Social media is now open on school network

Wilton High School recently lifted its long-standing ban on certain social media sites, which at first were regarded as distractions and potential means of "cyber-bullying." The move comes as more teachers and administrators endorse social media as an effective means to gather information in a digital age of unprecedented scope and access to educational resources.

Facebook will continue to be blocked on the school's network, but Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube have been opened.

"There are a number of great learning activities available online, and we were missing out by not using them," School Superintendent Gary Richards said.

Mat Hepfer, Wilton High School's technology director, said nearly all students today carry smartphones, which are often able to bypass the Internet blocks set by the high school network preferences.

Blocking sites on the school network has therefore become less of a protection of student privacy and more of an interference to teaching efficiency, especially regarding classroom projects, he said.

"YouTube had been open for teachers only; but we are at the point now where students want to use YouTube videos in their projects," he said. "They were having to go through the inconvenience of working from home, then uploading their videos in order to allow instructors to load videos from the classroom."

YouTube also "opens up all the teachers in the world" by offering free ways to audit classes, including lecture series at the nation's leading universities, he said.

Library media specialist Barbara Lyons detailed Pinterest — a content-sharing service that operates as a virtual bulletin board for website bookmarks and links — in a staff presentation, illustrating how the site can improve a student's learning experience by offering search and organizational features.

According to Ms. Lyons, Pinterest offers "virtual field trips" for world language courses, inspiration for art portfolios, a platform for teacher-student project collaboration, and ways of following the leading experts of various fields.

Mr. Hepfer also encouraged making Pinterest and Twitter available in the classroom. He emphasized the ability for teachers and students to work together by adding to each other's "bulletin boards" on Pinterest, and the means to gather up-to-date news with Twitter's dynamic sources.

"There are plenty of time wasters and nonsense," Mr. Hepfer said. "You need to make sure your curriculum and your staff have built their capacity so they know how to target the educational use."