Image source: haroldskids.wordpress.com
Slate ran a piece by Nicholas Bramble last month arguing the case for a more liberal approach to the use of social networking tools in educational institutions, specifically those in the the K-12 space. The article makes reference to the less savoury aspects of social networking among teens (e.g. cyberbullying, YouTube clips of playground fights, etc) and how the knee-jerk reaction has been to outlaw the use of such applications in schools. The author makes the case that prohibition is a poor choice because it closes the door on some potentially very powerful educational tools. He then goes on to provide examples of ways in which these tools might be harnessed more productively for educational purposes and, while these examples are a tad dull, I have little argument with his overall position. The point about engagement and how teachers and principals ‘should meet kids where they live: online’ is particularly well taken.
One point that the article does not make — which might of countered some of the negative comments put forward by some of the readers of the article — is that critics of social networking applications seldom consider the counter-factual. In short, prohibition of Facebook and YouTube will not stop bullying or other forms of delinquency as these problems will likely surface in some other shape or form and, indeed, probably go undetected. Surely it is better to be open about the use of social networking tools and provide the necessary scaffolding to reduce the probability of inappropriate use?