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Blocking social media won't end distractions in schools

Social Cues: Four schools in Wisconsin are blocking social media in an attempt to improve learning. But don't blame Twitter for distracted teens.

Social Cues is our look at what people are talking about across Twitter and Facebook.

Going on social media shouldn't have to be an after-school special.

In Madison, Wisconsin, four schools opted into a pilot program to block up to 34 apps -- the majority of which are social networks -- from their classrooms and hallways. The new rules started on May 1, and will go on until the last day of school on June 8, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

It's a valiant effort to get students to pay attention in the classroom rather than finding the best filter to their cafeteria selfie, but students have always been distracted, even without social media.

People like to blame social media for distracting teens, but think about your time in high school, before smartphones. At some point in your life, you were sitting in a classroom, dozing off or daydreaming, distracted without the help of tweets buzzing into your pocket.

I wish I still had some of my notebooks from school -- it's just pages of doodles with some scribblings about the quadratic formula in a tiny corner. Of course social media distracts students, as countless studies will show, while they never really dig into other studies pointing out that schools can be pretty boring.

Indiana University's High School Survey of Student Engagement asked more than 59 schools in 2014, with 82 percent of students responding they were often bored in classrooms. In a survey among 22,000 high school students, the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation found the majority of students felt tired, stressed and bored.

If they remade "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," I guarantee you the dead-eyed students in the boring economics teacher's classroom would all be staring at their phones instead.

At the four Madison schools, apps like Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will only be blocked on the Wi-Fi network, and teens will still be able to access social media through their own data plans. The school district didn't want parents to suddenly be shocked at the next phone bill, so they sent letters home suggesting they limit the family's data plans.

To be fair to teachers, social media can absolutely take away from lessons that are actually engaging and interesting. It's also hard to compete with an endless stream of memes when you need to teach that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell.

Mike Hernandez, the principal at one of the four schools, told the Journal that their disengaged students are usually walking the hallways with their eyes glued to their phones.

"I call it the zombie walk, and unfortunately it can lead to students making some poor choices on social media with Instagram or Facebook Live," he told the newspaper.

The plan is still a pilot program, and the school is looking to find out how blocking social media can change student behavior. Just don't be disappointed when you find out students are still distracted, even without Facebook and Twitter.

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