wasting bandwidth since 1999

Educational Experimentation

Doug reflects on how the Obama campaign made excellent use of social networking tools, bringing Facebook, Twitter, and others into the mainstream of American politics.

And then he wonders if this massive shift will make any difference in how we approach the social use of networks in education.

I’ve long been concerned that prohibiting the use of the Internet in schools in any form will politically disenfranchise students who may not have ready access outside of school.

Might one of the victories of this election be that social networking sites will be seen by more educators as educational and civics tools, not just for recreation? I hope so.

I’d like to hope for this kind of change in thinking as well but, unfortunately, it’s likely to take much longer than one election cycle.

In recent years we’ve seen many different companies and organizations experimenting with these new tools and adopting into their day to day operations the ones that seem to work for them.

Not, for the most part, education.

That kind of experimentation generally occurs only at the classroom level, by individual teachers who are curious (and brave) enough to try this stuff out on their own.

And such experimentation rarely gets the blessing of administrators and parents, many of whom still view what kids do online with suspicion and some degree of fear.

Let’s face it, when it came to using the web, the people on Obama’s staff were also experimenting.

They obviously had a good understanding of how they personally were communicating online but they really didn’t know whether the same tools could become an integral part of a national political campaign.

In the same way, we don’t know how (or whether) MySpace, cell phones, and the rest can be used as part of the even more complicated process of teaching and learning.

However, it’s way past time that we (in the larger sense) started trying to find out.

[BTW, when it comes to Obama’s victory on Tuesday, I completely concur with Doug’s “HE WON! YIPPEEEEEE!” :-)]

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1 Comment

  1. Dave

    I don’t think utility matters in the discussion of online freedom for students at school (although I think it should). The reason that access is restricted is perceived threats to safety and fear of what students might see.

    Until society in general accepts the Internet as a generally safe place and society is less afraid of what kids might see, student access will still be highly restricted.

    I’m really surprised that no one has developed a school-based social network. Imagine: schools pay a small amount and are able to create official accounts for their teachers and students. Each student account would be linked to a specific teacher, who would be responsible for verifying that that student was who they were. Teacher accounts would be linked a principals, etc. Teachers could setup collaborations with other teachers around the country. I guess the idea is to give students lots of freedom and access to social tools within a walled garden that schools don’t have to be so scared of.

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