Whose Space Is It Anyways?

As everyone is winding down for the holidays and getting ready for a much deserved winter break, I thought this would be a nice time to post this great email I received from a teacher who attended one of Day of Discovery trainings. I thought instead of just having one person give feedback, why not have the DEN community share their thoughts and ideas. I know 26,000 brains are better than one!

“I have a question/dilemma that is related to technology and kids. From the Discovery Education workshop I attended at SCCOE a few months ago, I came away with the impression that we should encourage children to become familiar with using the Internet and other technological tools such computers, cell phones, camera phones, digital cameras, etc. And I definitely agree!

I want to get straight to the point, so it comes down to kids and Myspace. I’ve come to realize that many students at my school are already on MySpace, so I decided to make my own page just for them and add them as “friends.” MySpace is sort of a taboo and when other teachers hear about their students having an account there, they are given a reprimand about why they should delete their account and that there are a lot of predators and stalkers online. I agree with that point to a certain extent; however, I have many more reasons to disagree.

There are two opposing views here. I have a MySpace account and truly believe children can benefit from the technological exposure. On the other hand, another teacher tells these same kids that it is not okay, for reasons of Internet safety, sexual predators, and inappropriate content, and so on.

So the question is, how would you suggest I address this issue to those teachers, my principal, the parents, and the kids about this? What should my reasons be to say that it is not all that bad to be on MySpace or the like? To what extent should I intervene with regards to the content the child should have on their page? Let them be themselves or speak up and say, “Change this, spell this correctly, delete that picture, etc.?”

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Feel free to post your comments, suggestions, any websites you would recommend, etc.

Comments

  1. Sonja Phillips

    Why not create your myspace page, get a few of your teacher friends to become “friends” on it and then have a short staff dev. to a few teachers at a time and show them how this can be a powerful tool in the classroom and how scaremongering doesn’t do much good anyway. Teaching students (and adults) how to be responsible digital citizens is an important job.

  2. Elaine Plybon

    I have mixed feelings about MySpace. From one standpoint – yes, I believe it is okay for kids to be on MySpace. Obviously they have found it to be a way to freely express themselves. As long as they are well-educated on the dangers and ways to protect themselves, I think it’s kind of cool that they have such a place to be creative.

    However, I do not agree that teachers should be “friends” with their students or that students should be on their teacher’s “friend” list. I have a MySpace myself, but I would never have my students on it. For the collaborative part of being a teacher in a high-technology classroom full of tech-savvy students, there are a whole lot of other options such as wikis and blogs that can be more appropriate and pose much less risk for the teacher in this litigious society. Let’s face it – we live in a world where teachers have to protect themselves and where there are alternatives that are much more appropriate, I take them.

  3. Lisa Parisi

    Hi Kim,
    Bravo for forging ahead. As far as the editing goes, I would have lessons in class about creating a portfolio. What kind of face do you want to present to the world? To your friends? Future employers? College boards? And then remind them that, no matter how they want it to be, the reality is that the image they present in myspace is not a friend portfolio. It will be viewed by colleges and employers.

    As for predators and the like, keep doing lessons on safety protocols, info to keep offline, pics, etc. Also, keep doing lessons on respect and ethics. Cyberbullying is a real issue and needs to be addressed frequently.

    Plan the lessons and present this plan to naysayers.

    Good luck and enjoy.

  4. Dave Solon

    What I cannot wrap my head around is the idea that why people think MySpace is any different than a normal, everyday tool. Why do people see online tools and technology any differently than normal, everyday tools?

    - A pencil can be used to write – or poke someone in the eye.
    - A knife can be used to cut your steak – or stab someone in the stomach.
    - A computer can balance your check book – or hack a system for identity theft.

    Simplistic? Yes. Why do people have such a hard time seeing this? It drives me crazy!

  5. Meg Griffin

    In theory I agree that a myspace is just another tecnhology tool. However, we live in a practical world with lawsuits and parent fears. Depending upon the age of your students, I might prefer a bolg or a wiki where you have control over the content.

  6. Susan Plack

    I have to ask, how old are your students? Myspace is for people 14 and over, so if they are younger than that I would not recommend you use it as a classroom tool.

    I started using imbee.com this year with my elementary class. It is like a myspace social networking site for younger kids. I have control over content and can delete if I feel the need. I spent a lot of time pre-teaching what would be appropriate on the site. I then monitor and talk to kids individually if I think they have posted something that is not appropriate. Usually I discuss first then delete, sometimes I delete then discuss.

    We have had a lot of learning this year. It is absolutely an important teaching tool for may reasons. They have to use proper language when they write to me, but can use slang and short cuts when they write to their friends. It has also really changed my relationship with those students who participate a lot.

    The only drawbacks are that a parent can “take over” their child’s account at any time. Usually the parents are more lenient about content than I am. And, monitoring the site takes a lot of my time. It is pretty labor intensive when you put your kids out on the web.

    There are other tools out there that will accomplish the same learning as myspace. I would recommend you check into other websites before you commit. You might find another site that is more “teacher” friendly.

    Good Luck!
    Susan

  7. Dara Harings

    Has no one heard of the COPPA law? This is a federal law passed April 21, 2000. The law applies to children under the age of 13. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act states that identifiable information such as a name, home address, telephone number or any other information that could allow someone to identify or contact a child may not be posted online from a school. CIPA – Children’s Internet Protection Act (covering all minors up to age 18)then requires schools to filter what the students see so as to block any distasteful materials. This includes chat rooms or other direct electronic communications where a child could be exposed to inappropriate materials. If you were brought to task regarding either of these federal laws, your federal funding would be at stake.

  8. Stacy Kasse

    I have read all the comments with great interest and am slowly coming to form my own opinion. That being said, my question is what stand is YOUR DISTRICT taking on this issue? I can teach these different 2.0 web sites, but my district is so conservative they do not let us use them. How do you handle something like that?
    Thanks.

  9. Steve Dembo

    Dara, COPPA does not state that school’s are forbidden from posting that information. COPPA actually only pertains to commercial websites, so school sites are exempt in general. However, that being said, even if it WERE to apply to schools, it only defines what information would require parental consent in order to post online.

    As to CIPA, the actual law states that schools must have a policy about what will be blocked and what won’t be blocked, and have a system in place for enforcing it. The actual specfics about what is going to be blocked is 99% up to the school. The only thing that is required to be blocked is “access to pictures that: (a) are obscene, (b) are child pornography, or (c) are harmful to minors.” So chat rooms are in the clear, so long as your school has a policy regarding them, as is most forms of electronic communications.

    After studying the text of the laws themselves, I’ve found that they are actually far less restricting than most people believe them to be. But you are definitely right in that they do need to considered at every step along the way.

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