There is an interesting debate going on in the cutting edge TAFE organization. They are discussing whether they should unblock Facebook for professional development reasons. (See Should Facebook be banned from Educational Institutes by Allison Miller.)
Sue Waters responds:
“My strongest belief is we must separate the debate on the educational use of social networking totally from whether Facebook should be used in an educational context. These are two totally separate issues.
Facebook is just one form of social networking; the educational benefits of social networking shouldn’t be devalued because managers and educators base their views on social networking solely on their own personal limited knowledge and/or experience of sites like Facebook and MySpace.”
She and I line up squarely on this issue. However, I do agree with Allison on this point:
“We need to teach people about SNet-iquette (Social Network ettiquette), and the positive and negative effects of their online ‘behaviour', and how they are creating an online ‘digital foot print'.
I believe educational institutes should be ‘leading the way' in educating people about these things. Therefore, by encouraging staff and students to use these sites as educational tools, we are encouraging the conversations necessary for people to work out what is, and what is not, appropriate in an online environment.”
Although there have been times I unblocked facebook (like for screen captures for Flat Classroom or Horizon Projects.) I also remember one student coming to me at the end of flat classroom and saying:
“Mrs. Vicki, PLEASE REBLOCK FACEBOOK. It is such a distraction and I cannot get anything done.”
I reiterate the points I made in the Educational Networking blog post and also what we're doing to students by making them give up their digital memories when we force business or school upon their embedded social network. (Read Freddie's Two Faced Future.)
The answer to effective digital citizenship and Social Networking Netiquette is not forcing ourselves into Facebook, it is in creating separate, safe places where we can work with students to improve their skills and safety. I think these places should be private initially so that younger students can be brought into them.
Then, they can safely move into our online world sometime in their teenage years already having an arsenal of knowledge to keep them safe.
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