High school students in the Shawnee Mission School District now have access to YouTube and Pinterest on their school laptops. These previously blocked sites have been available for student use since the start of the second semester.
Multiple requests were sent to the district from both teachers and students about unblocking the sites. It wasn’t until careful research and review of the educational relevance of YouTube and Pinterest that students were allowed to access them on their school computers.
The district sent out a statement that explains its rationale for allowing students access to these sites was that the “benefit of supporting student access to educational resources outweighs the possibility of accessing inappropriate content.” The statement was sent to administrators, teachers and parents.
“YouTube and Pinterest continue to broaden the scope of content providers,” said Drew Lane, Director of Information and Communications Technologies. “Today, there’s a significant number of academically appropriate vendors posting content to these two resources.”
Principal John McKinney believes that unblocking Pinterest and YouTube will help give teachers another option for teaching, and help make what they are trying to teach more relevant and applicable to the real world.
“The pros far outweigh the cons when it comes to sites like YouTube and Pinterest,” McKinney said.
Phys.org says that YouTube has more than 900 educational partners, including organizers of TED Talks. AP U.S. history teacher, Curtis White, plans on using YouTube to show his class TED Talks to challenge his students to use more in-depth thinking.
“I want my students to think in that way when they are looking at history,” White said. “Take a look at different perspectives. Don’t just take one source, but corroborate with many sources. Get closer to the true story.”
FACS teachers also plan on using YouTube to help students learn cooking procedures, such as how to properly twist a pretzel, or how to perform the different types of cuts used in the kitchen.
“For FACS in general, [YouTube] will allow students a wider variety of media to get knowledge that they need,” said FACS teacher Samantha Abel.
Pinterest will be used in the classroom with students in sewing classes, where teachers are planning on using Pinterest for Polyvore, a site which allows users to mix and match clothing pieces from different sites to create outfits.
While these sites were unblocked specifically to benefit AP history and FACS classes, students will also be able to use YouTube and Pinterest’s resources for other classes, such as English.
“I like to listen to the books we read in english on Youtube just because you can turn up the speed, so you get a lot done and read a lot quicker,” said junior Allie Libeer.
The district is still following state regulations and will continue to apply Content Filtering to YouTube and Pinterest. Even so, there were teachers and administrators who had opposing viewpoints to unblocking these sites. Some were concerned that not all content on those sites are academically relevant. Others were concerned about the probability of finding inappropriate content on both of those sites.
While YouTube and Pinterest are the only sites being unblocked now, Lane says that he wouldn’t be against looking into other sites in the future to unblock.
“We don’t have our sights set on anything in particular,” Lane said. “We wanted to see how YouTube and Pinterest went. But depending on how that goes, I wouldn’t be surprised to look at additional sites in the future.”