Steven Cohen e-mailed me this link to a story in the Rutland (VT) Herald about a jr/sr high school principal who has banned access to Myspace.com, a blogging site. The reason? Well aside from legitimate concerns about kids publishing personal information, the prinicpal says blogging is not an educational use of computers.
Um, I beg to differ. And if anything, this seems to be what they call a TEACHABLE MOMENT. Let’s see…we have some kids who are doing what tens of thousands of other kids are doing out there, writing about their lives in a public space. Good for the school for monitoring what the kids are doing there and realizing they aren’t necessarily being smart in the way they are doing it. Bad for the school for thinking that denying access will teach them the lesson they need to learn.
Instead, the principal urges parents to check history files and cookies on the computers that their children are using. Oy. This reminds me of Seymour Pappert last week at CoSN when he was talking about the initial reaction of parents in Maine when they announced the 1 to 1 laptop initiative. Many of them said things along the lines of “they’re just going to go to porn sites and play games.” Pappert, who was one of the major players in the project, responded by saying “But that has nothing to do with giving them the technology. What is it about your children that would make you think they would do that?” Amen.
It’s easy to check the history and cookies. It’s easy to ban sites that kids are going to find ways to access anyway. What’s hard is modeling and teaching appropriate use. That is the only way we’re going to help kids protect themselves from the dark side of the Internet.
This is just another example of a problem in public education that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. That problem is the constant surveillance and time domination that is present in the lives of children.
Yes, there is such a thing as protecting the innocent and looking out for the well-being of children, but there is also such a thing as so dominating their every decision that they never learn how to sort out problems (and themselves) for themselves.
I have just recently written a short essay about this very problem over at my weblog. I encourage you to give it a read if you get the chance, and to let me know what you think.
Thanks for posting this, and reminding educators that students need to be shown through modeling how to direct oneself in a responsible community.
By the way, thanks to this school’s own website, I now have directions to the school and to all of its sporting events.
Kevin Jarrett says
Howaya? Long time no. Hope all is well.
Hate to do this to ya man but I’ve got to agree this principal did the right thing.
See, myspace.com is NOT blogger.com or motime.com or any similar pure-blogging service; it is more of a “social networking” type of site where high school kids post pix, personal information, and apparently quite often, marginally objectionable material. They chat with other Myspace members, link to their pages, etc.
How do I know? Just last week, a family member happened to contact me after she discovered her child was using this service … and saw the page they had created … and became very concerned … but not because the child was bloging. They hadn’t even set up the blog option! They did however post pix and tons of personal info, and link (in this case) to some pretty racy commentary, laced with profanities. A small family crisis ensued and they are still sorting out the situation apparently. 🙁
My point is this: I agree that modeling and teaching appropriate use of blogs is totally key … however, sites like this that meld quasi-adult networking with blog technology are going to cause problems in a school setting.
First and foremost, parents need to speak with their kids about the dangers of posting this information. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how a sexual predator could utilize these types of services to find victims.
So again, I agree with what was done, because I don’t think the issue was blogging per se. I suspect the non-blogging activity is what caused the principal to act, and I think he did the right thing.
Will R. says
The issue was blogging, or at least the misunderstanding of what blogging is. I think what I’m most upset about is that he didn’t make the same distinctions you do about what that site is all about. He lumped it all into a “blogging has no educational value” bucket and, at least from what I can tell, didn’t do much in terms of helping kids understand the difference. And I have to say, that if we’re going to block that site, then we better start blocking any site where kids can interact and publish content. To me, keeping them away while they’re here at school will do nothing to help students understand why this is a problem. They’ll just wait until school is over to do it when they are less supervised.
It’s a toughie, no doubt, but we need to educate in real world ways, not simply pretend that those problems will go away if we block access.
Alfred Thompson says
No the issue for the principal was not blogging. The principal insists that he was misquoted and that it was not blogging activity that he was worried about. In fact he says he supports blogging. Rather it was the same kind of concerns that Kevin expressed that caused him to block the site. You say “from what I can tell” but frankly if all you have to go on is that news article you’ve got very little to make a judgement. In fact that is a common problem for all educators – people are jumping all over teachers and administrators without having access to all of the same information that a decision was based on.
Will R. says
Thanks for your thoughts. If you could send me some links to articles where the principal says he was misquoted, I would really appreciate it. I would like nothing more than to take it all back, because I sincerely want principals and other administrators to make those distinctions. If I jumped the gun, I want to set it straight.