It began in August, 2015. I took out my phone to connect to the school internet and then opened the Snapchat application. However, to my surprise, I wasn’t able to access any of the stories, news or direct “snaps” from my friends. I was confused and began to question why Snapchat was not working: was it the school internet? Was it my phone? Later, I, along with many other students, found out that the school internet prevented me from accessing the application. While the SFUSD may see social media platforms like Snapchat as purely a distraction from class, what they fail to recognize is the educational value behind them.
In January 2012, SFUSD began blocking certain websites for students and teachers when they access the district’s internet: SFUSD or SFUSD-GUEST. Over the past couple of years though, the SFUSD has gradually began to unblock websites that can be used for educational purposes, such as YouTube, Khan Academy and, surprisingly, Facebook.
Although SFUSD began unblocking these websites, they still refused to unblock Snapchat. Similar to Facebook, Snapchat is a combination of sending a text with a picture. Users are able to take a picture and insert text or draw on the picture. Snapchat allows the user to send this combination to multiple people at a time. Students use this application, of course, to talk with their friends. However, teachers like Michael Britt, a college professor for psychology, sees the educational potential behind Snapchat. He began explaining certain concepts before exams through videos in Snapchat. Britt claims that Snapchat is an effective application that allows him to explain concepts that students might have forgotten during his lectures (1).
From my perspective, I agree with Britt that Snapchat can be used for educational purposes. Through videos or pictures, teachers are able to quickly review with their students concepts that they might have missed during class and remind students of deadlines or upcoming exams. Additionally, Snapchat is very popular among teenagers. Thus, students may be more likely to view the posts from their teachers. These are only some of the many potential educational purposes Snapchat holds. I can see why SFUSD doesn’t agree with Snapchat being used for educational purposes, but I think they should also consider the academic benefits by using Snapchat in schools. If SFUSD unblocked major distracting websites and saw the educational purpose in them, such as Facebook and YouTube, they should also see the value of using Snapchat in schools.
Overtime, perhaps SFUSD will unblock Snapchat like other social media platforms. But, the more important thing is that SFUSD needs to recognize that every social media platform can have an educational value that will help further students’ education. How come the SFUSD sees the educational purpose behind Facebook or YouTube but not Snapchat? The SFUSD has yet to release an official statement as to why they continue to block Snapchat, but other districts claim that it’s a distraction for students and has no educational value whatsoever. Furthermore, the only thing SFUSD gave to the public was a rule against Snapchat: Adults shall not communicate with students, for any reason, through use of a medium that is designed to eliminate all traces or records of the communication (e.g. “Snapchat”) (2). The SFUSD needs to be more clear with their decisions, otherwise it will only lead people to question their intentions for the schools.