A recent article in School CIO magazine discusses the use of social networking in schools, highlights one school that is trying to find the middle ground with the blog and wiki abilities of Blackboard, and quotes another school as not going down the Read/Write Web road because none of the teachers have asked to. (Oy.)
â€œTogether, these two tools could give the student the ability to experiment with blogs and wikis in a safe, secure environment where they would receive feedback from their teacher and classmates that was monitored and attributable,â€ says Paul Regnier, community relations coordinator for Fairfax County Public Schools.
Um, yeah but…are they also being taught to navigate these environments outside of school so they have the tools to stay safe in the no so secure real world? Aside from the inherent problems with using Blackboard, the bigger problem is using it to avoid the difficult responsibilities we have to our students these days. Anyone know if Fairfax is not only banning MySpace but teaching it as well???
What Paul fails to mention is that we are just now starting to “assess” the Blackboard plug-ins (from Learning Objects) for blogs and wikis and, if history is any basis, that process will take at least a year.
I’ve written and rewritten an entry about our obsession with BB as the all-purpose web publishing tool but so far have not had the guts to post it. I hadn’t seen this article so maybe it and this post will push me to finish it.
As to your question about our system teaching MySpace, you must be kidding. 🙂 It’s certainly blocked but we get almost no support for any alternatives to use with those teachers who are interested in exploring with their kids.
The best we have are a few experiments using open source software on whatever machines are available to set up blogs and wikis within the firewall. My most successful project so far is with a few government classes at two high schools who blogged this fall about the election and are now on to a discussion about its meaning.
Mike Curtin says
I’m getting ready to talk to our superintendent about the “student safety” issues surrounding the web 2.0 technologies. I’m new in the district and there is a long-standing cultural bias there against posting any kind of information about the classes in the district (due to a nasty incident some years back). I’m wondering if the “walled garden” approach is better than nothing at all; by allowing students to publish to a small audience of other students, parents, and teachers – instead of just their teacher – are we gleaning some of the potential benefit of blogs? It’s a “more authentic” audience than they would be publishing to otherwise.
Eric Hoefler says
I teach in Prince William County, just south of Fairfax, and am just starting to really move into the “social web” with my students.
PWC has a similar approach: block any and all things “social.” (I can’t even access wordpress.ORG from school). So, in that kind of environment, there really is no way to effectively “teach safety” … at least, not practically, not authentically.
Because I refuse to deny my students access to and involvement with these technologies, though, I’ve built a website using Joomla that has social networking, wiki, blog, and forum capabilities. I agree the “walled garden” isn’t ideal, and doesn’t solve the problem of teaching real safety … but I also agree it IS better than nothing.
As they comment on each others’ profiles, put up info, edit the wiki, discuss on the forum, put up blog posts … I can respond to them (usually individually) about appropriate and inappropriate uses of the technology. And since I have students from all four years and various classes (including other teachers) using the site, there is at least SOME access to a broader audience.
We’ve just made the blog and wiki public, too … though as of yet, the students are using only the forum. We’re taking slow steps …
http://www.wshsbeyond.com if you’re interestd.
(And thanks for all your posts … I follow and appreciate all your work, the other blogs you’ve introduced me to, and the community of teachers you’ve been able to bring together).
Dean Shareski says
I’ve never been found of “walled gardens” whether it’s BB or think.com or Imbee. You’ve never really written about it. I’d be curious. I know many feel that these protected environments are great entry points and maybe even the only way schools should be dealing with social networks. I’m less enthusiastic about their potential given their artificial and closed natures. I don’t recall you writing about this specifically. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.
John Connell says
This is another indication that teachers and school CIOs etc still see the use of technology in education as primarily a technical issue. Within this frame of mind, the use of a walled garden makes perfect sense because it permits kids to learn how to use the technology. But, as others have said above, it does precisely nothing, unless heavily mediated by the teacher, for the social aspects of the technology.
It is odd that, when personal safety is rightly identified as an important issue to tackle, the preferred route is one that simply by-passes the issue completely.
David Warlick says
Dean (and Will),
I too believe that students need to engage in coversations outside of the classroom. It’s part of learning about the world.
That said, I have received numerous e-mails from teachers who are using Class Blogmeister, indicating that classmates reading other classmates’ blogs is enormously motivating.
I think that the point is having an authentic audience, and distance doesn’t seem to mean as much to our students as it does to us. They are accustomed to distant communications — which is all the more reason why they should be doing it within the context of classroom learning, learning how to do it safely.
— dave —
I agree David. Students (rightly or wrongly) often see their classroom and school lives as completely separate from their other ‘lives’; their life with their family, their sports team, their life with their real friends, and their online friends aren’t always connected, and to that end the containment of these technologies WITHIN school networks doesn’t seem to bother them that much, maybe even pleases most?
