"Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law". Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of the Council of Europe
Every website shall remain unblocked until proven to be "harmful to minors."
The Blue Skunk
I'm going to visit with our elementary principals' group in a couple weeks. I've (ominously) been asked to discuss Facebook with them. One never knows the genesis of such a request, but it may center around why our district doesn't block such sites.
Or maybe it is purely academic curiosity. I hope so, but I think I will be prepared just in case.
I don't much care one way or the other if kids have access to Facebook itself at school. I am a very occasional and reluctant user of the service. I just don't get the appeal. (Although now that I am up to 60 friends, I may consider running for public office.) Its value on the surface seems recreational in nature and it's probably a nuisance trying to keep kids from using it.
But I do care that we give all Internet resources due process, just as we would give due process to any library or text book before before removing it from our schools.
For educators who don't use Facebook, it needs to placed in some kind of context beyond the scare stories on Dateline. Here are some things I think my principals ought to know about these kinds of social networking sites:
1. How and why people use sites like Facebook. I think I will show the short Common Craft video Social Networking in Plain English and share the Educause two-page document 7 Things You Should Know About Facebook II.
2. That there may be Informational value to having access to Facebook, and that really, we should be blocking based on content, not format. Along with both Obama and McCain, one of our favorite sons, a first year US Representative, uses Facebook to connect with his constituents:
Shouldn't students have access to this information?
3. Facebook is but a single manifestation of social networking, a means of communication and recreation that today's children are growing up with. Club Penguin and Webkinz are popular social networking sites for the pre-school set. Facebook is replacing e-mail as a preferred method of communication. Even educational gaming is becoming more social, as evidenced by new and emerging products like vMathLive.
4. Schools DO need to teach safety and privacy with all social networking tools. If we don't, who will? Educators need to know that privacy levels can be set on most sites and children need to know how to do this as well.
"we do not have a single case related to MySpace where someone has been abducted." - social media researcher danah boyd
Recommend the books MySpace Unraveled and Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens: Helping Young People Learn to USe the Internet Safely and Responsibily. Emphasize that "reputation destruction" and cyberbullying are more likely hazards than predation.
6. It's OK for individual buildings, libraries and classrooms to set their own rules on what is considered "productive" use of school time and technology. But a district-wide block needs to considered by a range of stakeholders after study, not as a knee-jerk response to any single request.
OK, readers. What would you do at a command performance of administrators asking for a discussion about Facebook? Help me out here...
I just remembered that I addressed this issue a couple years ago, See also Seven Things All Adults Should Know About MySpace at Education World. Duh.