Whose Space?

A number of incidents and conversations at work over the past few weeks started me thinking (again) about Western Australian schools’ access to social networking sites and new Web2.0 applications. At present a number of well known networking sites – MySpace and Piczo included – are centrally blocked by the DET WA filters. Many schools apply ‘blacklists’ at a local level – teachers and students at these schools will probably find they cannot access Facebook, Bebo, Habbo Hotel and YouTube and a variety of other sites that have been deemed non-educational or too band-width hungry.

Recently:

On Hey Jude Judy Connell blogged her quick reflections about MySpace and included a short video of Will Richardson [Weblogg-ed] discussing some positive aspects of MySpace use by young people.

Then the Library Bytes blog directed me to the Universal McCann Wave 3 report [Available as 4MB pdf]

I previously blogged about the Media and Communications in Australian Families report [Released Oct 2007]

All this research indicates that young people construct social spaces as part of their ‘normal’ communications and who could blame them for feeling disconnected when they are denied this method of accessing both formal and informal information networks at school.

As an educator I believe I have a responsibility to help my students acquire the skills they will need to cope and succeed in their rapidly changing world.

I don’t want to get into a debate about central filters vs ‘roll-your-own’ blacklists vs ‘smoke-what-you-like’ approaches – those sort of decisions are made by people on a much higher rung of the corporate ladder.

What is really concerning me is the impact social networking is having on our students and on us, their teachers. My experience in the classroom has convinced me that one of the most important factors influencing worthwhile interactions in the classroom is the free exchange of ideas between all participants. As educators we cannot expect our learners to do it all on our terms, we must be prepared to meet our students on their ground. I have a long-standing interest in incorporating ICTs into my classroom teaching in a meaningful manner, to benefit the teaching/learning process and I feel reasonably comfortable in most digital environments. I am quick to acknowledge that my students have been instrumental in helping me feel more at ease using newer technologies – they have been great teachers and I really appreciate their willingness to share their expertise with me and other class members. [Just in case any of you read this – Thanks 🙂 You’re great.]

What I would like to know is how classroom teachers (who are already under a great deal of pressure) can best be helped to develop the skills they need to take advantage of social networking sites (especially when the sites are blacklisted so they can’t even explore them?)

Last comment of a long post: (from Peter Spicer-Wensley)

This reminds me of a truism that the internet sees filters as faults and routes around them.
I need to do more thinking about these issues. Another post will follow.
Please let me know your thoughts.

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