Unlike New York, Some Districts Embrace Social Media

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YouTube's announcement on Monday about a new network restricted to, and devoted to, educational videos revives questions about schools' limited access to the Web in New York City. In the latest issue of The New Dorp Voice, the newspaper for New Dorp High School on Staten Island, a student journalist wrote about the limited Internet availability in city schools. This article was lightly edited.

By Matthew Angell
The New Dorp Voice

We use technology on an everyday basis. However, students in the New York City schools are limited as to when and where it may be used.

According to the New York Department of Education’s Web site, students may access the Internet for limited educational purposes. The Department of Education grants access to the Internet for relevant learning activities both in school and at home, for career development, and communication between teachers and students.

Students may use social media networks only for educational and current school activities. Therefore, popular Web sites like Facebook and Tumblr are blocked in New York schools.

Web sites containing what is deemed inappropriate information are often monitored. The New York Department of Education will ban Web sites deemed unsuitable for students.

New York schools do not like the use of electronic devices like cellphones because officials view them as irrelevant to the academic mission of schools.

However, not all educational leaders in other school systems feel the same way. In New Jersey, Eric Sheninger, the principal at New Milford High School in Bergen County, has different views about the use of technology in school.

Mr. Sheninger is a strong supporter of social media networks and strongly encourages his students to use these devices in school.

“I started to become more educated on the learning process of social media devices,” explains Mr. Sheninger.

He believes that the biggest advantage is that it helps prepare the students for the real world in the 21st century by teaching them how to properly use this technology.

“Learning is more relevant and meaningful,” he said.

Since encouraging the use of social media devices, he has seen a dramatic decrease in discipline problems with students. Technology has also made school more engaging, while experiencing significant academic improvements for most students.

Mr. Sheninger strongly encourages his students to use Facebook as their main information hub. It provides the students with an event calendar, links to athletic schedules and information on alumni. Ultimately, Facebook is used as a great resource to share news in New Milford High School.

In contrast, New York City schools discourage the use of electronic devices such as Smartphones.

For instance, 1,200 cellphones were seized in a police security check at New Dorp High School on Oct. 26. Although students were able to retrieve their items at the end of the day, many expressed outrage at having had them confiscated.

"The problem is that some students use their phones in class for the wrong reasons, like texting friends or going on the Internet,” said Holly Acerra, a journalism teacher at New Dorp. “However if used correctly, technology can be a very powerful tool for learning.”