Status of social networking at WDC: It’s complicated
Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are a digital double-edged sword for Wadena–Deer Creek Middle/High School.
On one hand, WDC uses official social network profiles to give updates to the community about goings-on in the school. On the other, a sophisticated blocking mechanism is in place to make sure social networking doesn’t become a distraction for students and staff during the school day.
While class is in session, one of the few people allowed to access Facebook inside WDC is Dana Pavek, who is in charge of communications for the school. She said the majority of those who are “friends” with the school’s profile are parents. However, those students that comment on the page have so far shown the utmost decorum in what they say.
“I think maybe there was once something about a lunch they didn’t like, but I consider that just typical fodder for students,” Pavek said. “If that’s the worst that they can talk about, I think we’re doing okay.”
Pavek described the main function of WDC’s Facebook page as a means of showcasing the accomplishments of students – for example, when the one-act play recently went to state.
Outside of official use, though, would-be Facebookers are thwarted by a device called CIPAFilter, a server that is hooked up between the school’s approximately 500 computers and the Internet, said Aaron Johnson, information technology director. The device is an improvement over past blocking programs used by WDC in that it scans every webpage viewed on every computer for objectionable content, rather than blocking just a list of websites entered in by administrators.
Johnson said any gaps in the block were likely the result of human error rather than the program.
“Most of the cases where I’ve gotten reports of kids getting around stuff, it’s typically because we’ve made changes in some fashion that inadvertently opened up one of those,” he said.
CIPAFilter also regulates content obtained using WDC’s wireless network, which means administrators can control what students view on the Internet using their school-issued iPads as long as the students use the school’s network to browse the web. If a student were to go out of range of the WDC wireless network and use a different one, that control would go away. However, Johnson said WDC is testing a proxy that can bridge the gap.
He did not know when the new system would be implemented.
Middle/High School Principal Tyler Church said blocks against social networking sites have been in place for some time at WDC, but became especially important this school year when students were issued with iPads by the school.
“We’ve had it for the past couple years,” Church said of the block. “We really focused on it heading into this year though with the iPads in hand, just because they have that media, that technology piece in front of them at all times now.”
Church said that although there were probably scattered instances of kids finding ways around the block, it has functioned well on the whole.
“There are a few smart kids who have probably figured their way around things, but for the most part we’ve been able to prevent kids from getting on those things (social media sites) with our devices,” he said.