Monday, February 27, 2006
Most of you have had to deal with 'MySpace' in one way or another this school year. While in many instances what students are using MySpace for is not appropriate for an educational setting. Simply trying to 'block' My Space isn't the solution either, because the students are always going to find some way to circumvent the controls placed on their access by filters and proxies. How many sites do you see popping up offering anonymous web surfing?
My Space allows students to express themselves in an innovative and creative ways, which is extremely important for students in their high school years, yet some of the language and content is not appropriate for an educational setting. Blogging, in it's many forms (written, video and pictures) is something that is going to continue to grow into the future. Students are doing all kinds of things with 'MySpace' accounts, including creating dummy accounts for teachers, like the one's we have shown in faculty meetings. These accounts artifically bloat the numbers of subscribers claimed by 'MySpace.' Law Enforcement is also starting to take notice of the blogging craze, by reading the blogs of students in the local area to obtain clues about unsolved crimes and current investigations.
So, what do educators do? First of all, we need to educate the teachers and the parents as to what 'My Space' is. Most teachers and parents have no idea what is going on and what is being posted on individual student pages. Wired Magazine has published two articles on MySpace, on the 'backlash' against MySpace from parents and teachers and the second, a 'cheat sheet' about the things that happen on MySpace. If these people knew what went on, they would be much more vigilant as to watching what their students/children are doing. Some newspapers have even stated that parents need to 'chill out' over MySpace. Most teachers and parents don't think anything of the pages they see on their student's/children's screens. So, educating parents and teachers is the first task that must be completed by lead technology teachers and administrators. Although this may be changing, a school in Costa Mesa, CA has recently suspended 20 students over items posted on MySpace about a class mate.
Secondly, we need to educate students about the information they provide about themselves online and how they are representing themselves in 'Internet Arena.' Safety and appropriate behavior online needs to become part of every student's education, there is legislation in the State Assembly to do so right now. Kids need to know that there is also a difference between how an when they communicate with their peer group and when they communicate in an educational/professional setting. We will be taking an active role in teaching students ethical technology behavior in the fall with a 'Global Communications' course. We hope all 9th graders in the school will enroll in this course.
Individual expression for all high school students is a good thing, allowing them to be heard in a greater arena than just their few close friends, but it is the job of teachers and parents to teach teenagers how to do this in a manner that will reflect upon them in a positive light. I don't want censor the message, but we need to help students deliver it in an appropriate manner.