I thought I would share an e-mail that was sent from our department today to a parent who had raised a concern about Facebook being unblocked at school. A very well thought out e-mail from the group. Chad Bates did most of the work with Dennis, Kim and I adding our two cents in as well.
Thanks for your email, you raise an issue that schools, teachers, parents and workplaces are currently grappling with i.e. weighing the benefits of social networks against the concerns. When considering the relative merits of Facebook, there are some very obvious negative uses as well as positive uses, and a whole lot of grey area:
- Facebook is a 21st Century Communication tool that students use much like we use email
- Acknowledgment of this very real social interaction and providing students with opportunities to learn with technology the way they live with technology rather than further distance school from the reality of the outside world
- Giving students opportunity to develop their own time management skills and choices
- Developing digital citizenship and opportunity to practice safe and responsible use of information and technology
- Cyber-bullying issues
- Invasions of privacy
- Reduction in productivity
Within ISB’s Technology Department, we walk a fine line with censoring Internet content, one we don’t take lightly. When attempting to strike a balance between student safety, productivity and educational benefit; we’ve found blocking pornographic sites, gambling sites and gaming sites are no brainers. However when considering social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace (not to mention the many social non-English social networking sites) it is not so cut and dried.
These sites have emerged as social areas that form a major significant part of many of our student’s lives. This socialization is near as important to this generation as face to face time with their friends and they maintain friendships beyond ISB to include international students from schools around the world. At this point we feel that by simply blocking these sites, we as a school would be missing an opportunity to educate students about how to use them appropriately. That being said, we continue to monitor the use of these sites (and others) within the school and evaluate their value and the learning opportunity for students (as opposed to denial) versus the potential for distraction. If students cannot manage their time on computers productively at school, then they would certainly not be able to at home. Blocking access has not proven to be effective in teaching students to use a tool effectively and wisely. If you’d like to further discuss Facebook, I’d be happy for you to come by the EdTech Office (above the library).
ISB Ed Tech Team