I’ve pushed for some of these technologies (esp. blogs and wikis) in school and the over-riding fear from admin (and it really is fear) is about student safety and security, and so rather than abandon the potential altogether, we are looking for ‘walled’ solutions that will help the learning, albeit in a less authentic way.
I teach High School and am currently taking a graduate class (Educational Technology) at MSU. One of my assignments is to post a blog. In preparation for an upcoming debate centered on issues of Read/Write Web, Web 2.0, and social networking in schools, I am requesting some assistance. After reading many of your posts, I was wondering, what are some negative reasons for allowing students to use Read/Write Web in the classroom? How can these negative issues be addressed productively to caution audiences that may choose to use tools like social networking?
Since I am at the beginning of my studies, I am looking for as many creditable sources as possible while learning how to effectively use Web 2.0 myself.
K Christopherson says
I’ve been trying to gather my thoughts about what I’ve been reading but there is just too much I want to say. As a new reader, I’ve been intrigued by the caustic and elitest comments of most of the people posting and writing. As a person completely connected, an administrator, teacher and parent, I’m really dissappointed at the view of those who don’t do “technology” as being second class citizens and not just teachers but anyone who doesn’t do technology. I feel so sorry for my grandmother who is one of the wisest persons I know because, from what I’ve read, her wisdom isn’t valid because it’s not on the web and can’t be given authentic feedback by “the one’s who know!” And who said the class system is dead! Really, it is completely alive and being perpetuated right here. Congratulations! Online conferences? Web 2.0 tools? Really, for those of us trying to raise kids, stay healthy, teach and complete all the other real-world activities that need to be done, what you talk about can only happen with those people who have an apptitude – some sort of innate ability and don’t need to spend countless hours trying to figure the system out. Kind of like those who can read and those who can’t. And yes, kids pick it up easier because they have more free time than we as adults have in order to experiment and play. I’ve read too many posts by too many “technologically advanced teachers” bemoaning the fact that teachers aren’t “wired and seeing the incredible uses of the internet, wikis, blogs, podcasts, uploads, downloads, garageband, iLife, BB, YouTube, etc.” How many of you are accomplished artists? Musicians? Herbaligists? Antrhopologists? Why not? Too busy blogging? Yeah, kids use technology more because they have more spare time to use it. And it gives them a power because few adults around them understand it the way they do. Will it be a big part of the future? Probably. Will these children be able to continue to afford to buy all the gadgets they have now? Maybe – but if they can’t, will the demand continue? Or, will they also become jealous of the “youth culture” which seems to be invading our society, making convential wisdom of “adults do know more than kids” being again swept aside and replaced by “adults wish they were kids and could play with the toys so lets join them and play.” Yes technology is a powerful tool and can be used to enhance learning but since when is the authentic feedback of “WT%, its sh#%.” of any use? Sorry but as an advocate for some incredibly gifted “Non-techies” teachers, it’s not the silver bullet. Oh, and here’s one I’ve tried. Have your children talk to their teachers instead of worrying about whether they have read their blog. You’d be surprised by the results:)
Dean Shareski says
My question would be at what age or in what increments if any, do we move out of a walled garden state to a wide open space of learning? I hear elementary teachers so concerned about the dangers but aren’t these dangers as much if not more of an issue with a teenager who would be more likely to engage in an potentially dangerous relationship?
With your tool blogmeister, teachers never have to worry about some of these issues because of the safety components. I know that there is motivation with hearing from other classes or parents but eventually and maybe it’s here already, our students will realize the ease and importance of connecting with the world.
I’m much more concerned with how we teach our young people appropriate use. When they leave the school myspace is still there. These “safe, secure environments” are not real. I believe there are ways we can teach them safety, they can explore and learn about global citizenship in a real world context.
Acceptable Use Policies and other safety precautions are much more about protecting schools and teachers than they are about protecting kids. When will we figure that out?
Tom Joad says
The internet revolution cannot be stopped. The questions today are how do we use the web in a constructive manner that is beneficial to communities, in the virtual and real world.
The MySpace effect is making young people more self focused, their space is what is important. It is yet to be determined if social networking and our virtual activities will have any collective benefit to our real world communities. Is it all about self?
Vicki Davis says
As a relative newcomer to this whole blogging, wiki and other new digital technologies what I have seen is a complete authentic transformation of my classroom into a more conducive learning environment.
Throughout history people have fought change but ultimately they die and change happens anyway. Is it tough to change? Yes. Is it difficult? Yes. Is it hard to do? yes. Does it take time? Yes.
And I don’t know of anyone who has free time – kids included.
