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Farmington schools issue first app ban for iPads

The Farmington School District has banned an app from students' iPads for the first time since putting the devices in the hands of every student earlier this year.

The app Snapchat now tops the list of programs students are restricted from using on their school-issued iPads. Notice of the restriction went out April 3, letting parents and students know the app had to be removed by Monday, April 8.

District 192 technology education coordinator Charles Duarte said the app was restricted because it has no educational value, and was being abused in classes.

Launched in 2011, Snapchat is a photo-sharing app that is popular among teens. It allows the user to take a picture and send it to friends. The recipient opens the image, views it, but then the photo disappears within 10 seconds.

"It has mostly been a case of kids making funny faces and sending them to each other," Duarte said, "but it has caused some distraction on the receiving end. After that, we made the decision to take it out."

Even the creators of Snapchat acknowledge the app has little use in the classroom. According to its website, over 50 million "snaps" are recorded every day.

"To get a better sense of how people were using Snapchat and what we could do to make it better, we reached out to some of our users. We were thrilled to hear that most of them were high school students who were using Snapchat as a new way to pass notes in class -- behind-the-back photos of teachers and funny faces were sent back and forth throughout the day. Server data supported this and we saw peaks of activity during the school day and dips on the weekends," Evan Spiegel, co-creator of Snapchat, wrote in a 2012 blog post.

That peak of activity during the school day is what District 192 plans to cut off, at least on the district-owned iPads, by restricting Snapchat.

School administrators are able to track what apps kids download on the district-issued iPads through a districtwide mobile device management system. While that means they can see what students are putting on their iPads, the management system does not allow them to look at personal files like the camera, email and other social media.

The management system also allows the school district to shut down certain functions of the iPads, if necessary.

With that in mind, students and parents were informed students would lose access to their iPad's camera function, access to Safari -- the main web browser used in Farmington schools -- and the app store if they did not have Snapchat removed from their iPads by Monday.

Students received messages on their iPads, and parents received emails. The information was also shared on several Facebook pages connected to the district.

"We wanted to make sure to give fair warning of what would take place. That way, it's not a surprise if they lose that functionality," Duarte said.

This is the first time District 192 has had to restrict an app, but it probably will not be the last. Duarte works with teachers, parents, and administrators to gauge the usefulness and effectiveness of certain apps in the classroom. When apps like Snapchat come along, Duarte expects the school district to react accordingly.

"If there was some educational value to (Snapchat) that we could determine, it would be likely we wouldn't have made that choice. But there are other apps out there that fulfill the same function without deleting the photo within a certain time frame on the other end. When they use apps like that, knowing it will exist on the other end, it's likely they will make a better choice," Duarte said.

For the most part, Duarte added, Farmington students have been responsible with the content and care they've used with the iPads.

"Ultimately, we're trying to work with the students so they learn to make appropriate choices, so they become strong digital citizens. For the most part, kids are making good choices. We want to make sure we're honoring that, and responding to that, just as much as when a student makes a poor choice," Duarte said.

The restriction does not extend to student-owned devices. That is between the student and his or her parents.

If parents are interested to learn more about Snapchat, a "parent guide" is available on the app's website,, under Frequently Asked Questions, or by going to

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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