by Guest Blogger Michelle Luhtala
We seem to be at a critical juncture in the struggle against overzealous filtering in schools. Many administrators indicate that they are ready to unblock social media sites, but claim that network administrators and lawyers caution them against it. There is a lot of misinformation about federal regulation in this realm. Lisa Nielsen (The Innovative Educator) and Tom Whitby (My Island View) address some of these issues in their co-authored blog post, The World's Simplest Online Safety Policy of April 3, 2011.
Students today lead dual lives – their interactive social life and their “receptive” academic life. At the end of the school day, young people log on and engage online with peers. They share resources, express themselves, opine on their friends' content and activities and the world at large. They are contributors in their social world. But in school, collaboration often begins and ends with “group projects” – which, in many cases, feel contrived in contrast to the organic participatory culture students experience outside of school. In order to inculcate that same participatory culture into students’ academic life, and channel it toward productivity, it is important to provide them with a wide range of online edu-social experiences. Unfortunately, portals for online social interaction are often blocked in schools. We are thus denying students critical learning opportunities about digital citizenship, collaboration, and communication. If we are not teaching these skills in a relevant, real-world context, we are failing to teach them how to apply our lessons to their “other life.”
At New Canaan High School, which is a free-range media/BYOD, public high school in Connecticut, we will dedicate our censorship awareness week, traditionally called Banned Books Week, (September 17-24, 2011) to sites that are commonly banned in schools – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Skype, Blogger, etc…and rename it Banned Sites Week. We hope that other districts will join in this initiative. Got questions about CIPA compliance? Answers here. And for more information about using social media for instruction, please visit my blog at Bibliotech.me http://bibliotech.me.
Michelle Luhtala is the Department Chair of New Canaan High School Library, which won several 2010 awards including the National School Library Program of the Year Award. She also facilitates a 2,000+ member online professional learning community for school librarians called Using Emerging Technology to Improve Your Library Program at edWeb.net/emergingtech, where she presents monthly webinars (they are all archived online). Michelle is a regular conference presenter. She is co-authoring a forthcoming book for Libraries Unlimited, Relevant Librarian: a 21st Century Guide to the Responsive Library (working title), and contributing a chapter to a forthcoming book (also Libraries Unlimited) called School Librarians as Leaders in Professional Development. She blogs at Bibliotech.me.