It’s Time to Regulate Social Media in Schools

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

It is spring time, and once again I am planning a new network security plan for a school. The same issues as always, and the same questions.

All questions usually have answers with a price tag attached. Value in such planning is very subjective. After all, we spend money every year managing free apps on iPads, how does that make financial sense?

One question cannot be answered. Regardless of my due diligence and the school’s willingness to fund a comprehensive plan, students will still have phones. Those phones will have data plans. Those data plans circumvent all the work we do. Parents do not seem to care, because they are worried about having that device for logistics and emergencies.

These devices are addictive, and the applications are purely for entertainment and dopamine-driven feedback loops.

Yes, the network can manage the problem when students are on Wifi; but not when the students are on their own network.

Jamming signals is not legal in most countries, and localized jamming seems to cover very large spaces. Even if it was legal, it would impact other services.

I believe all problems can be solved, and I believe I have a solution for this one. Generically, I like to call it Social Media for Education.

Social Media for Education Explained

The core concept is simple. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., would offer an educational package. I firmly believe this should be a paid service for schools that can afford it, and free for schools that can demonstrate hardship. If you consider the cost of properly  blocking Apps on Wifi ($10-50 USD per student per year), this service would be viable if priced appropriately.

The social media companies would follow a Google Apps or O365 model for schools to join. They would require any person under the age of 18 to register as a student connected to a school.

For example, schools who sign-up would be given a school code, and could provide a student ID based roster for cross-referencing. Any person under 18 would be required to connect their profile to a school or education program of some sort(some students are home schooled or have other types of educational plans).

Unless they are connected to some type of educational plan, they simply cannot use social media until they are 18 years of age.

Schools who join would receive these benefits:

  1. Social media profiles are deactivated from 8:00 am – 3:00 pm everyday, in the timezone set by the school. This prevents VPN access from spoofing the clock.
  2. Schools could centralized a two steps homework system. Teachers would use Social media to circulate messages related to the school, and unless students confirmed all messages have been received (read), their profiles would not be activated. Although confirming a message has been seen does not equal work completed, it does mean the student acknowledged receiving the message. Blocking all other activities until all messages are cleared would prioritize the school’s notifications.
  3. Since all students can be identified and connected to a school or program, cyber-bullying would be easier to manage. Schools would need to make a request for data, but that data would connect to a student ID (most likely), and a verified location.

I have thought of more options, but, I would consider the above a tier one solution.

It Cannot Work Unless There is Regulation

It is clear from current practices, such as not enforcing the age restrictions for users, that social media companies will not offer services to schools that help disconnect students during their academic day.

In places like France, the government is physically banning phones from campuses. Other schools follow strict device confiscation policies. These measures only create a black market for phones, theft among students, and a burden on families who are victims of theft.

Trying to regulate property, and potentially facing liability issues related to property, is not the path to follow to solve this problem.

Governments need to simply require social media companies, or any company making a communications product, to provide the an identity and connection management system for those under the age of 18.

Those over 18 already have to use multiple methods to verify themselves when making new accounts. However, students seem to be able to join social media using devices and phone numbers that are not even legally in their own name. Think about that? I give my child a phone and number, they use it to join Facebook? How is that legal or even verified?

Not Enrolled in School = No Social Media

Compulsory Education around the world varies. Very few countries report having no compulsory education requirements.

No Requirement Based on Previous Data
Oman 0 2007
Solomon Islands 0 2002
Cambodia 0 2008
Holy See (Vatican City) 0 2007
Tokelau 0 2007
Bhutan 0 2008

The world-wide impact of adopting social media regulation of this caliber would equate to those under 18 not being allowed on social media, if they could not demonstrate they were enrolled in some type of educational program.

Likely, many countries would not participate in such regulation at all. However, it really only has to be country by country. As international as these platforms seem to be, connections students have are usually very local. Most students have their primary social network within the school they attend. That means their social media time is literally just interacting with people they could easily look at and speak with.

If Facebook in India were not participating, that would not impact a school in Korea. If students were to move from country to country (or school to school), they would have to re-register. The meta data from that behavior alone would help confirm drop-out rates, possible issues within school districts, etc. I believe the unknown benefits of the data would be substantial. Observer effect issues and data manipulation by school administration would be reduced.

