Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Social Networking Goes to School"

"Educators are integrating Facebook, Ning, and other sites into K-12 life despite concerns about privacy and behavior"

I was sent an article, "Social Networking Goes to School" written by Michelle R. Davis in Education Week that I wanted to share with you (Thanks Claire!). I think the article does a good job explaining some of the pros and cons that educators face when using social networking.

Whether you use Facebook, Twitter, Ning, Second Life, Voice Thread, Skype, blogs, wikis, etc. there are many projects that you can create for students. You also have other options for the use of social media if you have policies that prevent its use with students. My first thoughts are that social media is a great communication tool for interacting with parents and other interested parties and it can also be used in a variety of ways for professional development.

As the article states,
Just a few years ago, social networking meant little more to educators than the headache of determining whether to penalize students for inappropriate activities captured on Facebook or MySpace. Now, teachers and students have a vast array of social-networking sites and tools—from Ning to VoiceThread and Second Life—to draw on for such serious uses as professional development and project collaboration. Educators who support using social networking for education say it has become so ubiquitous for students—who start using sites like Webkinz and Club Penguin when they are in elementary school—that it just makes sense to engage them this way.
Though teachers and students are now pushing learning beyond the borders of the classroom through social networking, that move also comes with hurdles, including the fact that many schools still block access to such sites within their walls. School officials must also confront the uncertainties and questions surrounding privacy issues, proper management, and cyber security when they open their doors to social-networking sites.
But it’s a world that some educators are realizing students feel at home in and is unlikely to disappear. A study by the Washington-based Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project released early this year found that 73 percent of Americans ages 12 to 17 now use social-networking websites, up from 55 percent in 2006.
(Click here to read the full article.)
Believe me when I say that I fully understand the obstacles you face where the use of social media is concerned, i.e. local policy, state law and federal laws such as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA), which seeks to protect children’s privacy and bars most children under 13 from participating in many websites, the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which requires schools to provide Internet filtering to prevent access by students to offensive content over the Internet, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which protects the privacy of student information.

But I also understand how technology continues to change our world and our students live in this world. They must be taught, not only how to safely and effectively use these tools, but how to use them in a creative manner. The world is now, more than ever, at your finger tips.
As I have stated before, I believe we have recently gone through the age of data collection and we are entering a new age of how to analyze and use the data that we have accumulated.  Our students must be prepared to observe and analyze the data, formulate a hypothesis, test their hypothesis, analyze data and draw a conclusion, and report the results (was the hypothesis correct?). I know, it's the scientific method, but it still applies to almost all that we do. I believe that it's very important to train our students to question and to think for themselves. Discovery is what makes life fun!
I hope you will read the article and let me know your thoughts on the use of social media and provide examples of how you have incorprated it into your instruction.

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