Tuesday, June 13, 2006

"Don't ban the blog" from The Times Educational Supplement

A relatively shallow take on the concerns about banning access in schools to the read/write web appears in the TES at www.tes.co.uk/2244334

I do think that the read/write web is going to usher in social changes that will rival or exceed the effect of the printing press. So we need to be thoughtful and really look at all sides of the issue of student access to blogs, wikis, and social networking sites--both for reading and for writing. Some thoughts:

1. A lot of the negative behavior being showcased in social networking sites has always gone on, but only now is being so publicly displayed. It's not clear how much the medium causes and how much it just documents. What we can say is that it is clearly more visible on the web, and more likely to be seen. So it is important to take some care.

2. The term "disinhibition" is being used to desribe saying or doing things online that you wouldn't do in person, and is clearly a real phenomenon. This is a valid argument that the medium itself does contribute to behavior problems.

3. Most parents have no idea how many social networking sites and web-based email accounts kids have.

4. One of the best ways to teach social responsibility online is with an adult working with youth through these new technologies. Parents should be the primary solution; but as the tools of the read/write web are becoming more and more prerequisites for college and business, it seems appropriate that schools start to teach kids about responsible online behavior in the same way that they would teach responsible journalism.

5. Many schools are blocking any and all blogging, social networking, or read/write websites because of content concerns--and thereby ensuring that kids in those districts will do all of their online contributing without teacher oversight. A very tricky problem, and one that DOPA is bringing to the forefront.

I started the website www.supportblogging.com last week for the very purpose of trying to bring a thoughtful, positive voice to the debate on the educational use of blogging. I hope this valuable dialogue can continue with appreciation for both the concerns and the promise of the new technologies of the web.

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