Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Aren't Schools Supposed to Help Students Change the World?

Last week I taught a class to teachers who, like many of those I work with, accept that not only students are banned at school from using powerful online tools like Facebook, Twitter, etc., but that they, the teachers, are also not allowed to harness the power of these tools.

What message are we sending to teachers and the students who we are teaching when we tell them, not only will we not teach you to use these powerful tools that are critical for success in the 21st century, but we will not let you use them as part of your educational experience?

Teachers do need to stand up and speak up, but if they don't, fortunately there's student's like the 18 year old New Jersey Student Who Uses Facebook to Organize Massive High School Walkout to protest recent education cuts through a call to action on Facebook.

While I applaud this student for leading the way, it's a shame that schools have to get out of her way as she does so.


  1. I am so glad to hear (read) you discussing this. I've been having a lot of conversations with people about current social networking technology and what its role is and should be. So many people of my parents' generation (I'm 24) dismiss it and act like it is isolating and dangerous. I don't agree with everything that people put up on fb, and tweeting sometimes feels completely inane, but it's simplistic to write these technologies off as completely unproductive. They aren't. This is how people are communicating now and it's critical that everyone learn to work with it.

    Thanks for sharing your opinions!

  2. I agree with Kate, being an educator, I feel as though if we teach our kids how to use use these social networks as a tool, it would be more effective in the educational sense. So we should put our heads together and come up with positive and educational ways to use these resources.

  3. Unfortunately, it's not just schools banning this technology - many corporations do the same. Many times, in doing research, reading blogs, etc., I've been blocked from reading or viewing something really interesting. And this is working for a tech company developing student management systems.

  4. What's especially interesting about the banning of participatory technologies like these in the classroom is also how we disconnect students from learning about participatory politics, community raising, democracy, and at an interpersonal level, just how to be social in a way that is not offensive. I taught some seniors last semester who were charged with fundraising for a local charity. Amongst a myriad of excuses for not having the finances to run a traditional print based fundraiser, I told them to go to their social networks to raise awareness and support. They're about to graduate. Haven't we missed something in their education if they have not learned to harness these tools effectively for the common good?

  5. Lisa: "Changing the world" was not on Ayn Rand's agenda. If The Fountainhead is one of your favorite books, then there's a disconnect between what your saying here and your supposed appreciation for the book's message.

    We live and work for our own sake, not for the sake of the collective, right or wrong?

  6. The "everybody's doing it" reasoning not a very intelligent way to steward the lives of kids, Kate.

    Perhaps when you or anyone else raises a family employing traditional values, then you'll feel differently.

  7. Laura: the fact that we have kids these days who can't name one Supreme Court justice or even one of their U.S. Senate reps has nothing to do with any lack of immersion into social media.

    Substandard curricula and poorly educated teachers are the problem.

    For example, I am not very impressed with most of the twenty something teachers I'm seeing. They seem to only know what was spoonfed to them in the classroom.

  8. EDIT: ...a disconnect between what you're saying here...