Faculty Meets, Discusses Student Technology Use

As concerns arise once again over student bandwidth usage, the Technology Department recently released statistics on student Internet use. Last Thursday, during the Department Meeting block, Chris Joel of the Technology Department provided a brief presentation to the faculty regarding student computer use. The presentation was initiated by Instructor in History Tony Rotundo on behalf of Adcom, a student affairs faculty group on campus that monitors and discusses campus life. Mr. Joel’s study tracked technology use by students, specifically time spent accessing the internet. The growing number of bandwidth overages on campus has fueled interest in how students spend their time online.  In his study, Mr. Joel tracked the average bandwidth use on campus during the time period of October 2nd through October 8th.   During this time period, Mr. Joel found that 78% of  students using the Phillips Andover computer network used under 500MB of bandwidth, 19% of students used between 501 MB and 1GB and only 3% of students went over 1GB. These figures show that in a given week, more than 30 students may be violating the bandwidth policy. Mr. Joel’s statistics showed some cause for concern by faculty, and thus Joel looked to discover what sites and activities were putting kids over the bandwidth limits as well as how students spent their time on the web. Mr. Joel identified trends in types of sites and time of day for usage. Popular sites included gaming websites such as, social networking sites such as Facebook, instant messaging and content-based sites such as and iTunes. He also noticed an increase in activity through out the day until 10 p.m., when the activity drops off, until 6 a.m., when it then picks up again.  During his presentation, Joel also went over what these numbers mean for the PA campus. According to Abbot Cluster Dean Lisa Joel, in her tenure, the number of students going over bandwidth each year has declined somewhat. Valerie Roman, Director of Technology said, “The increase in bandwidth violations is not surprising given the increase in multimedia content available on the internet.” Mr. Joel added that the Internet is continually expanding and becoming content-rich,  accounting for high bandwidth absorption. As a reasonable response to the bandwidth overage increases, the administration has reduced the severity of punishment. Until last year, if a student went over bandwidth for the third time, he or she would face the Disciplinary Committee. The rules have been relaxed since; the same student would only lose internet privileges for a week for a first offense.  Nonetheless, Mr. Joel’s study showed that much of the Phillips Academy community is absorbing the technology they have around them.  To faculty, the important question is whether students use technology as a helpful tool or as a mindless distraction. Students are equally divided. “I use my computer three hours a day,” said Kimberly Kuoch ’09. “In the order of music downloading, e-mail, Facebooking, surfing the web and then academic work, online can definitely be a distraction.” On the other hand, students such as Deidra Willis ’09, who uses computers mainly for academic work, believes that computers are less of a distraction during the school week, but essential when it comes to academic efficiency. Ms. Roman said, “For every technology, there seems to always be a positive side and a negative side.  Take, for example, watching TV – it can vary depending if you are watching the Discovery Channel or MTV.  It purely depends upon the person’s use of that technology.” Abbott Cluster Head Lisa Joel commented that, given the capable group of students at the school, she is not overly concerned about the occasional computer policy overage.  “I find it to be more of an issue if a student shuts himself in his room on a Friday night and games for five hours, going over bandwidth on a Friday night, rather than talking to his roommate or going out with his friends. We are concerned when students have violations due to bad use of time.”