Breaking Down the Walls

In many schools there is software to block students and professionals alike from playing games, going on social media sites, or potentially offensive sites.  These software are to monitor student and staff usage of internet.  However, the demands of education are changing.  We need to prepare students for a job market that doesn’t yet exist.  In order to do this effective we must teach them to use all the tools of today for we don’t know what the tools of tomorrow hold.  History tells us however that knowing how to use current technology will make the transition to the utilization of future technologies smoother.

According to an article by Amanda Lenhart and Mary Maden, entitled ” Social Networking Websites and Teens,” More than half of all online American youths age 12-17 use online social networking sites.”  Yet many school districts block educators from using these sites to further education and professional development.  Should all students at every grade level have full access to games and social networking, probably not.  However, there needs to be some sort of gradual release that occurs to further education.  This release should at least start with educators.  If the teaching staff doesn’t use social networking sites to their fullest capacity for professional development and networking among educators then we can’t expect them to teach our youth about how to do the same.

Personally, I do not believe that elementary aged students need to use social networking sites to display their knowledge.  However, I do believe that students transitioning to middle school could use Skype as a whole class activity to talk to an expert in their filed of study or to have a closed class blog such as kidblog to have online discussion surrounding literature, historic literature, or a science experiment.  Having a closed blog where there is teacher approval of blogs posted by students is key in initially teaching students to use a site for educational purposes.  Exposing students to these models is particularly important in creating global communicators that have collaborative skills and have success in project-based activities ((Reed, 2007).

As students move towards high school incorporating the use of Facebook has it’s merits.  In the fact that this site in my experience has been students social networking site of choice.  With that said, there is little a teacher can do to limit or monitor all  interactions a particular student is having with others.  If a classroom site has friends of students what ever the students post could be visible on the classroom feed.  This isn’t necessarily the intention of the instructor, it is just the way in which the platform operates.  However, I wonder if homework was posted to Facebook with today’s media savvy connect students and parents if there would be less missing work, higher grades, and better communication among the parties involved.

Any district looking to lower or eliminate the walls that protect and bind us in an educational institution would certainly need to have policies in place that address appropriate use in social networking areas prior to giving complete access.  In addition, there would need to be training for staff about what is available so staff can judiciously chose the appropriate social networking to enhance their class objectives.

As a classroom teacher this is a topic I wrestle with.  I am not certain that I am ready to breakdown the wall for social networking in schools.  I have seen the impact that the use of these sites has on student bullying and the amount of administrative time it takes to investigate these instances is staggering.  I would worry that by breaking down the walls we are opening Pandora box in the classroom if the appropriate safeguards are not in place.

Lenhart, A. (2007, January 7). Pew internet. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2007/Social-Networking-Websites-and-Teens.aspx

Reed, J. (2007, September 28). Global collaboration and learning [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2007/09/global-collaboration-and-learning

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2 thoughts on “Breaking Down the Walls

  1. Interesting thoughts about kids transitioning from school to school, and along with that transition, being introduced to more technology that is age-appropriate.
    I tried using Facebook last year with my German classes and initially it seemed to perform the goals I had wanted: status updates on my end reminded students of upcoming assignments and assessments, very little missing work, and even parents seemed impressed I was using this outlet to connect with students. One problem however, was that the administration was not on my side, so by the end of the 1st semester, I had to ditch the project. As a result (at least in my mind), assignments started coming in late, more students complained of not knowing when tests were coming, etc…
    In any case, I like your ideas!

  2. I do not see a link to your VoiceThread. Is that available somewhere else for us to see? You have some very valid concerns with social networking in the classroom. Facebook, Twitter and other sites have created many issues with bullying and safety that must be addressed. I read from your blog that you feel that there is no benefit to using social networking in the elementary school. What about using a blog in the classroom for students to share their thoughts? Blogs are a great way to let every student share their opinion with out the fear of speaking out in class. There are many blogs that can be closed to class members only and not available to anyone else. Additionally, there are sites like edmodo.com that is very similar to Facebook, but it is for educational interaction only. Other sites such as My Big Campus allow for interaction between students that is monitored for appropriate content. In my opinion, we need to make sure that we are using our professional judgement as educators to ensure that student safety is our top priority.

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