sing your life

Dear Mr. Orsini:

When I first read this article about you, a New Jersey principal who sent out an email urging parents to ban all social media access from their children, I was aghast. I have been tossing your email in my head for the past couple of days, thinking about the pros and cons of social media in the hands of our youth. As an educator who's taught at the middle school level for several years, as well as being a journalist in three different mediums, I feel my background knowledge sustains my belief that your request is doing our youth and parents a disservice.

This specific quote upsets me to the core:
There is absolutely no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site!

Of course there are, Mr. Orsini! Here are just a few articles explaining why some of the most popular social networking platforms are important in today's educational settings:

NYC’s 140 Character Conference Explores Twitter in the Classroom
Twitter for Learning – 55 Great Articles : eLearning Technology
Twitter in the classroom: 10 useful resources
Twitter in the Classroom: Studies Find Increased Student Engagement

25 Facebook Apps That Are Perfect for Online Education
100 Ways You Should Be Using Facebook in Your Classroom
Facebook Strategies For The Classroom

How to Use YouTube in the Classroom
Using YouTube in the ESL Classroom
llowing Safe Access to YouTube in the Classroom

Social Networking in general:
How to Use Social-Networking Technology for Learning
Social networking in the classroom?!

Wikis, Blogs and Social Networking in the Classroom
How to Use Social Networking Technology for Learning

Another part of your email hit me like a ton of bricks:
Some people advocate that the parents and the school should teach responsible social networking to students because these sites are part of the world in which we live. I disagree, it is not worth the risk to your child to allow them the independence at this age to manage these sites on their own, not because they are not good kids or responsible, but because you cannot control the poor actions of anonymous others. 

I'm not sure I understand how not teaching children or students about something that is a part of their world can lead them toward being more responsible, safe, or respectful. Instead of sharing ideas, role-playing situations, and engaging in deep discussions, do you really believe it would be better to act like the social networking gestapo? How could parents have open and honest discussions about anything with their children after your suggested reaction?

If I were to continue using your logic, I would also say parents should ban many books, most television and radio programming, and pretty much everything on the Internet. The basic message says, "Parents, there are bad people outside, so don't allow your children to go out there, not because you can't trust your children, but because you can't control anyone else." Parents never know when someone else will try to influence their children, but, according to you, it's better to just cut off all ties to the real world than try to teach children how to deal with real-world situations.

Maybe you have not had positive experiences with social media, Mr. Orsini, and therefore have decided to severe it completely instead of using other methods of fighting cyber-bullying, immaturity, and illegal Internet use. Here are a few suggestions that I feel would work better than an all-out social networking ban:

1. An Acceptable Use Policy (AUP), either school or district-wide, should be shared with all staff, parents, and students at the beginning of the school year, as well as throughout the year.

2. Teach media literacy either in all subjects or as a core subject. This Edutopia article explains how to use media literacy to foster critical thinking, which might be beneficial to your students beyond just the standard "because I said so" expression.

3. Update your pedagogy, whether through college classes or online webinars, of how to help students and parents progress with 21st century technology, instead of fighting it.

4. Give parents tools for all that you ask them to do, even the items you listed in your email. Many parents may not know how to log onto Facebook, search Internet history, or  set parental controls on tech gadgets. Show them how to not only access their children's information, but how to speak to their children about such issues. Hold parenting classes for media and communication.

5. Last, yet certainly not least, remember why you became an educator. You are part of your students' lives for a short amount of time. How (not only what) you teach them now will affect them for the rest of their lives.

This blog post is dedicated to Wine Harlots and their quest to help spread literacy. This quote they posted on fb really explains what literacy means to me:
"Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories. Literacy is a platform for democratization, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity. Especially for girls and women, it is an agent of family health and nutrition. For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right.... Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential." — Kofi Annan

Please support this or any other literacy cause if you can.

Nicolas Sarkozy recently told the French parliment he wants to pass a bill banning the burqa due to its' symbolism of "subservience."

The debate of women's rights in France comes as Europe's modernity wrangles with Islamic women's attire. Modernity is the awareness or idea that existing cultural mores, norms and ideology are discontinuous with the past. In the course of social and cultural revolutions, either by means of advancement, progress, or deterioration, present-day life is vitally altered from earlier periods. Tradition, contrary to modernity, shows how the contemporary replicates the methods, conduct, and actions of the past. France is now at the center of this cultural battle, which some say is necessary for women's rights to advance, while others maintain that banning the burqa is just as unjust as requiring it.

So who's right? As much as I would like to say that women should be able to wear what they want, it's not that simple. Think the opposite side of the spectrum, and ponder why nations have banned nudity in public, even if a religion claims that is the only way "righteous" women present themselves in public. As societies progress, and modernity causes clashes, such problems are called the "crisis of modernity."

The predicament, it would seem, is simply one's sensation of the aspiration of change. It is a common aphorism that humans do not like change. In actuality, the species craves change, as exampled in all phases of world history. Yet, the crisis of modernity can be interpreted as a war on tradition, which is not necessarily so.

Traditions have changed since they began, always adjusting to the culture in which they were incorporated. Therefore, traditions themselves are part of modernity, and a human’s purpose to reinvent or progress what is positive in one’s society for future generations. When purposeless change occurs, described as “postmodernism,” this new dilemma can create even more subjugation.

Modernity does not only entail material items, but also how a society abides by certain adopted morals, or how a government integrates new ideas. Fundamentalism in any religion is the opposite of modernity, which again relies on traditions that do not change with the ethos of culture. If humans were to remain loyal to fundamentalism since societies formed, our species would not have evolved into today’s world.

This can either be looked at in a negative or positive light, but I believe it is for the better that humans can look at traditions and decide that certain changes must be made to progress the present into the future. As a species, we have the ability to look at what we have and what we want, what we are and what we want to become. How we use this intelligence is what separates the connections of past and present, or modernity.

Bob Henderson wrote, "Factors keeping teachers "in the box" of traditional education are the physical and psychological environment, the moral setting, and staying true to the discipline. 'Out of the box' teaching is experiential, student-centered, interdisciplinary, and cooperative."

Ahhh, Mr. Henderson, you make it sound so easy, and as hard as I may try, I still find it harrowing to bring student-centered, cooperative education to kids who don't want to learn, much less show how they are progressing. I have had to train my brain to constantly plan lessons  and activities that cross Bloom's Revised Taxonomy with multiple intelligences, even when my students say, "Just tell me what to do 'cause I don't want to figure it out myself."

As I try to teach out of the box of state-adopted, NCLB- approved material I've been handed, I remind myself it hasn't always been like this, and it's not like this everywhere in California. I remember a time when I taught in a Central Coast public middle school that allowed me to build student-centered activities with differentiated approaches, such as Socratic Seminars, PowerPoint games, interactive Web 2.0 cloze activities, monthly challenge-based learning projects, and hands-on collaborative class work.

This is not a magical make-believe place, as some educators might think, but a school where teachers are considered professionals, where administrators believe these professionals are highly qualified to guide students towards common standards and higher thinking skills, and where Program Improvement is never given a thought. Maybe one day it will be every school in the U. S.

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    educator, student, yoga enthusiast, roller derby girl

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