Here’s the lead from a New York Post article today titled MySpace Invaders for City Students:
City public-school students better beware what they blog when classes resume in September.
A revised draft version of the city Department of Education discipline code calls for harsh punishments – including expulsion – forstudents who post “libelous or defamatory material or literature” on the Internet.
Kindergartners to fifth-graders who disparage their teachers, principals or fellow students on the Web could face a finger-wagging parent conference or be suspended for up to 90 days, according to theproposed discipline code.
For students in sixth grade through high school, derogatory online postings would warrant an automatic suspension and could necessitate expulsion under the new rules.
Nowhere in the article does it mention anything about teaching kids appropriate and acceptable use, which doesn’t mean that they’re not doing that, but it makes you wonder. And this approach is just doomed to failure. It’s a “deal with it” moment where the city is choosing to do just the opposite.
Now I know I don’t have to say this, but I’m going to anyway. Welcome to the new world. Resistance is futile. Education is the only answer.
I just spent four fabulous mind altering days at the National Writing Project’s Tech Matters in Chico, California, an advanced institute for technology liaisons across the US. Your book was a fantastic read that I am reading again, now that I have the new context in which to integrate the information. “Teaching kids appropriate and acceptable use” of internet tools (such as blogs and wikis) is the answer. I beleive the resistance comes partially from the educators’ lack of knowledge of the positive potential the read/write web has for education. So my thoughts are that educating the educators is key. Events like the one I just attended is a huge step in this direction. It profoundly changed my own way of thinking related to internet use. I will now be an advocate of the tools described in Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. I’ve even created my own first blog for the Mobile Bay Writing Project. Yes I agree, education is the answer. Paige (MBWP.blogspot.com)
Absolutely believable. So if we don’t like it, don’t understand it, CAN’T CONTROL IT, we should ban it? Are these the same people who thought up prohibition? Yep, that was effective too. This is why we need you TEACHING us so that we can turn this around.
As a parent, educator, and a district technology leader, I struggle to balance all of the points of view surrounding myspace and other social networking sites. I agree that education is the answer, but how do we as educators respond to community concerns about the content on these sites while we teach our own children as well as our community’s children about appropriate and acceptable use? Our community funds technology through a local mill levy tax, do we ignore their cries to restrict access to myspace from school computers?
I view content on myspace and some is creative, thought provoking, and entertaining. Some content seems inappropriate…some content is inappropriate according to my filters. Do I attempt to “protect” my children and students from this questionable content, or do I teach saftey and acceptable use? Somehow the answer to this question is yes; we do both, but in what proportions? Expelling students or conducting “finger-wagging” parent conferences are not sustainable solutions.
Dean’s comment made me think. “I view content on myspace and some is creative, thought provoking, and entertaining. Some content seems inappropriateâ€¦some content is inappropriate according to my filters.” Now just replace MySpace with the internet and I don’t think the conversation has really changed. MySpace is essentially a microcosm of the problems that are already on the internet. They are just conveniently packaged in one easy (compared to blocking the whole net) to block site. It’s really a farce that makes it seem like something is being done.
So, am I to understand that students are to be punished by the school for exercising their right to free speech- in a setting not remotely associated with said school?
If johnny is not a fan of the way one of his teachers handles the class, and decides to post his opinion on MySpace, what right does the school have to punish him?
It sounds to me that if children, regardless of age, are using non-school sites and non-school equipment to voices themselves ( yes, even if the message contains threats/violence/other objectionable material) then they are in fact exercising “appropriate and acceptable use”.
California Chris says
Agreed, all begins with education, but should end with personal responsibility! This lost value has been subverted by some schools, true, but mostly where it should be fostered is in the home. Students need to know that just because they may have negatives feelings pertaining to some other individuals, that does not mean they should publish them. The home and schools need to shoulder the responsibility for making sure students are aware of the consequences of inflamatory comments BEFORE THEY ARE PUBLISHED. That does not mean that the schools punish the students, but rather make sure that students understand fully their personal responsibility towards others.
