Friday, May 13, 2011

Students are Not the Only Ones who "Unplug"

In this month's issue of Tech & Learning, there is an article "Follow the Leader" by Ellen Ullman which discusses administrators who made an effort to include social media in their schools to enhance communication, engage students, and explore opportunities. One administrator saw Twitter as a way to send messages to all stakeholders within the school community. Then from there he linked up with the NASSP to show other school leaders how social media and Web 2.0 tools can be integrated into schools. I admire teachers, administrators, and others in education who look beyond test scores and the "possible" negatives of social media and make the effort to use it in their schools.

I come from a county that restricts so many sites. I have heard the term students are asked to "unplug" when they walk into the school building but what about teachers? I use so many tools at home that I can not access at school and when I am at school I feel like I am in box. For example, I access Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Blogger, and Gmail from my smart phone. When I walk into a school building I have to turn off my Wifi on my smart phone so that I can still access theses sites. It just seems wrong that I have to block the county internet so that I can use these tools while in the school building.  I find it so frustrating to be restricted when I so freely use these tools at home for lessons and resources. I can not imagine how students must feel.

I highly believe that students and teachers should be taught how to use tools and not be restricted from them. These social technologies can be used as a resources to communicate, publish work, share ideas, and share resources. At MSET this past April, there was one elementary technology integration teacher that explained to me her view on Facebook. She said she mentions it at the beginning of the year with this statement: "You are too young to go on Facebook, so there is nothing to discuss". I can understand her point of view of following the rules but then I read this article on CNN, which describes how many children on Facebook who are underage. I do not understand how educators can be so ignorant to what students are doing outside the school building. I mean we teach students about the negative effects of drugs, alcohol, and smoking because we want them to make the right choices. So why not do the same with social media?

Do you feel like you unplug when you walk into your school building? How do you handle using social media in your classroom? Is your district strict like mine? Do you break the rules and ask for forgiveness later?