Tuesday, May 15, 2007

To Block or Not to Block

There's a wonderful debate raging among my peers: To Block or Not to Block. My Space, Facebook, Instant Messengers, Personal Email, Club Penguin, Webkinz...they're all under scrutiny. There are those who feel that as technology educators we should be encouraging their use, allowing free access to the site because of their educational value. There are others that block these sites because they're bandwidth hogs. Still, others block the sites because there are too many inherent problems that occur by allowing access. Problems include bullying, posting of inappropriate materials, school and teacher information on the pages, not to mention time spent in class posting when they should be working on a classroom assignment.

Counterpoint: The classroom assignment should be engaging enough that the kids do not feel compelled to post on My Space instead. I think all of these are black and white arguments for a gray issue. First, I'll admit that our school blocks access to these social networking sites. My reasoning is bandwidth related first, but secondarily, because they are just that: social networking sites. I hear your voices screaming, "But they have educational value." I say, no, they do not have inherent educational value other than what we try to artificially introduce. Yes, presidential candidates are posting to My Space. But they're also posting other places besides social networks. It's the beauty of the internet that there are no exclusives. Anything you can find there, you can find somewhere else.

There are alternative sites that use the technology of social networks (Moodle and Ning) without problems associated. In the workworld, a person will never be asked to complete a work assignment on My Space--that's only a tool. The issue is really do they know how to use Web 2.0 tools? If we're teaching them how to use similar tools, and teaching them about the SOCIAL ISSUES raised in places like My Space then I say we're doing our jobs. We do not have give students free access to these sites any more than we have to let them leave their cell phones on all day.

Yeah, I know that's a whole new can of worms...

Sorry for the rantish tone here. I'm done. For today.
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mshaw said...
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Justin Medved said...


Check out this post by my Canadian friend.


It is business related but is notable because it brings into the question of "trust". Where does trust pay a role in our schools or do we assume the worst always and plan around it.

Great post!


Kim Cofino said...


I think you hit the nail on the head with this comment:

The classroom assignment should be engaging enough that the kids do not feel compelled to post on My Space instead.

When teachers don't know how to create an engaging assignment, they end up with bored students. I remember passing notes back in high school - this is the same thing, just much more visible.

I'm thinking that the use of technology in the classroom is really shining a spotlight on the teaching ability of teachers.

I know quite a few that think if they have laptops in the classroom they're automatically integrating technology. Then they're shocked when kids are bored or complaining. Just because the computers are sitting there, does not mean they are being used appropriately.