I have been working with teenagers since 2005. I have worked with students from over 100 countries. I have been a technology disruptor, more times than I have supported the status quo. I believe in BYOD programs, and any students I have worked with will confirm I empower them to lead and make decisions. I know when I see a problem in the plan and the patterns. I know when students are not engaged, and when they are not learning. Mobile devices with addictive applications are a real problem. The design is an addictive design, and the effects are powerful. I hate regulation, but unfortunately, I think we are there.


Mobile Phone Shutdown

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

During the first few weeks before my new campus opened, many people wanted to know what the mobile phone policy would be for students, especially those students living on-campus.

A decision was made to allow teachers to set their classroom norms, and to give the students an opportunity to use technology responsibly. This very open policy would be applied, and results would be evaluated.

The first month of school yielded some very interesting results, and eventually lead to a big change not only in policy, but also in campus culture.

The Real Issue

The assumption most adults and educators make is that students will waste time while using their devices in class.

The truth is that students using mobile phones outside of the classroom, is in fact a severe waste of time compared to the time lost in the classroom. Policies focusing on controlling students and preventing them from enjoying some form of entertainment while in class, are missing the core issue(s).

The real issue with students who are engaged in very high levels of screen-time, is that the engagement negates their time to socialize. The device, ironically, pushes them further apart from one another, even if they are using the device to communicate.

Classroom use of devices can be very beneficial. Teachers can task students and keep them working and interacting, while socializing.

During the first month of observation, when left to their own prerogative, students in social situations would default to the use of social media apps and free or freemium games instead of talking to one another.

The students were not engaged in deep discussions, academic information exchange, or even conversations about making plans for their weekends. They were just engaged in activities that had a short and very shallow feedback loop.

My personal observations were combined with others, and everyone agreed that we did not want a campus culture that encouraged students to not socialize; to sit alone and stare at a screen; and that seemed to push curiosity to the floor.


READ MORE at The International Educator Online


Apple in the Classroom, What’s Next on the Chopping Block?


By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

I just read the article, Apple planning to make original TV shows and movies as hardware sales soften. I decided to try and remember what I used to be able to buy for the school/classroom from Apple. Here is my list:

  1. Laptops designed for children
  2. Powerful and Extensible Workstations
  3. Servers with easy to use Management Tools, Media Streaming, and Podcasting
  4. Easy to obtain full sized keyboards







My concern is real. I am an Apple and Lenovo owner. My Lenovo experience has only improved in the last 6-7 years, while my Apple experience has gotten worse. Am I the only one who agrees that iPhones and watches do not equal creation and learning?

I am hoping for a turn around. Sales of hardware are down. Schools tend to buy in massive quantities. #SalesTiptoApple

Schools also like to by integrated packages of computers, devices, accessories, support, and software. #SalesTiptoApple




If This, Then That: Link Apps Together to Double Your Productivity!

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I recently discovered the amazing website: If this, then that 

What does it do?

  • link apps together to automatically work together
  • saves you time!

How does it work?

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Create a recipe, or choose from combinations that have already been created for you.

You can create connections between apps/products that you love to make them work more efficiently for you – if this… then that happens (aka you are making conditional statements)

Their about page explains this in more detail ( – I love that the URL is wtf instead of about 🙂

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Pre-made recipes are categorized for you and include all kinds of cool websites, news channels, media, etc…

Clicking on existing recipes allows you to quickly connect them:

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They continue adding more apps all the time. Most are useful, some are interesting…

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Kendra Perkins

Pocket: An Easy & Quick Bookmarking Tool that’s Free

I love Pocket! It’s a Chrome extension, and it’s something that I actually use. Yes, you have to sign up first, but that’s pretty painless. And it’s free. There is a premium version, but it seems unnecessary. Everything that I use is available on the free version.

Why Do I think it’s useful?

I use this to quickly save articles, videos and whatever else to read later. I find this particularly helpful when I’m scanning through Twitter, Flipboard or my favourite blogs. If I see anything that seems interesting I simply ‘pocket’ it to go through later. Create tags that are easy to remember, these can as silly or as practical as you want, whatever will help you remember it.

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How do you use it?

To access all the cool stuff you’ve saved click on the cute little pocket to the right of the address bar (I used Chrome browser).

