Social Media and Mobile Technology

Posted by Debby on 12th April and posted in Educational Politics, Social Media, Transformation

I have been a member of a small charter school board since 2008. It’s interesting that we had a discussion last night at the board meeting about social media and mobile technology and then this morning one of my education newsletters linked to an article called “‘Banning Is Not the Answer’ to Mobile and Social Tools in Schools“.

The article states “Schools should use the adoption of social and mobile tools as an opportunity to reach students on issues of digital citizenship, digital literacy, and responsible use of online tools in a supervised environment.”  This is the world they live in. We can pretend it doesn’t exist, or that it’s someone else’s problem, but that does a great disservice to students need to understand the power and potential of the tools at their fingertips.

I would like to see the school take a “more balanced approach to access” as we move forward visioning the future of the school. We can pretend it doesn’t exist, or we can attempt to block all use on campus, but I think we can all agree that isn’t really a realistic approach. Kids will use it anyhow. Why not help them learn how to use it well?

Social and Mobile Technologies: Current Realities

The report cited five “critical observations” related to the use of social and mobile tools in schools, both supporting their use and acknowledging the need to address issues related to their use. These included:

1. Social media and mobile devices are already in widespread use by students, and schools are beginning to adapt their own policies to take advantage of students’ current interest in technology.

2. Mobile technologies and social media offer “tremendous” educational benefits, including bridging formal and informal learning, providing access to educational resources students otherwise wouldn’t be able to use, and offering the ability to learn lifelong technology skills, among others.

3. Some federal, state, and local policies do not match up with current realities and need clarification or updating in light of current social trends and technological advancements.

4. Advocates of social and mobile technology need to address negative behaviors that are sometimes associated with these technologies, including the use of technology tools in bullying, along with self-destructive behavior and poor decision-making on the part of minors whose actions can have lifelong consequences. The report’s authors pointed out that schools provide a unique opportunity for students to use their favorite tools in a supervised, mentored environment.

5. Equity issues need to be addressed. BYOD programs, for example, some students will not have the financial resources to supply their own equipment. Similarly, Internet access can be an issue. “Failure to address this will create a critical fault line in the differential learning opportunities available to students and, potentially, leave some groups of students ill prepared to join our country’s 21st-century workforce,” the report argued.

Considerations for Policymakers

The report also made four suggestions for policymakers and stakeholders to consider when looking at practices surrounding the use of technology in schools.

1. The first: “Banning is not the answer.” Rather, a more balanced approach to access is called for.

“The first generation of policymaking around communication technology in schools has been built on a foundation of fear, and it’s time to push ‘reboot’ and institute ‘Policymaking 2.0’ built on facts and research instead. Education is something we do ‘with’ students and not something we do ‘to’ students,” said Frank D. LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, also in a prepared statement.

2. Second, the function of acceptable use policies needs to be revisited. AUPs, the report’s authors argued, should focus on “policy goals that go beyond the narrow set of Web site access issues that were the primary focus of many earlier AUPs.”

“The ‘Making Progress’ document supports a vision of schools that amplifies the use of mobile and connective technologies from restrictive or ‘acceptable’ to ‘responsible,'” said Bob Farrace, NASSP senior director for communications and development.

“The rapid pace of technological developments and changing attitudes about appropriate ways to communicate online, personal privacy, and freedom of speech present school leaders and policy-makers with an evolving set of challenges from the classroom to the boardroom. [The ‘Making Progress’ report] encourages thoughtful conversations before a crisis occurs so the promise and potential of these new tools will not be lost in the rush to try and right some unfortunate wrong,” said NSBA Director of Education Technology Ann Lee Flynn.

3. Schools should use the adoption of social and mobile tools as an opportunity to reach students on issues of digital citizenship, digital literacy, and responsible use of online tools in a supervised environment.

4. And finally, professional development is crucial to the successful adoption of any technology and should be emphasized to support mobile and social initiatives, focusing in particular on legal, ethical, and practical issues.

 
The CoSN report referenced in the article, Making Progress: Rethinking State and School District Policies Concerning Mobile Technologies and Social Media, can be found at http://www.cosn.org/Default.aspx?TabId=12543. It offers a more detailed discussion of the issue. The report, which was funded through a MacArthur grant implemented at UC Irvine, has been released by a number of major education groups:

It would be nice to see RCS leading the way in our region in terms of technology implementation, use, and policy 🙂

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