I know you probably have great intentions but your comments smack of generational disdain. We have so much to learn from one another. And when I joined my students on the new internet — MY life became better.
There are a thousand excuses not to do things that are new. But all it takes is one excuse to make my decision — what works.
And you know what — if you honestly try new tools and it doesn’t work — then stop it. But until you’ve attempted it, don’t expect to understand it — I didn’t.
I talk to my students, I Im them, I skype with them, I wiki with them. And you know what? I talk to them more. Last night I had a student who was stressed and she skyped me for an hour while I’m at this conference. I call that more communication not less.
Don’t make the mistake that I made of putting off my entry into the world wide web 2.0 while I made excuses of all the reasons I couldn’t.
And I’ve never found the comments of Will to be caustic. I’ve found them to be quite insightful. I heard him speak at a conference today and he’s better in person!
Best wishes and if you need any help from a newbie, I’d love to help you. I think kids are wonderful and I love my students — I’ve found one way to relate and teach them better and my students love it.
It’s all about learning not comfort for us teachers.
My own school, a multicultural independent school (rather an anomaly in the South), is beginning an initiative to educate parents about Web 2.0 (and 3.0) technologies and the language they might acquire in order to talk with their children about it. There’ll be more later on that as we compile and share our experiences. K C, above, vented some rather typical frustrations I’ve heard, or at least sensed, over and over. We techies do need to be careful about alienating the majority of teachers, parents, and administrators who just don’t “get it” by striking a pose that we “do get it.” Heck, I don’t, and I think anyone who claims to might be missing the point. Ian Jukes, Will, and David Warlick are my touchstones here, and none of them really claims to get it–they’re just pointing out that “it” is happening and trying to fill in some blanks we might miss without their contributions. So don’t be too hard on them, KC, nor on yourself. Change is so inevitable that it’s cliche. I don’t think any of these folks really feel holier than anyone.
Dean has a great point, too. How about a standard curriculum of “Wise Use” or “Informed Use” policies to compliment the Appropriate/Acceptable Use ones that we currently so rely on?
K Christopherson says
Some very interesting comments and insights. Although it may seem it, I’m not new to this scene – I’ve been working with online technologies, classroom enhancement and other forms of technology integration since the late 80’s. As for generational disdain, I’m very comfortable trying new things to see if they work, seeing if the process of IM can enhance communication with students and wondering just how to integrate podcasts and other such technologies into learning. As for teaching, I’m a middle years teacher, working with adolescents as they move through the changes of those wonderful years, encouraging them to challenge and be responsible, to seek out their rights while embracing the responsibilities of those rights. My disdain comes from watching and listening to people who have newly discovered technology and think everyone should get with it. As for dying and change happening, very true. But uninhibited change without some type of reflection is silly. I don’t know it all but I’ve had some experience with it and now question much more carefully what I use with students. I’ve also learnt that, as an adult, I am not a youth. And I accept it and the responsibilities that come with that role and the other roles that I have taken on. My world is not that of the students I teach and I don’t want it to be. I’ve lived through it once, survived, and really enjoy where I am, very comfortable. This does not mean I don’t love learning with them as we explore what can be done with the technology but I does mean that I must use my experience in deciding what to use. The technology, while fun and engaging, doesn’t always bring about the desired understanding for which we are responsible as teachers.
My experience is that many teachers are not going to jump into the technology world just as I am not going to become a musician – it just doesn’t fit me. Yes change is unstoppable, yes it will happen no matter what but it doesn’t have to be an all consuming fire. VD, I’ve worked from being a “rows and textbook” teacher to be a table and resource teacher to being a technology use teacher to one who now reflects on those experiences and chooses the optimum one for what I will be doing. I’ve seen the transformation before technology was mainstream, the internet was alive and just about anyone had a home computer. As for being more in touch with students, it really depends on your comfort level with having open access 24/7. It is great that you are available to skype with a student who is stressed while at a conference. As for me, I have 7 of my own “students” that I need to provide time for otherwise, they’ll be skyping to a teacher and not with me, which would really be too bad, as far as I’m concerned. To do that, I can’t be online as much as I’d like. It just doesn’t work.
So, can we use technology more to make the classroom a great place to learn. You bet. Can we connect with kids with it better? Yes, for some it will work much better. As for the tone, I’ve been reading here for a bit and one of the earlier blog entries was lamenting the sorry state of teacher use of technology, with many posts continuing with that flavour. Wishing their other colleagues would catch up with the times. I’m taking an online course through Harvard Education about using technology to enhance understanding and I’ve heard the same thing there. There are many, many teachers who are moving into using technology, think it’s great and have a passion, which is wonderful. But that passion is not everyone’s and we have to accept that, revel in it and use those differences to enhance what schools do for children. Plus there is a $ factor involved that one must take into account. It does separate the haves and have nots. Some of my students wouldn’t be able to IM or skype with me – no technology. So VD, not all the kids would be able to do what your student did. They’d have to find another way.
