Seems that the Orange County DOE, overseer of the education of half a million students and teachers, has decided to pull the plug on not just MySpace but all blogspot blogs as well. I got an e-mail this morning from a teacher out there who didn’t want to be identified but who did suggest that there were hundreds of teachers using Blogger to communicate and collaborate with kids and students, and now they’re basically blog toast.
Here’s what I want to know. Did anyone in Orange County take the time to investigate the curricular and pedagogical implications of this? Doubtful. Blogs are bad. Scary. Unsafe. (I only had five hours of sleep last night after a horrible trip back from Chicago so please excuse my cynicism.)
But is anyone surprised?
During our conversation yesterday, David Warlick said that we need to come up with kid safe blogging tools, and I agree to a point. I mean blogspot is already kid safe IF the kid knows what he’s doing and has a teacher or a parent mentoring him through it. I’m just wondering if pretty soon the tool will be villified to the point where no one will want to pick it up no matter how safe it is.
Would love to hear from some bloggy teachers in California…
Mark Ahlness says
I’m a bloggy teacher in Washington. As of the first of the year, Seattle schools have blocked blogspot.com domains. Some other districts around here have not – yet. I’m a grateful user of David Warlick’s tool. Also using blogger to host a few things – one being my school’s PTA site – which I had to go after an exemption for to get it visible within our district.
MySpace? I don’t want to get into an argument on that one and end up defending myspace for school use. It’s a losing proposition for schools. If I were making decisions for a district, it would be blogger, yes – myspace, no. Unfortunately, as you suggest, the educational implications are not investigated. Decisions are made by tech folk, not educators – at least where I’m from.
But my third graders are hot on the blogging trail: http://roomtwelve.com They are making enormous strides, going places I had never dreamed of. Next week I host a “Family Internet Night” in the classroom to get their parents on board. – Mark
liz ditz says
Somehow the penny didn’t drop that the “Orange County” and the latest MySpace dustup were connected. I’ve been poking around the Orange County DOE site but haven’t been able to find anything like a position statement on student computer use.
And blocking MySpace from school computers does about zero to reduce the kind of student misbehavior as happened at Tewinkle Middle School (the Orange County school who suspended 20 kids for viewing (or being in the friends’ list) of a student who posted heinous comments (including violent threats) about a classmate.
The full story is here:
It seems from the more detailed story in the Daily Pilot that the kids were suspended first and details came out later. Details like the superintendent’s understanding that the kids could have joined the group before the heinous comments were made.
Craig Nansen says
We adopted the i-Safe <http://www.isafe.org/> curriculum several years ago, and each year every student is exposed to it’s curriculum throughout the year. Often this is done in “teachable moments” rather than straight curriculum for one or two weeks. We also use other internet safety resources.
This January, before the national coverage of MySpace.com, we had an outside presenter talk about i-Safe to our entire staff. When discussing MySpace the presenter had to use examples of students from other schools because she couldn’t find any bad examples from students in our district. It is important to cover Internet safety with students each and every year, and this shows it has been effective in our district.
A comment to Mark about his statement “Decisions are made by tech folk, not educators – at least where I’m from.” In our district our tech folk are educators – 9 of 13 full time staff members are former classroom teachers and most have masters degrees. We try to make decisions based on what is best for kids.
We support student blogs on our own server, using WordPress. We support classroom blogs through School Center, our solution for classroom web pages. http://www.schoolcenter.com/
liz ditz says
Thanks Craig for the isafe link.
With the online frenzy about !!the dangers of myspace!! it is good to hear that it isn’t exactly the avian influenza. At my daughter’s school (private, 6-12), it is popular but not a fad, so to speak. Example–much higher rate of posting when the school is out of session (well, d’oh! as Homer would say) — the kids get plenty of f2f time.
Yet more on why OC DOE might have slammed the door shut (again from the Pilot)
” It was shock and awe at the recent Newport Harbor PTA meeting where parents watched Newport Beach police Officer Andi Querry show local student blogs. She said parents must be vigilant about oversight and take parenting responsibilities seriously. Parents received a pamphlet called “Teen Safety” by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. A parent Internet safety class will be held March 22 at the Newport Beach Central Library.
Forbidding MySpace is the best answer, but we all know that just makes kids want to sneak around like we used to do. There are programs that will lock it out altogether.”
Link to article:
and here’s the reasoned editorial:
It is a tool, like any other — there has been TV, radio, video games, mobile phones and text messaging. Like any other tool, the Internet has its good and bad sides. And like every time a new tool has taken up by generations of kids before, it is up to parents to learn about it and know what their children are up to, which can be a daunting task if they are not nearly as Internet savvy as their children. And probably they aren’t.
Parents, of course, will have to decide for themselves how best to handle the Internet and the rest of life’s minefield that makes parenting more than a full-time job. Remaining ignorant, though, is not an option.
Jeff Utecht says
Here’s a scary thought: If the OC DOE decides to block Wikipedia because the content can’t be trusted and Google News because students might see something that offends them then they will be on par with the Chinese government. OUCH!
Chris Best says
This is an interesting topic to watch for me, as I am in the process of setting up a blogging exercise for my Year Seven classnext term. A couple of links here for me to take a closer look at too.
Robert Paterson says
I read the argument I will posit somewhere else – it’s not mine but I agree with it whole heartedly.
The web is a place that will be as important to people as the real world. Like the real world it has its own perils. If kids are shielded from it – how will they learn to get street smart.
We are fixated on fear. Parents today exclude kids from both the real world and now the virtual – how does this help them?
What are the risks? Merely banning access only shifts the problem to a later date.
I am a big proponent of schools and districts hosting their own web services, whether for blogging, course web pages, forum discussions, or photo sharing. Districts take ownership of and maintain mail and file services. Should they not also maintain instructionally-relevant web services? Blocking services denies responsibility for teaching kids appropriate use of new web technologies. Installing and integrating services embraces this responsibility.