“After School:” Mobile SM App for High Schoolers Offers Potential Headaches for Educators

It turns that our students now have access to a high school version of the app Yik Yak called “After School.”
Publish date:
Social count:
It turns that our students now have access to a high school version of the app Yik Yak called “After School.”

Yesterday, I stumbled across this post on the Washington Post web site: “Millions of Teens Are Using a New App to Post Anonymous Thoughts, and Most Parents Have No Idea.” It turns that our students now have access to a high school version of the app Yik Yak called “After School.” Yik Yak has been quite popular among college age users for some time. For those not familiar with Yik Yak, or the high schooler app After School, these apps allows users to post messages anonymously that only other users in the general vicinity of the message poster can see. Apps like Yik Yak have been implicated in posting anonymous threats and cyberbullying online. (For example, see “What Is Yik Yak, the App That Fielded Racist Threats at the University of Missouri.”) What’s more, this “After School” app is also at the heart of possible postings of cyberbullying and postings where users threaten to bring guns to school. (See “Why Parents and Administrators Are Freaking Outv About an App Called After School.”)

It is easy to sound the alarm when these kinds of social media platforms arise, but it turns out that this particular app has been around at least a year. It appeared in the App Store and the Google Play Store last fall according to web site Fusion (See here), but it was removed twice because it was used for cyberbulling and posting gun threats. It returned this past April, and its developers claim to have a whole bunch of new safety features, including algorithms that block certain words and it is also said to use human reviewers who examine each post.

Well, for those of us familiar with web filters in schools, we know all too well that the best of these kinds of safety measures are far from foolproof. Many students are masters at trying to get things through the filters, and we’ve given them years of practice. But my beef with After School actually goes beyond that and is captured best by a question: Why in the world would we give high school students an anonymous platform like this when we know from experience that many are not ready to handle the freedom of any posting much less “anonymous posting?” It seems to be the equivalent of giving students the keys to a sports car with a cooler full of beer in the front seat and simply telling them not to drink and drive. After School is simply a platform that has the potential to facilitate irresponsiblity and possibly dangerous cyber-behaviors because students often thrive on web anonymity.

What’s more, I take exception to After School’s FAQ page which seems to suggest by its language there that schools have somehow endorsed this product. (See the After School FAQ page here.) On that page it states at the very top, “Anonymous and Private Message Board for Your School.” Those words seem, at first glance, to make a link between the message board in After School and the school the student attends, but that is far from the case. The school and its administration have no connection, control, or power over this product. That’s why many school administrators are quite upset about this product.

I am not sure an all out panic about this product is warranted, but I do think we need to educate both our students, and especially our parents about the potentially dangerous uses of this app.

We also need to make clear that this app basically allows students to set up their own cyber community, totally disconnected from our schools, that is supposedly monitored by this company. We as parents and educators, by allowing our students and children to use this app, are placing a large amount of trust in algorithms and faceless individuals out there somewhere to monitor the safety. The truth is, we at the school and district level, with all our web filters and cyber-safety gadgets have an extremely difficult time with cyberbullying and web threats. What on earth would make us think that out there in cyberspace a company can do that better? While After School has been around and is not really new, it operates on assumptions that ultimately will probably cause its own demise. That is the idea that anonymous posting for high schoolers can be effectively monitored. Just looking at their disclaimers in the app store should be concern enough. Check it out:

Image placeholder title

That’s quite a laundry list of items of things parents would object to having their students exposed to.

I don’t usually rate apps with thumbs up or thumbs down, but this one gets double thumbs down because it is a potential cyberdisaster at every school.

cross posted at the21stcenturyprincipal.blogspot.com

J. Robinson has decades of experience as a K12 Principal, Teacher, and Technology Advocate. Read more at The 21st Century Principal.



The Virtual High School to Enrich Online Judaic Studies  Curriculum Offerings at The Jewish Academy promo image

The Virtual High School Launches After-School Space Station Academy Program for Florida Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs

Boston — Jan. 21, 2016 — The Virtual High School (VHS Inc.) has partnered with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), a nonprofit charged with managing the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, to provide the Florida Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs with an after-school version of the popular Space Station Academy course. CASIS has supplied the initial funding to enable 480 Club members in upper elementary and middle school grades to enroll in the course, which takes students on a simulated mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Club members throughout Florida will take the four-week program at different points in the year.

Trident Case®’s Electra Charging Cart Helps Resilient School Expand Classroom Potential After Hurricane Sandy promo image

Trident Case®’s Electra Charging Cart Helps Resilient School Expand Classroom Potential After Hurricane Sandy

After Hurricane Sandy struck the east coast in 2012, the Union Beach Memorial School was closed for renovation after serious flooding. The disaster damaged an abundance of the school’s supplies, including vital technology like tablets and computers. Trident Case®, designer and manufacturer of innovative education, business and lifestyle case solutions, learned about the school’s misfortune and donated a new Electra Charging Cart to help the institution get back on its feet.

Realizing the Potential of Mobile Learning

The recently released "Turning on Mobile Learning in North America" paper is one of a series of papers by UNESCO and provides a survey of mobile learning initiatives in North American schools and school districts. As the abstract states, "The widespread use of mobile technologies around the world represents a significant opportunity in education. While mobile learning – learning with mobile technologies and devices – is still in the early stages of development, many teachers and students in North America are beginning to realize its potential for enhancing teaching and learning. Mobile learning involves more than merely incorporating new technology into current pedagogical strategies; it requires an instructional paradigm shift that promises to fundamentally change the way students learn. The move toward mobile learning is driven by increasingly high demands for student achievement and an understanding of the digital skills students need to compete in the twenty-first century global economy." Read full paper. If your school or district is starting a mobile initiative, the Atomic Mobilize solution can help, contact Atomic Learning today for more information.