Greenwich High gets a new ‘road’ to the Internet

Greenwich High School has opened its on-campus Internet network to social media. The change resulted from the district moving the Hillside Road campus last month to its own “uplink” for Internet access, allowing faster online access at Greenwich High.

An uplink can be described as a road to the Internet. Greenwich High previously shared the same route as the district’s three middle schools and 11 elementary schools. That shared uplink uses a filtering system that blocks all social media access from the schools’ wired and wireless Internet connections.

As a result of the independent uplink, the district could create a separate filtering framework for the high school, while still blocking social-media access in the middle and elementary schools. Greenwich High’s new filtering system allows students to access major social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. That new filtering structure also allowed for the targeted blocking of the controversial social-media app Yik Yak.

Greenwich High students could already get on-campus social media access before the school’s move to the new uplink by using their phones’ cellular networks, which operate outside the district’s control. In practice, though, students and staff are well aware of the spotty cellular coverage at Greenwich High.

“People have had to rely on us for Internet access at GHS, as evidenced by the thousands of simultaneous phone internet connections to the wireless network that we find at any moment of the school day,” said Phillip Dunn, the district’s director of digital learning and technology. “We find thousands of phones connecting to our wireless network during school hours. The cellular networks’ signals don’t penetrate [the building] that well at the high school.”

A number of student government leaders praised the decision to allow social-media access.

“We have class Facebook groups that we use to keep track of upcoming assignments and help each other with studying,” said Henry Ricciardi, senior class president. “YouTube has become an increasingly powerful educational resource, with channels like KhanAcademy acting as another source of instruction. Teachers also use these sites in class to show applications of events we are studying or further elaborate on a lesson in class.”

Elias Frank, senior class vice president, cited his economics teacher’s creation of a class Facebook group.

“He has put NPR sound bites up, news articles to check out, quiz reminders and posted homework to it,” Frank said. “Because Facebook is so reliable, it’s always up, and I get notifications sent to my phone when he makes changes, so I can immediately get to work.”

Paul Schott