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learning.now: at the crossroads of Internet culture & education with host Andy Carvin

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I have seen how Facebook consumes my friends time. I have not created a profile simply because I do not have the time to check and response to all the messages. I have talked to my friends that have spent hours on end looking at the posting and talking to other friends. Now everyone is starting to get into Youtube.com. I think it is a crazy fad that will pass as time presents something else to take up their free time.

As a middle school counselor, I have become aware of the misuse of MySpace. No student has come forward to tell of being praised online, but instead to tell of being threatened, or made fun of. Each incidence of threat or harassment is unique, but the message from the education system is the same. That bullying on any level will not be tolerated.

The school system’s solution to using MySpace to harass others was to eliminate access to MySpace… at school. Parents are much more influential on a child’s behavior than the school system.

It seems there has been a shift in the way parents view the education system. The majority of parents who are called to school over discipline issues do not assume that their child is at fault in any way. The teacher’s motivation is automatically called into question.

We live in a world where many parents of K-12 children are not holding their children accountable for their actions. These same children go into adulthood to discover the harsh reality that you have to make your own way.

Is the school system’s answer to the problem of online bullying a perfect one? No. But the school system has not chosen to ignore it either. It has made an attempt to educate parents about sites such as MySpace, and to encourage parents to be more vigilant when it comes to their children using the internet.

Whose job is it to teach children proper communication? The school system does it every day. Not by monitoring how students talk to one another, but by teaching them how to express themselves in writing, by telling them that it is not OK to harass one another in school, and by monitoring behavior in general.

The school system is expected to do much these days. But school consolidation and cutting back on staff has done much of the damage. Schools are expected to more with fewer resources. Larger class sizes and blending students with special needs into the mainstreem make it difficult for teachers to deliver a lesson… let alone monitor and address appropriate classroom behavior. These are problems not faced by colleges.

These are thoughtful comments on a tough subject and given my work with communities, I am curious whether anyone has examples of school systems that have initiated partnerships to provide evening or online workshops for parents to learn, hands-on, about social networking (e.g., Facebook, MySpace). I think a lot of parents are intimidated by the online environment (and couldn’t until recently join) so they felt perhaps as excluded as teachers and even less informed.

I am fortunate that my work provides rich opportunties for me to learn and use web-based technologies, but not everyone’s job is like that. Who helps parents learn about these environments, where and how? I am especially concerned for parents who have limited access to or experience with computers or those with English as a second language? I would love to see and hear examples of school-community partnering.

I am a high school technology coordinator, and I have very mixed feelings about Facebook, in comparision to other DSN tools. I’d like our school to be able to embrace DSN - it does seem like the next wave of communication.

However, Facebook’s greatest strength is also its biggest weakness. What appeals the most about Facebook is that for minors, it is pretty restrictive in terms of membership. Students under the age of 18 may participate, but they require a school email address. If they come in contact with people who they decide should not be in there, they can report them.

The problem is that teachers and parents can’t join the students’ network. When I tried to create an account, it lasted 2 days before I was booted out. (The halls were plastered with signs: “Teachers on Facebook! Watch out!”) When I have contacted Facebook (repeatedly) they have denied me access, even when I have offered to identify myself as a teacher at the school with this account (i.e., a letter from my principal, my face on our school website, a photocopy of my driver’s license).

So what we are left with is an environment where the kids can play, but the adults who are responsible for them can’t get in at all. We can’t advise them when they are using bad judgement (a la the fictious characters described in the original post), and when incidents do occur, we can’t investigate to resolve them. It’s “Lord of the Files.”

Facebook places a lot of faith in the idea that teenagers will always report inappropriate action by their peers, even in the face of bullying behavior and social pressure. This seems a bit naive to me.

So where does that leave us? We can’t block all the DSN sites out there (even if we wanted to), and I really don’t want to block a site that is trying to protect its underage members. At the same time, we are the ones who have a responsibility to these children, not a server farm in who-even-knows-which state.

I’d like to think that there is a constructive solution out there, but as far as I can tell, it’s not coming from the folks at Facebook.

great article..
i am a public high school visual arts teacher. i use facebook for education in many ways, club info..activity communication..and to post pictures of school events…i allow my student’s to friend me, i only accept friends…i don’t solicit my students friendship..also they ask for permission to tag without friending…but some find it easier to request friendship.
i was recently asked to stop posting facebook pictures of school events by my district. this is in the interest of safety. some kids, and parents are dissapointed…i am saddened that the kids won’t get all these no cost photos of themselves that they really enjoy. i will say that i do feel some relief that i can’t post though…it frees me from the chance of litigation if someone claims embarrassment or whatever..but i don’t think there is a better way to get my pictures to them, so it is a bit of a bummer…anyway..just my 2 cents.

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