Social Networking is Controversial in the World of Education

facebook website screenshot [Photo by Spencer E Holtaway] (CC BY-SA 3.0)

One domain of public life that still appears to be little altered by social media is the public education system. Inside the vast majority of public schools in the US, access to Facebook and other social media websites is restricted. When students try to load a Facebook page from a computer that is connected to a school network, they get a notice that access to the site is restricted.

The web-filtering software deployed by the Department of Education in all schools automatically blocks access to any websites related to gambling and pornography, but social media sites fall into a grey area. The filter blocks many by default, including Facebook and Tumblr, but each school principal can opt to lift the social-media ban at their school if they wish to do so.

Education on Cyber Safety and Ethics

While it is ultimately up to parents to teach their kids about how to handle privacy and security issues relating to social networking sites, teachers can also help children to learn responsible behavior online. A recent survey indicated that over 90% of all teachers and education administrators believe this subject should be taught at the K-12 level. Despite this high level of agreement, there is a huge gap between perceptions of how well cyber-safety is currently being taught in schools.

Paper Writing Fiend [Photo by Caitlinator] (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Many more administrators then teachers believe that their schools do an adequate job of teaching students about cyberethics, online safety and computer security issues. When it comes to the question of what was actually taught in the classroom about online ethics and safety, the most common response by most teachers was “nothing”, with the notable exception of internet plagiarism. About half of the teachers surveyed said they’d instructed students on this topic.

Social Technology in Arts Education

One of the positive uses of social networking technology in education is the creativity it can inspire. For example, students can study online with Grockit. It’s Social, Fun and Aligned to National Standards in English and Math. But there are also social networks for more creative subjects.

purple splash [Photo by andi.vs.zf] (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Artists have long enjoyed the freedom of the internet and social networking sites to generate new forms of art and more engaging platforms to experience art. Funding for these projects has also increased in the professional art world at the same time that school programs for art and music have been slashed, creating lopsided access to this new art-tech resource in society.

An organization called Nuvana is working to address this issue by re-inserting art into the curriculum in schools in New York City and San Francisco. Their pilot program, called Jamboree for Arts & Music, fuses social networking, technology, art and youth education. This is accomplished through an online game where students choose and execute missions that range from creating a mental map of a character’s journey through a story to making a video of a self-directed street performance.