Elaine Witkowski says
I think it is a dangerous precedent and a slippery slope to severely curtailing our freedom of speech in future generations. While it is wrong and illegal to yell fire in a theatre it is also “not” illegal to critize government officials. If we tell kids there is no way to correctly critize a teacher or principal what message are we sending them? This debate is a smaller aspect of the the debate about what newspapers should print. I am a technology teacher in a rural community. I try to explain to parents instead of just saying “no” that they should consider teaching kids how to use the tools correctly and MONITORING them. There are now cell phones that connect with myspace. Shouldn’t students be aware of the dangers before they go off to college without any warnings about online predators?
Unfortunately, I see it as a the same polarization that our country is experiencing. My County gives the parents the right to exempt their students from health education class on the basis that parents want the message that abstinance is all they should know. But for the $100,000 question how many students are never going to experiment just because their parents say it is wrong. Ignorance is never the right answer. Knowledge is power to make informed choices. OK I’m getting off my soap box now. It just frustrates me. Elaine
Scott Walters says
I hope the ACLU will step in. If the censorship of student newspapers was wrong, this is far, far worse.
Neil Rochelle says
I am a school superintendent and have been privilaged to attend 2 conferences with Will Richardson. I have faculty and staff excited about the instructional use of blogs and wikis. School districts in NY State have a mandated Code of Conduct to deal with discipline. If there are concerns regarding the abuse, address it through the code of conduct. If you cannot enforce it….that is a management problem, not a student problem. We need to be open-minded, do what we are meant to do:educate students on the positive and negative uses of the internet and not prohibit. I see this as only fueling curiosity, kids testing the system (as kids will do) and schools not doing their job.
Chris Champion says
I think Will quoted Marc Prensky: Students to teachers – “Engage us or Enrage Us”. Why not focus on ways we can encourage kids to use Blogs or Wikis or Podcasts or the next new thing to create positive information? Kids are going to blog, and I for one am going to make sure that I help them create their mark responsibly… and if they don’t like me, big deal. Inflamatory comments on a website can be turned into a teachable moment – why does the student feel that way? What can we do to “Engage” these kids?
I agree with Neal Rochelle’s comment, “If there are concerns regarding the abuse, address it through the code of conduct. If you cannot enforce itâ€¦.that is a management problem, not a student problem.” and with Chris’s comment on engaging kids. Many of these same arguments were used against CIPA, but it was enacted anyway with E-rate being the “enforcement club”. We now see the same thing happening with DOPA.
I have been teaching a course in a graduate degree Technology in Education program for a few years. On the first night of class, I pose the question “What is your favorite technology” as one of my icebreaker questions.” In a recent class, several of the students, who are teachers, responded saying that myspace was their favorite “new” technology because it allowed them to stay in touch with many of their friends. Now that comment made me take a step back and rethink about the value of social networking sites. Those teachers recognized the value of myspace as a communication tool. We should engage students in discussions about effective communication instead of trying to block everything.
Gary Stager says
I wrote about this issue a few months ago:
BTW: The “MySpace problem” is self-correcting as students learn that college admissions officers and future employers are checking MySpace profiles before they hire or admit candidates. Schools can put leave their holsters, badges and horses at home.
Check these out too:
Scott McLeod says
Good luck to the NYC Dept. of Education actually being able to survive a legal challenge to this policy. There have been 8 cases that have made it to court on the topic of off-campus student cyberspeech. All but one has gone against the school districts that have tried to discipline students for private cyberspeech written using off-campus, non-school technology and/or accounts. The courts have found routinely that the student speech in question didn’t reach sufficiently into the school environment to cause a “material and substantial disruption.” It will be interesting to see what happens with this policy.
Scott McLeod, J.D., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Educational Administration
Director, UCEA CASTLE
Attorney at Law