4 Madison schools block social media apps in pilot program

Four public schools in Madison are preventing student access to some popular social media apps during the school day to test whether grades, student behavior and school safety improve with fewer online distractions.

The pilot program shuts down free Wi-Fi access to apps, including Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and 30 others. The move is seen as a way to redirect impressionable students’ attention to learning and away from potential dangers.

“These are 21st century learners and they are addicted to their cellphones. Very often you will see children throughout the entire day wanting to check their cellphones and it is having some issues inside of the classroom where children are tapping into their cellphones when they are supposed to be paying attention,” said Cindy Green, MMSD executive director of curriculum and instruction.

According, to Green the district is looking at how to balance the use of smart devices, as they are used in the classroom as learning tools.

The district knows the pilot completely stop students from using their phones — with the possibility to access social media through phone data plans.

“We know that students have work around and or are able to access the network through their data plan. What we are also trying to reduce the use of the cellphones in order to increase the climate and culture in our buildings,” she said.

Students will still be able to access those apps if they want by using their phones data plan. A letter went out to parents to warn them about the possible increase on their bill.

The program began May 1 at East High School as well as Wright and Cherokee Middle schools. West High School is scheduled to start the program Monday.

The district hopes the pilot will help administrators form a uniform policy for cellphones and social media use in school.

The schools were selected due to their principals’ interest in the issue. Test results will include comparison behavior data and feedback from students.

The program will run through the end of the school year.