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When you get started you have “My List” where you find everything that you’ve ‘pocketed’ for later. You end up with what looks like a Pinterest board, it’s really visually appealing, and you can scroll through everything you’ve saved.

The search feature is excellent. I’ve always preferred to use search features in my email or spotlight on my Mac to find everything so I find this makes it very easy to find anything I now have time to read/watch. I’m really bad about not making folders to organize stuff properly (I know, not very librarian-like), so I heavily depend on good search functions.

Here’s what what Pocket looked like when I made this blog (I am constantly removing things as I finish reading them and adding new content, it changes almost daily):

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Automatically syncs! Yay!

It automatically syncs to your phone, other computers and tablets. You can view articles offline, excellent for commuting on the metro or bus. This is particularly time saving when you use multiple devices like me. My work laptop and home laptop are now seamlessly connected. No more links saved to my bookmarks on one laptop, which inevitably I forget which one I saved it to and then waste a lot of time hunting around.

Looking for more time saving extensions/apps?

Check out what else there is under the category “productivity”. Tons of great products out there, though it’s easy to waste more time looking through these and testing them than actually saving time by using them…

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Kendra Perkins

iPhone app of the week – Silent Film Director


Do you love Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin? Then this is definitely an app for you. A lot of student films run into the very common problem of lousy audio. Since boom mics are not quite a standard in the classroom, this problem ain’t going anywhere. So instead of constantly wrestling with getting good audio by jamming an iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad in the face of those you’re filming, why not circumvent the sound altogether? This is where Silent Film Director comes in. It will record the film (without audio obviously) and allow you to add different styles like the 20’s or 60’s home video. You can also add multiple clips together, add music, transitions, and titles. It’s a great and well made app and it’ll force your students to really think about how to effectively communicate using only images. It really gets them to plan out their films as opposed to just hitting the record button and hamming it up. You can download it for 99 cents here.

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Educational iPhone apps -April

It’s another month of fun filled app for the iPhone! Last month I took a good look at March themed apps. This month it is more of  grab bag and while some of them deal with grades, others for video, but to get to all the goodness, read on past the break Continue reading “Educational iPhone apps -April”

Educational iPhone Apps – March


I thought I would try something a little different this time. I decided to try and get some March appropriate apps and boy did I get some good ones. They’re free, helpful, and can do some good in the classroom. Read on past the break to see all the goodness.

Continue reading “Educational iPhone Apps – March”

Educational iPhone Apps – February (Late edition)

Hey folks! Well, it’s about five days too late, but I can’t let it go. I need to get this done! So I’m currently on a week long school trip (which is awesome by the way) and the place I’m staying (contact me for details) has been graciously enough to offer up their WiFi. Gotta love it. So this batch is pretty good but only three apps. They are all good so let’s get to it. No break, since it’s a short one. Oh did I mention they are all FREE!

Pleco – Chinese dictionary

This is a winner-hands down. If you know anything about Chinese, then this will make sense. If not, then if you’re thinking about learning Chinese, then check it out. You can type in the pinyin or English and it will give you the character you need. You can tap on any character in the app and it will, nearly instantly, bring up what that character is and other uses for it. This is the basic, but you can purchase a ton of in app upgrades. You can use download a feature that will use your camera to take a picture of a character and look it up, or you can actually draw the character right into the app itself. It’s a gem


This app recently had a pretty big update. Now the app does crash from time to time and blogging on an iPhone is far from ideal, but if you’re out and the inspiration strikes, it will do the job. You can even add pictures or video (if you have that option on your blog). One thing that I wish it would add are the categories. You can add categories, but it does not download all the different categories or tags for that matter to your app. Still it works pretty well and I’ve been using it a lot on my school trip this week.

Flashcards +

I bet you can all guess what this does. While the app always asks me to rate it every time I open it, and while I often find myself tapping a little too often, for a free app it is not bad. You get the freedom to create whatever flash cards you want. You can even download your Quizlet flash cards to the app to practice on the go.

Educational iPhone Apps January

It’s a new year, a new decade! What better way to celebrate the new year than with a few new iPhone apps for your classroom. I daresay this may be the best batch I’ve looked at yet. Click on past the break and read why these five are worth you tapping your screen a few times. Oh yeah, they’re all free-so nothing to lose, but plenty to gain.


Continue reading “Educational iPhone Apps January”