Social-networking sites confound schools

An article from eSchool News Online from November 20 (just catching up on my reading) reports on a survey that found:

More than three years after social-networking web sites such as MySpace and Facebook first began cropping up online, school leaders still struggle with how to set policies regarding the use of such sites both inside and outside of school–and many school systems lack these policies altogether, according to a recent survey.

Two things occured to me when I read this fairly interesting article:

1. In schools, we still seem to favour filtering and blocking things in school that are a normal part of students’ lives outside of school, rather than actually teach kids to become literate and savvy users of new and emerging media. Where’s media literacy?

2. We really need to take a look at what underscores “acceptable” use in “acceptable use policies.” I think AUPs are often put in place to protect schools from angry, ignorant or frightened parents, as much as they are to actually protect kids.

Make that three things:

3. Social software isn’t something to be feared. It may go a long way to actually engage kids in schools and life–if we can control our rich tradition and apparently natural instincts to make schools safe sanctuaries by insulating them from the world just outside their walls.

A teacher approached me following a talk I recently gave and said something like, “Jeez, don’t tell all of them about YouTube. We’ve been doing our best to keep it out of our school. We don’t want our teachers and students to even know about it.” Hmmm…. too late.


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