Skip navigation

I received an e-mail from a KIPP listserve I’m on that made me think…

“I also recommend using technology to block myspace, facebook and other social networking sites – make sure that you are also blocking proxies which allow people to bypass your firewalls and access those sites.”

What this e-mail suggests is that we take two things that many of our kids love, and spend a ton of time on at home, and do whatever we can to completely remove them from our schools. Our instinct when we hear the words ‘MySpace’ and ‘Facebook’ is to quickly block them at our schools because most students are not using these tools properly. Isn’t it our job to teach them? Not just about math, english, history and science, but about life? The choices they’re making on MySpace and Facebook at home are life choices that have the potential to put them in danger and lose their jobs and future opportunities, or at the very least cause some embarrasment and regret about pictures posted and comments made. Yet we, as their teachers, do nothing but try as hard as we can to completely block them from all school computers.

Here’s my thought (and I’d love to know yours): What if our curriculums actually included a unit where we explicitly taught MySpace? That’s right, we teach them how to use MySpace in our schools. We could teach everything from how to create a page, how to design it, how to upload pictures, how to ‘friend’ people, and how to then communicate with other MySpace users. The students would understand that coming in to school every day they would be bringing up their MySpace profile on school computers. My guess is, even if there were no school created regulations as to what content they could include on their MySpace page, they would naturally become more selective in what they include, knowing they would pull it up on a computer screen in a classroom with 20 other teammates and a teacher. Isn’t that what we want to teach them? That their profile is actually public, despite how private it feels in the comfort of their own home?

In this curriculum other uses for MySpace could be introduced. When they teach themselves about MySpace at home and with their friends, the most appealing use is for socializing. However, there are a ton of ways MySpace could be used for educational purposes. Imagine if people created groups based around shared interest in books, and then pursued discussions with other students, at other schools, all over the country? What if those interested in music could share ideas and upload songs they themselves had created? What if students interested in poetry creation and performance uploaded VoiceThreads with their own poetry performances? (If you don’t know what VoiceThread is, check this out!)

My fear is that MySpace has turned into what it is (as Miletha, one of my 8th graders, described, ‘A place that is truly ours, with no rules and no adults watching’) because of a lack of explicit instruction about what it looks like to create an appropriate, or productive, MySpace page.

I guess the bottom line is that I detest the idea of taking the tools that engage our students the most OUT of our schools, instead of implementing them INSIDE our schools to help our students become succesful academically, and in life.

Advertisements

3 Comments

  1. Education actually mirrors the classic parental dilemna – how much freedom do we allow? And if we ‘forbid’ it, doesn’t it become more appealing? I think the idea of opening it up – with peer ‘pressure’ (as in others will be watching) lends it legitamacy with a built in critic. So good idea, let’s teach them how to be responsible with the myriad of choices they have!

  2. I currently teach on a campus with two schools. At one school (sadly not mine) every student has a laptop. It is technically against district policy to view these sites and to use the proxy tools to get around the filters, but a lack of consistent expectations has made such sites a nightmare. Some teachers are very, very lax on the enforcement of said policies, making management of the laptops an uphill struggle for the other teachers who care about what is requested of them. I, however, feel that this does have a very useful place within our curricula.

    For a campus to do this, a very, very thorough examination of the practice needs to be put into place; I even see the need for extensive consultation – from programs that have done something similar, from online security experts to legal issues that could affect such a program’s implementation. At the end of this investigation, a very clear set of guidelines and rubrics must be created that every person must agree to: every student, teacher and parent. Getting all of these players on board and on the same page (to mix my cliche metaphors) will be nothing short of a monumental challenge.

    Another alternative that I would love to see is the creation of an online social networking site that exists solely for education. As it stands, even if students use a breadth of security measures to create and maintain a social networking site within the walls of a school, they are still very exposed to malicious hackers and other takeovers that could expose and endanger students’ identities. I do not feel that myspace or facebook, in their current forms, are adequate against such things.

    Perhaps the fine folks at Newscorp could whip up an education version of myspace. In this version, a school representative has to sign up their school and somehow verify that they are actually an educational joint. That representative can then activate student accounts within that school and these verified accounts to contact verified accounts from other schools. This could be a system closed off from search engines and the myspace population at large.

    I think there is massive potential in this idea, but I think there needs to be some tweaks to the existing systems and infrastructures to make it more suitable to the liabilities and responsibilities that schools face.

  3. There actually already exists something like this. It’s called Think.com, which my kids are part of and love. The only problem is that the design is a little elementary, so as my students are preparing for high school it appears too childish so they don’t use it as much anymore, preferring MySpace. If only we could get something that looks really similiar (layout wise) to MySpace but with the same regulations that would be awesome. Teaching them to handle one responsibly, hoping the skills translate over to the others when they get home.

    You should check out Think.com!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: