Teachers will be allowed to play YouTube videos in Omaha Public Schools classrooms under a policy change that teachers say was long overdue.

OPS spokesman Dave Patton said schools will also be allowed to set up Facebook pages and communicate with parents via Twitter.

Nebraska's largest public school district is a latecomer to such use.

Papillion-La Vista has allowed YouTube in the classroom for five years and Facebook for four years.

Millard Public Schools adopted a policy last year letting teachers set up school-related Facebook pages or make use of other social media, such as Twitter.

The Council Bluffs Community Schools have allowed Facebook for several years, and the district does not restrict teacher access to potential teaching aids online.

Patton said OPS officials implemented a new Internet filter and access protocol that cleared the way for teachers to use YouTube in their lessons.

“So, now teachers, if there's an instructional video on YouTube or TeacherTube that helps them with a marching band lesson or a lab in science or how to dribble a basketball the right way, now they can show that to the kids,” Patton said.

Interactive white boards are capable of playing videos in the classrooms.

The district's former system for filtering out inappropriate Internet traffic was “kind of an all or nothing type of thing,” Patton said.

District officials are confident that with the new system teachers will get access without letting students view something inappropriate, he said.

Facebook and Twitter will be allowed as a communication tool for schools, athletic teams and extracurricular activities, Patton said.

“There's so many people on Facebook and Twitter these days, it's a way to communicate to our parents, anybody who wants to follow it.”

OPS started its own Facebook page last year and experienced some “growing pains” in learning how to manage it, he said.

Patton said district guidelines make it clear to teachers that social media must be used for school business and not for getting chummy with students or making disparaging remarks that could get teachers into trouble.

Other districts have managed to avoid those sorts of problems, he said.

“We're kind of the last ones in the metro area to adopt it,” Patton said. “Papillion-La Vista and Millard and everybody else have been doing this for a couple of years. And we haven't seen that happen there. And so I don't see why we would be any different from them.”

Chris Proulx, president of the Omaha teachers union, welcomed the change, saying it was overdue.

Proulx said he's eager to see how teachers make use of YouTube.

One concern, he said, is that YouTube videos sometimes come with advertisements attached. Teachers may not be able to control the content of those ads, which typically play before the video, he said.

In some cases, those ads could be for alcohol or the latest Hollywood movie, so teachers will have to be alert, he said. The ads can change without notice, he said.

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