Friday, August 14, 2009

School and Social Networking

On one of the listservs I am on I received this the other day:

“I am on a mission to find out which, if any, school districts allow student access to any or all of the following during school hours: 1. Facebook or any other social networking site 2. Twitter 3. YouTube Also, do you provide student email accounts either on your domain or through a service like Gaggle. Thanks for your input!”

More and more schools are exploring the possibility of using these types of media tools for educational purposes. I was however amazed and somewhat saddened to see the responses from directors of technology that came back with what struck me as almost emphatic NO’s for the response. I could almost hear “We are not allowing that on MY network.”

A clean working network is a great thing don’t get me wrong, but what will it take for some folks to see the benefit of the tools that are out there and available being used for instructional purposes? I also know that nothing beats great teaching. However, are we using our great teachers to connect with our students where they are and in a way that they communicate or are we merely breaking their spirits to conform to our standards? I also know that we need to leverage what we do with what is sustainable. What if one of these free tools that we sink time and energy into goes away? We have to make sure that we do not lose more time with that happening. I also know that we don't need to use "tools" just so we are able to say we are using tools.

I would imagine that if we were to ask those same directors of technology if sites like Delicious and Diigo were open or whether Wikispaces, Wetpaint or PBworks were available for collaboration the answer would probably be a NO as well. I thought the whole idea with education was just that education. How do we show proper use of tools and ethical use of sites and the Internet as well as collaborative ways for students to work with others and learn from others if we don’t allow them to experience things through the virtual worlds that exists via the Internet? Our faculty members also need to have the opportunities to learn in educational settings because I can imagine that most have a social networking site and before long we will hear, if we haven’t already, about someone getting in trouble for what they have posted because they don’t use them properly. Is it the students we are afraid of or the adults?

At our place we have opened up Facebook, Twitter and are exploring the best options for YouTube. We also have access to Discovery Streaming, Diigo, Delicious, Wetpaint, Wikispaces, TeacherTube, and we are even allowing our students to bring their own connectivity as we have gone wireless on our campus. Do I expect there to be some difficulties, sure I do. But I work at a school where we educate and the way we educate is not just what is contained in the curriculum. We educate the whole person in as many ways as possible. What I also expect more of are the chances for our students, as well as our teachers to do their best to shift the way they are taught as well as the way we teach and sometimes there needs to be a little push. My hope with a more open network is for the students to help with that push and then we get the benefit of teaching the ethical use as well as proper modeling of what is truly available out there to help our students prepare for their future.

I feel that if we truly believe in what we are doing we have to make strides in the direction of being more open with our students, with our parents and with our networks. Sometimes it is hard to let go, yes it can be a scary world out there, yes I want to protect my students and I do everything possible to make that happen, and yes we do teach online safety across the board, but I also want to share what is available, open the eyes of my students and teachers to all the possibilities and hopefully help to make them successful for their future.


Anonymous said...

Yes. Yes. And Yes. The risk is there, true, but it is the world our students are growing into. If we do not address this world, it is likely to be overlooked in important ways, over-utilized in unimportant ways, and even more dangerous because no one helped children see the dangers in the first place. The position of auto-shut down that most schools and districts have acquired is a sad state of affairs. Thank you for this blog.

missraleigh said...

Timely article as we head back to school, planning to open the doors to Web 2.0 technology with our students. Obviously one of our goals is to help them learn how to use it responsibly and safely. I had been feeling very comfortable with our school's exploration into facebook and twitter and future plans until I got a friend request from one of our in-coming 7th graders. My immediate reaction was that that crossed a line we didn't want to get into, and that it would blur the line between home and school too much. Although I don't really want to be in his business - that of our younger alums are interesting enough as it is, and there might be the issue of potential liability if inappropriate content is posted on his site, but now that I have been thinking more about it, I wondered if perhaps I am missing an opportunity. Would love to hear your thoughts.

Gary said...

Congrats. I have long believed that if you shouldn't have Internet access if it's unusable.

My colleague and frequent collaborator, Ron Canuel's district in Quebec has 6,000 Mac laptops in the hands of 3rd through 12th graders. The network is completely unfiltered. His rationale?

Filtering the network gives adults (teachers and parents) a false sense of security and allows them to abdicate their responsibilities.

In 2002, I wrote "Why Teachers Don't Use Computers," and shared related thoughts -

Two thoughts:

1) When a kid messes-up, you may not punish them by taking away their access or computer use. This is the equivalent of depriving them of an education, especially when you tell the community that technology is essential for a modern education.

2) It is entirely reasonable to do everything in your power to protect children. It is completely unreasonable to protect computers from children.

Wm Chamberlain said...

I really don't believe it is in our best interest to block access to tools our students can use. Why should it be about locking down the network, or protecting our students, or even privacy concerns? We can deal with those issues in the classroom.

Does anyone besides me think it ironic that teachers are considered responsible enough to be alone in a classroom with 20-30 students for 170+ days, but we are still not considered responsible enough to show an appropriate youtube video?

Paul R. Wood said...

Anonymous, I appreciate your inoput and I thank you for coming by to view this post. It is important for all of us to help make the changes in our schools. We are here to educate. Have a good year.


Paul R. Wood said...

That one is a little different situation. I think if we are going to model with our students proper use, then I see no problem with a student wanting to friend us and us accepting that friend request. I see it similar to what someone said one day - "If we were out shopping and a student approached us to say hi, would we totally ignore them?" I would think not. I believe we would be cordial and talk with them and move on. My only question in this situation is what is the age of the student and what is the term of service stipulation for the service this 7th grader is using? Also is it the school facebook account or your personal one? If the child is of acceptable age and with parental permission then hopefully the parents are fully aware. In cases similar to this one I have actually said something to the parent and they are fine with it. Have a good year.


Paul R. Wood said...


I always appreciate your thoughts and insights. We continue to move in a manner to fully work with our students. I will continue ot seek your ideas and thoughts as I do value them greatly. Thanks for coming by.


Paul R. Wood said...

Wm Chamberlin,

You ask a great question and it is so true. Unfortunately a few have created many problems for all of us. We must hoewever keep working and fighting for the good of our students and their future.

Thanks for your input.