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Social networking technologies in schools – every child’s right? March 27, 2010

Posted by teachandreflect in Uncategorized.
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Tanya Notley’s article Online Network use in schools:social and educational opportunities has been a topic of discussion in our tutes this week, which is advantageous because it ties in with the new direction I have taken in my next assignment. Notley is strongly in favour of the educational use of popular Web2.0 social networking sites, arguing that  the information sharing, bonding and network expanding that occurs on social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace can help students build the type of ‘social capital’ that leads to higher educational achievement and better health, among other things. This accords with most descriptions of the benefits of the Web2.0 technologies (For example Byron 2008, whom Notley cites heavily; and Cook et al 2008). Some of Kathryn Moyle’s recent work could be considered in the same light, although Moyle also makes explicit the need for educators to make learning activities more relevant and meangingful to students personally if they are going to be of any benefit (2010, p.5). I would argue that most of these scholars are applying a form of social constructivist learning theory to their arguments, or at least couching their ideas within that framework and vocabulary. Elliot (2009), who we covered last week, goes one step further, calling for a new pedagogy altogether, that of “connectivism”.

There are some aspects of Notley’s “Building Innovation” that could be challenged on critical grounds. For example, Byron’s report into the online safety of children in the UK is compared to QLD State education policy on content blocking as if the documents were of the same categorisation. Byron’s less heavy handed approach, with its focus on educating children and parents in ICT literacies and minimally disruptive government access restrictions, is offered up as a new paradigm for Australian educators. But the context in which it was drafted is entirely different to that of the QLD education policies. Byron was investigating the safety of children in general, that is, in the outside world – a realm in which the government can only suggest and promote home-based content blocking. But not necessarily enforce it. Applying controls over content within schools and on school laptops is a different matter entirely, it is easy to effect and often justified on duty of care grounds. As in QLD, it would appear that the practise of content blocking, or ‘management’ remains widespread in UK schools (Ofsted, 2010).

cyberbullying2_05

Having said that, the positive educational and personal development aspects of social networking, as posited by the scholars in the reference list below, would seem to flow logically from greater involvement on the sites in school settings. The problem for those on this side of the argument is the lack of evidence offering clear links between higher educational performance and the use of social networking tools. Given that the other side of the debate – ‘the authorities’ – are drawing upon assessments of risk and danger to children (i.e. from paedophiles, cyber-bullies etc), it would need to be some hefty empirical data to challenge the current status quo.    

Byron, T. (2008).  Safer children in a digital world: The report of the Byron Review, Department for Children, Schools and Families, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, United Kingdom.

Crook, C., Cummings, J., Fisher, T., Graber, R., Harrison, C., Lewin, D., Logan, K., Luckin,R., Oliver,R., & Sharples, M. (2008).  Web2.0 Technologies For Learning: Current Landscape – Opportunities, Challenges and tensions. BECTA, United Kingdom.

Elliott, B. (2009). E-Pedagogy. Does e-learning require a new approach to teaching and learning? Accessed on 16 March from   http://www.scribd.com/doc/932164/E-Pedagogy

Moyle, K. (2010). Building Innovation: Learning with Technologies. Australian Council for Educational Research: Victoria, Australia.

Notely, T. (2008). ‘Online network use in schools: social and educational opportunities’. Youth Studies Australia 27(3):20-29.

Office for Standards in Education, Children’s services and Skills [Ofsted]. (2010).  The safe use of new Technologies. Ofsted: Manchester, United Kingdom.

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