[This is cross-posted from my posting on the Democracy Movement Blog.]
This just in from AL Direct, a free electronic newsletter e-mailed every Wednesday to personal members of the American Library Association.
According to eSchool News…
“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.”
At least half of school systems in a recent poll do not have policies to address students’ use of MySpace, Facebook, and other such sites. Only 35% of the educators, administrators, and school board members who registered for the National School Boards Association’s annual Technology + Learning (T+L) Conference and responded to a survey given before the event was held in Dallas said their districts had policies to address the use of social-networking sites like MySpace and Facebook by their students. Half said their districts had no such policies, and 15% weren’t sure.
Most of the talk about how to protect students from the pitfalls of social networking software and online predators focuses on using firewalls or filtering software to block student access.The Deleting Online Predators Act (aka “DOPA” which provides critics with lots of linguistic twists) would prohibit schools and libraries from providing access to these types of websites to minors. But by restricting access, we miss the opportunity to prepare our students for the virtual world that they will undoubtedly inhabit…that they are already inhabiting.
“Jim Hirsch, associate superintendent for technology at the Plano Independent School District in Texas, said social-networking web sites can help connect students in the United States to their peers in other countries, providing invaluable lessons in foreign cultures.” Do we take away the opportunities to interact with other young people from other countries at a time when international relations are key to our own security or do we help students learn appropriate online behaviors?
Do we ban students from virtual worlds where they can do research in the Reuter’s building, examine space crafts developed by NASA, ask questions of historical figures, and participate in book discussions with the authors? Or do we find ways to weave these learning opportunities into our traditional educational setting?
Can we perhaps direct our young people to explore creative ways to use technology to strengthen our democracy and open up more opportunities for people to participate? Today, about a dozen people from Texas Forums and the National Issues Forums network met in our virtual Opal Online room to talk about how we can use technology more effectively to build our networks, sustain our efforts and share resources. Only two people in that discussion were under thirty-five. While the rest of us are pretty hip for old folks, I’d love to put a team of high schoolers on a research mission to develop projects using social networking practices to address some of the challenges we face in this country. After all, they’re going to be inheriting lots of those challenges. Let’s get them started on them now rather than later and let’s guide them to use these new tools responsibly to craft solutions we never imagined.
National School Boards Association
Consortium for School Networking
National Cyber Security Alliance
Archive of online discussion: “Postings, Protection, and Policies: What School Leaders Need to Know About Online Teen Hangouts”