You can find out more about what I think on my own blog at http://www.freewebs/mrchristie or http://www.bloglines.com/blog/MrChristie. I’d love to continue this discussion if anyone wants.
Vicki Davis says
K Christopherson – I’m glad you included your blog in this post so this conversation can continue and I think perhaps your second post better reflected what you may think.
In the end, it is about teaching. I like the idea that I heard at the conference this week of conducting technological training of both students and teachers simultaneously so that teachers can keep their focus off of what “button to push” and on “what content to teach.” I do not think that the integration of technology requires teachers to be experts at technology.
I think it is just a willingness of the teacher to allow kids to use technology that perhaps the teacher has not mastered to convey knowledge acquired on a topic that the teacher has mastered.
It is about the content. So, I certainly understand the frustration and work with many teachers who feel likewise. But many of those teachers are fine when students ask to turn in a video rather than a five page paper. They understand that the crux of what they are trying to do is content and are not so wrapped up in the traditional paper model of teaching that they are unwilling to allow digital projects.
I think that technological tools are the cinchpin of differentiated instruction and multisensory learning. I hope that although you may not be comfortable teaching technology that you would be willing to allow your students to use it to relay their learning.
Vicki Davis says
And I don’t think anyone is advocating unreflective change — I am an advocate for purpose and focus in all of my technological projects. I believe that all of us are professionals, care about our students, and honestly want to do what is best for them. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one.
Kyle Brumbaugh says
The discussion we need to have the disconnect that students experience between personal use and academic use of social networking and other Web 2.0 skills. I related on my blog yesterday, in response to David Warlick’s keynote in Monterey, I did a presentation for 8th graders who were going to feed into our high school about tech usage. I asked… “How many of you have a ‘web presence?'” The group of 300 8th Graders didn’t move. I then asked, “How many of you either have or know of someone that has a ‘Myspace’ account?” Every hand in the room went into the air. It was the best visual I have seen to illustrate the disconnect in personal and academic use of technology.
“Aside from the inherent problems with using Blackboard, the bigger problem is using it to avoid the difficult responsibilities we have to our students these days.”
One of the responsibilities I expect of all K-12 teachers is to keep my young children safe during those times when I am not there to do so myself.
How is placing them in a SECURE online environment avoiding the responsibility educators have to PARENTS? There is a great difference between offering access to 10 year olds in a K-12 environment and offering access to 19 year olds in a college environment. That difference is the parental responsibilities expected of educators working with K-12 children during school times.
Educating parents about what dangers young children may face in MySpace or countless other sites (There are only 4 clicks to anal sex discussions from WordPress.org. I know parents who would fry a teacher for opening that path.)goes FAR beyond the scope of teachers. This is a societal responsibilty that belongs to media, law enforcement, all layers of government, parents, friends – and, admittedly, to educators too.
I don’t particulary see providing a safe environment as avoiding my responsibilities. Rather, it enables me to meet them!
Providing easy access to nastiness in an assumed “safe” environment avoids my responsibilities to both parents and students.
David W. and Alan N. have it right with Blogmeister and Learning Communities. So do Blackboard, Angel, eChalk, SchoolCenter and a host of other “protected” environments offered up. Our system of “school” is being placed, one classroom at a time, using these environments, into the virtual places of the Internet.
BTW.. I love blogs and wikis and podcasting activities. I suck up everything I can from Will and Dave and Alan and… etc.
But… we need to be more CAREFUL to understand that our school environments are locked down for reasons that are real, and that the disconnect is that we are confusing the openness and freedom of the web for US with the security needs of a child moving from parental protection to independence.
Dean Shareski says
Sorry to disagree Dan but our attempts to provide “secure environments” in my mind have way more negative effects than positive. Again, my opinion but most secure environments are either so secure, it’s ridiculous or they provide a false sense of security that savvy students can easily get around.
Trying to educate parents is important but much less realistic than educating parents.
You are always “4 clicks to anal sex discussions from WordPress.org” whether you’re at school or at home. As you state…parents would fry a teacher. In other words, we are more concerned with protecting teachers than students. Monitoring is important…it’s your job but filtering is a battle you can’t win.
If we are so concerned about students, we’d provide them real world experience under the supervision of teachers who understand and can encourage proper usage.
Anyone else having bother with myspace or is it just my pc?
Last couple of days it seems it wont let me download any song from anywhere.
Anyone having same bother – or anyone how to sort it?