some classes still required for instructional videos.

  3. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. The kids (especially the older ones) will figure out a way around this as they are digital natives. Ask me how I know? My kids were in a HoCo middle school that had the 1:1 IPad program. It was a disaster! Towards the end, I refused to have the computer come home from school. I refused to have our server at home (very secure) subjected to threat from a virus. So many assignments (while in school) were lost in the dreaded, spinning wheel of doom as every kid hid “send” at the same time so that they could get to their next class.

    This is really all an effort on the part of school system to get in gear for the big standardized tests that they will be giving in a few weeks. Yes folks, send your kids back to school so that they can be graded like ground beef and ranked/sorted like show ponies for stupid data that doesn’t inform their teachers or help the kids in any way. Disaster Capitalism and Corporate Welfare as tech companies are spouting their “learning loss” mantra in order sell their wares. Parents Beware!

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