Yesterday, Will kicked off a pretty good discussion with his comments on an article about using social networking tools in a closed system.

Since most of the quotes in the piece came from folks who work for our overly-large school district, I added my two cents to the mix.

But beyond clueless statements from our public relations office, I’ve been thinking about the larger issue of creating “walled gardens” to let students blog “safely”.

What’s the point of building walls around these powerful tools? Are we teaching students to use blogging software or helping them to understand how to communicate?

If the point really is communications, doing it inside the garden (Blackboard in our case) means the conversation is still limited to the same narrow audience, other members of the class and the teacher.

We seem to spend a lot of time and effort these days trying to isolate students from the real world rather than help them cope with it.

That may have worked fifty years ago when students went home from a tightly controlled school to limited media options – no web, no cell phones, no texting, no cable tv.

But not today.

I understand the need to provide some protection for the students in our classes. However, web safety should be more than just blocking.

It should be about teaching kids how to responsibly and ethically use the communications tools that are already familiar to many of them.

And that means opening a few gates in the walls.

blog, web safety, walled gardens