The Limits of Lightspeed

Sophia Stringer

According to the Roanoke County Public School (RCPS) Administration Regulations, “The use of the Division’s computer system is a privilege, not a right.”

The RCPS System certainly sets the tone regarding laptop usage early on. Do you recognize that quote? You may not only remember it from the “Technology Use Guidelines,” which parents and students must agree to in order to use a computer provided by the school, but also the “Acceptable Computer System Use” guidelines, which align with policies set by the Roanoke County School Board. Many of us forgot about the agreements which were made when we first received our laptops- or just didn’t care. Students are now beginning to notice what they signed off on that long while ago- and they are starting to care.

On Monday, February 23rd, students across Roanoke Country were first introduced to a program which has the potential to follow them to graduation: Lightspeed. Lightspeed is a program which is used not just locally, but nationally, to monitor student computers. It is also the reason that teachers can now see what students in their class are doing on their laptops in real time.

While students’ joy concerning Lightspeed seems lackluster, teachers benefit the most from the program. Though, it could also be a passing phase of the RCPS system. Andrew Clapper (IT Department, Hidden Valley High School) explained, “We have a new filter called Lightspeed that we will be using next year if it gets approved- we are sort of in the pilot phase right now.”

When the software was first implemented on February 23rd, there were many complaints of too many website restrictions, impeding teachers’ abilities to do their jobs successfully. After all, as the world becomes more and more digital, teachers must make use of their online resources in order to effectively prepare their students for independence. Luckily, critiques were taken into consideration, and the harsher block was quickly removed. Clapper added, “Any time that we have been told by a teacher that something is blocked that they need to have for their class, we have opened it up.”

Now, websites such as Spotify and Instagram are blocked, among other content which does not comply with the Roanoke County Acceptable Use policies. If a teacher’s students must access a website that is restricted under the new software, staff in the IT department can easily make it available. This gives Roanoke County Public Schools full control over students’ internet consumption without disrupting teachers’ lessons.

Though Lightspeed has garnered mixed reviews among students and faculty, it seems to be here to stay. Let’s all give the warmest welcome we can muster to the new software and our new standards.