Joining the chorus of many other media outlets, Reuters has a short article about the evils of kids writing blogs, with an emphasis, of course, on “everybody’s nightmare”, MySpace.
The really sad part, however, comes late in the piece.
Pam Christman, director of technology programs and network services at the Rhode Island Network for Educational Technology, said about 40 percent of the state’s schools had also sought bans on a long list of Web blogging sites.
Banning a “long list” of blogging sites is the typical scattershot approach taken by many schools when dealing with any technology educators don’t understand. In the process, we also shut out large amounts of good information, not to mention great opportunities for learning.
The gut reaction on view in Rhode Island is similar to the experience related in one of Will’s recent posts. In it he tells the story of a teacher whose school district has blocked blogs being written by his students as part of his planned instructional program.
Sorry, this approach will not protect kids from the real world. The best we can do is help them learn to cope with and filter for themselves all the stuff (good and bad) they find on the web.
This site is always enjoyable to read!
Schools also teach students to make good decisions, but educators have the lengthy and detailed “Students Rights and Responsibilities Handbook” that outlines legal rights and consequences as a guideline and backup in the event of difficulties.
What is missing from those who argue for the use of blogs in schools is a similar document that outlines the rights and responsibilities of student speech on and off campus. This document must be based on legal cases involving the boundaries of student speech, so if any issues involving online slander, bullying, or spread of rumors come up, schools, students, and parents have guidelines as to how to proceed. Review any of the court cases involving student speech and the Internet and you can see the difficulties schools face.
So, yes- schools must help students deal with the Internet responsibility, but to accept responsibility and get involved in gray areas without specific guidelines from county tech officials would be difficult, especially when considering the wide variety of other tasks that already stretch limited time and resources- online SOLs, inventory- cough… :-)
The reasons for blocking blog sites at schools is not a futile attempt to try to block out the real world, it is attempt to limit the school’s involvement and liability in areas that are outside school control- as defined by court cases involving regulation of off campus student speech.
Many of our students are on MySpace- our stance is that they can do it at home on their home computer on their own time. This protects us from situations we have no jurisdiction over, since we know that many students have a large circle of friends and strangers online. The best we can do is inform and educate students and their parents- but with the undertanding that this is not a school activity- it is a home activity and parental responsibility.
Until the county specialists come up with clear guidelines that administrators, students, and parents can agree upon, blog sites will continue to be blocked on many school computers.
So, since you are a county specialist, I encourage you to help a local school implement a successful blog policy that shows the best of what can be done, but also have the policies in place for those students who seek to challenge the boundaries and what is acceptable of student speech. This would highlight a blog’s potential and also reassure nervous administrators and uninformed parents.
So- show us the way! :-)
Thinking “technologically” and “administratively”,
-Patrick from your “Overly Large School District”
This is such an easy point of view to take when discussing school districts’ response to blogging sites. It’s the typical, “School districts are blocking this technology because they’re too dense to get the value of 21st Century skills, that the World is Flat, and that we’re moving towards a conceptual age.”
Gee, did that cover all of them? Oh wait, there’s more…digital natives are incarcerated in the Nation’s schools by draconian approaches to CyberSafety, their jailers those old, codgy, digital immigrants. These digital immigrants just don’t get the importance of information literacy, ethics and teachable moments. Worse, students are blocked from being digital storytellers, sharing their work with a world-wide audience, tapping into the ebb and flow of an international conversation, instead languishing on the beach like so many starfish.
But is that really true? It may be but it’s not for the most part. Until EVERYONE has access–whether it be a 1:1 setting, or MIT’s $100 laptop or Tony Vincents or Elliott Solloway’s dream of handheld computers–the fact is schools are going to have to filter web sites. K-12 education is under tremendous pressure to help students succeed. Putting them in risky situations by allowing unfiltered access to adult spaces that can be easily be mis-appropriated or accessed by students is irresponsible.
While no educator disagrees that students have to learn how to cope with the good and the bad, the fact is we simulate real life environments in our schools. And, the nature of education resists finely-tuned tools that can differentiate access for end users (e.g. Teacher A has completed XYZ training and therefore should get more access than Teacher B who has only done X training). It’s unAmerican to restrict access based on who you are (“Show me your papers, comrade!”), and somehow, comes across as an invasion of privacy.
That said, school districts reflect the Society they are in. Our Society still values the type of education that’s out there. Complaining about it to other educators is like asking the frog to measure and adjust the temperature of the proverbial boiling pot of water. Let’s stop criticizing education and instead challenge ourselves. Get off your rear and be a political activist!
That goes double for me!
Kudos for being so far ahead! My County Educational Service Agency TODAY will be beginning a conversation about helping our local districts develop a reasonable policy that protects the district while enabling use that positively impacts student achievement. I echo Patrick’s request – any model – however draft in nature – will be helpful as we work to develop policy.