Magazine article Multimedia & Internet@Schools

Justifying the Social Tools: Improving the Conversation

Magazine article Multimedia & Internet@Schools

Justifying the Social Tools: Improving the Conversation

Article excerpt

EDUCATORS have long been harvesting ideas from popular culture to imbue excitement into lessons and to engage learners. It's truly the definition of the teachable moment when we employ engaging current events such as elections, hurricanes, earthquakes, war, local events, or popular phenomena such as social networking to teach the knowledge acquisition and thinking skills that our student learners will need when they move into the workforce as adult earners. Of course, the current crop of social networking sites has generated both excitement and concern. Some schools have banned them entirely.

In my view, banning these sites is over-the-top. It damages the teacher-librarian's key roles in preparing learners to research well. You should see the plaintive notes I get from high school students on my blog asking how to get to MySpace, etc., and what the latest workarounds are. Sometimes normal sites such as the local newspaper are being blocked.

ACCESS FOR LEARNING

If you're a regular reader of this column, you know I am a big supporter of teacher-librarians teaching Internet safety skills. I am incredulous at the number of schools and districts that block access to much of the Web and Internet. How can people teach essential contemporary skills without the most modern tools? This to me is like teaching traffic safety to kindergarteners by banning roads. How does one learn to use something effectively and safely without being able to see and experience actual examples and Web sites? How do you learn to identify sites that lie to you without ever seeing the execrable Stormfront site on Martin Luther King Jr. (www .martinlutherking.org)? How do you show the difference between satire (The Onion) and lies? Are there whales in rivers? Ask Google and find out (www.nytimes.com/library/ tech/99/03/circuits/articles/04trut .html). The overuse of blocking and filtering software is damaging kids' education and growth.

It seems that this is a normal progression in the adoption of new ways. We even have a word for it, Ludditism, after those who fought the Industrial Revolution. People tried to ban rock 'n' roll, women wearing pants, and even the novel format for young people as societal changes moved on inexorably. Fear and misinformation should not triumph over logic and an agenda for learning.

In the past, we've used contests, treasure hunts, quizzes, creative works, and more to make the lessons interesting and fun. We know that play is one of the most fundamental ways in which we learn. The Internet has provided us with many new ways to provide learners with an environment that allows them to learn through discovery, play, and collaboration--and just plain having fun. If we make that discovery and play process too conscribed, then we make it too artificial.

YALSA'S POSITIVE USES OF SOCIAL NETWORKING SOFTWARE

The YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) division of ALA has its own blog (http://blogs.ala.org/ yalsa.php). For much of October 2006, the blog ran a thread called Positive Uses of Social Networking Software. It ended up with 30 tips. Here are the headings from the final PDF document, which is titled "Social Networking and DOPA" (DOPA stands for Deleting Online Predators Act.)

* del.icio.us

* LibraryThing

* digg

* Flicktion

* Blogging

* It can be done in the library

* MySpace Bulletins

* Empowerment

* Planning

* Reading and Writing

* Building a community around gaming

* Photo Sharing

* Second Life

* YouTube

* Collaboration

* SingShot

* Networking with authors

* Youth participation

* Collaborating at school

* Educating parents in the library

* Personalization

* Copyright

* Innovation

* Learning by themselves

* Freedom to choose

* ResultR

* Communicating with parents and other stakeholders

* Raising awareness

* College search

* Flock

I love the list just because it had a few things that I didn't know about! …

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