April 17, 2008

Beatrice, you’re way off!

Thanks to a tweet by Clarence, I just listened to a podcast of an angry parent upset with the Langley School District for not blocking social networking sites.

The mother, Beatrice, is conceded some authority by CBC since she has a computer science background. Unfortunately her knowledge of ports and key logging software is about all she has when it comes to her understanding of social networks. Admittedly her 12 year old daughter had been to some less than educational spaces and likely was pursuing content not fit for a 12 year old or anyone. Her reaction was to block all these sites, ban her daughter from the home computer and demand the school district to install content filtering that would prohibit any access to social networks. Craig Spence, a representative from the school division gives a very intelligent response in this interview to her complaints arguing the importance of teaching students about these spaces and recognizing these spaces will still exist outside the school. This article might indicate the school district is buckling somewhat under pressure.

This parent makes a number of comments that demonstrate a lack of understanding and fuels the fire of hysteria and in my opinion, bad judgment.

She admits that living in a rural area, the internet has become “for a lack of a better term, connection” for her daughter. Lack of a better term? That’s exactly what it is…a connection. From her eyes the connection is obviously negative, but that’s got nothing to do with the technology. Her daughter’s connections will remain questionable even without the technology. Her response is to ban her daughter from using their computer until she says,”it will be safe again.” When will that be? When all the nefarious sites have gone away? When her daughter is 18? When she determines that the only value of the internet is looking up stuff?

She worries that a child in grade 3 will be online at school and will accept a date with a stranger thinking it’s another child and will be whisked away by a predator. Once again, there is no case of anything remotely like this. While I understand why she might have this fear, the facts just aren’t getting through. That’s why in part, I don’t just ignore stories like this but feel compelled to speak out. Even the reporter lacked the background information to challenge her claim. I’ve written about this too often to reprise.

She also feels schools should be teaching reading, math, science and computers (how to use a computer) but social networking should be taught in the homes. Think about that statement for a while.

For every site one person deems educational, someone will disagree. For every social network site you block today, three more will arise tomorrow. These are bandaid solutions. Being proactive, supervisory and purposeful are by far the best approaches. Teachers are our best filters at school and parents should be the best at home.

This is why it’s so critical that we continue to promote teachers doing this in Kindergarten and Grade one. At some point we won’t even call it social networking. We’ll just call it learning.