1. Another home run George! – Ignoring something or acting as if it doesn't exist will never solve the problem. The big theme I see here is being reactive versus being proactive. Unfortunately too many schools are taking a reactive stance, and If we take a more proactive stance we can avoid and limit the potential downside, and even better learn to harness the power of social media and use it more productively.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. George,

    Great post and I could not agree with you more. The issue that is also at play here is that a number of the social media sites being used by kids are blocked at schools. That greatly limits a teacher's power to model good behavior for students. While you can still address behaviors and acting responsible, you need to model this using the actual technology they are interacting with outside of the classroom.

    Too many people think these web2.0 tools and social media sites are fabs that will change and go away. While that may be true, the essence of connecting and collaborating globally, will not. Those skills need to be taught and modeled in schools to prepare students how to use and benefit from the technology regardless of what the technology is.

  3. Here's what I'm starting to realize about what sometimes feels like this battle to use social media for learning: People who use social media for positive reasons have no trouble appreciating that we can use it to take learning further. Without first hand experience, it is easy to get trapped in sensational news stories.

    It's people like you and blogs like yours that help me continue wanting to educate the world on the power of social media.

  4. Excellent post George. We are not a District that blocks – we keep things open, it causes us some challenges but overall we haven't seen anarchy rule.

    I invited a team of staff development coordinators to work with me to develop Digital Responsibility Guidelines. These teacher leaders have done an amazing job writing guidelines that are in student accessible language (rights and responsibilities) for learners, teacher context for educators, guidance for principals tied to policy, procedure, legislation, etc., and a beginning set of scenarios to help schools have the important conversations. We will be implementing this material in such a way that it isn't a once a year event to check off but rather embedded in classroom teaching whenever the digital environment is engaged. We're pretty excited about this work and will definitely share it out for others to benefit from, soon.

    I spoke to our Student Leadership Council (about 50 student reps grades 6-12) last fall about this and asked them to go back to there schools and engage their fellow students in providing input to the guidelines we're developing. I'm speaking to them again this coming Tuesday to see how they're doing. I am looking forward to their ideas. Just yesterday a couple students posted some input ont his to my blog Thoughts on Being Digitally Responsible. It's cool that they're interested in this topic since it affects them now as students and sets the stage for their future.

  5. You have posed a great question. There are schools and districts who bury their head in the sand by banning problems rather than using them as teachable moments. If educational institutions are not addressing the issues, are they not a part of the problem? The challenge that we are facing is that there are too many who are unaware of, or unwilling to learn about how social media works, nor its pros and cons and avoid it because they don't believe in it.

    We are getting better, and we are in a position to do a lot of good in this area. The more we embrace, adopt or, at the very least, understand how it works the more we can be positive role models in this area. I also wonder if, at the elementary level, we sometimes think that this is a secondary school issue and pass on a great time to set a very important foundation. I like the drug education part you alluded to.

    There are far too many boys and girls getting themselves into trouble because they do not understand the idea of permanence of the internet, nor the speed at which items can be shared, used as blackmail or cause grief. They need guides on this journey.

  6. What a great post! Like all of you here on this blog page, I too have had conversations with colleagues about how to go about dealing with social media. There was talk of shutting down facebook on all the school computers, etc. I totally agree with you George that "knowledge is power" and we should be working WITH our students, not against them. It is the same thing as dealing with drugs or even our 'healthy schools' movement. The district body put guidelines around what types of food were allowed in our school's vending machines. That meant no soda pop to my dismay (I grew up on Coca Cola.) Anyways the point is that if kids want soda, or want to be on facebook, they will find a way to do so. They will walk to private businesses during their breaks to buy junk food or bring in their own technology to connect to facebook. Instead, lets work things like social media and personal technology into our lessons and promote the responsible and effective use of them.

  7. Dwight Carter

    Great post George. It reminds of the initial danger warnings when email burst on the scene: "don't email students or parents, ever!" Regardless of the tool, we have to not only model responsible or acceptable use (whatever your prefer to call it), but we have to work with students to set clear expeactations.

    Unfortunately, it only takes a very small percentage of people to do the wrong thing to cause a sea of policies, procedures, and guidelines to curb inappropriate behaviors. Schools are faced with a serious challenge, but also a wonderful opportunity to positively impact the lives of our students. Let's take advantage of this time.

  8. George –

    I think Pressfield's comments in the second part of The War of Art, which he calls Combating Resistance – Turning Pro, addresses exactly this phenomenon where people who are overwhelmed with the fact that they cannot control everything prefer lockdown mode. We cannot be afraid to expose the fact that we are imperfect and that not everything will go smoothly.

    He states, "The amateur has not mastered the technique of his art. Nor does he expose himself to judgment in the real world…The amateur believes he must overcome his fear then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artists."

    While I know that the term warrior may be extreme when we are talking about educational settings, I think we do need to create environments where learners can pursue their passions as fervently as a warrior would enter battle. Hardships are sure to arise, but isn't that what happens in the real world?

    The more we seek to insulate our students from failure and show that we do not trust teachers, the further behind we will be from what our students need most, schools that encourage risk-taking with a population of trusted adults nearby to provide support, guidance, and feedback.

  9. Great Post George,

    I like the comparison to the issue around drugs. My school currently has everything locked down, but we also accept the fact that all of our 9-12 students know how to by-pass these filters. There are some teachers that use the blocked tools in class and just expect the students to by-pass the the filter, these are probably not the skills/morals we should be teaching our students. I've been advocating to unlock some of the useful sites, hopefully the drug metaphor and the BBC newsletter might help.

    • Thanks Scott! I hope it can open up soon for the kids sake. We are definitely seeing a shift in schools and I know things are opening up a great deal 🙂

      Keep up the good fight!

  10. George,

    I actually began my social networking career (and yes anything that takes this much work and accomplishes so much is a career) in order to understand my students better. I may not text, IM and use Facebook, but I now know what social networking is like. I understand how addictive it is to people (kids) and what people gain from it. Prior to this, I was a teacher – I knew content, I knew teaching, I knew learning (life-long), and on a restricted level I knew my students. Now I am a learner – I understand where my kids come from outside my class, something for which, prior to social networking, I had no basis to judge my students on. I knew this. I reacted and turned this year into a social media PD year. And my students and I won, because I can relate to them on the most closed aspect of their lives now.

    Not just schools and school boards, classes and ministries have to open up, so do teachers.

    Learn so you can teach.

    Oh, and thank you, George, for introducing me to social media with that first webinar in October.


  11. Mike N

    Another "keeper", George. I delivered a similar message to a parent council at a large high school a few weeks back. It was encouraging because the school was forward thinking, it blocked little (did not block social media sites) and encouraged kids to bring their own devices. Also, almost without exception, the parents there, while concerned, seemed to get it. They wanted to learn and help their kids navigate social media, not ban it.

  12. Jack Hill

    Control is sometimes a myth. There are those in every District who have an automatic respose to anything with the famous word"No". Those that are disposed to being intellectually courious and engaged in discovering new vistas of understanding say "yes" and we can learn from our mistakes.
    I remember when I was a kid when the Beatles came to town. Some kids wore wigs to express a new reality because having long hair was counter cultural to what was acceptable. Parents lost control – teenage expression to create their identity! Long hair did not lead to a new deviant culture of chaos.
    People seem to at some point get it. The last few weeks eperiencing using social media has opened my mind. i will share my joy with others. Lots of great people that we meet!

  13. Oh, a wonderful post! No idea how you came up with this article..it’d take me days. Well worth it though, I’d assume. Have you considered selling advertising space on your blog?

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