February 2, 2009

Podcast 44: Facebook, Filtering and all that

This post was last updated on September 5th, 2011 at 11:04 am

Digital Learning Project
The question of filtering and facebook continues to be a major discussion item for schools. In my division, we do not block social networking sites and have a very liberal filtering policy compared to most. However, teachers struggle with students traveling to spaces they shouldn’t and being off task.  Rather than coming at them with my own position, I decided to enlist a number of teachers to respond to the following question:

Is  “off task” behaviour relating to technology an issue with your students? If yes, how do you deal with it, if no, what have and your students done to alleviate the problem?’

The following represents a request I made to several teachers in our school division. You’ll see a few different viewpoints which is what I wanted.

I see it as an issue of off-task behaviour.  Every teacher deals with it differently, but for the most part, they are instructed to get off of Facebook immediately and risk losing Computer/Internet.  In my Information Processing class, I allow for them to check e-mail/Facebook in the first few minutes of class.  I usually need a few minutes to get myself logged in and get the projector up and running.   They will also get to class early so that they can do this.  It helps.  We do not worry about its use during the noon hour, except that they are asked no to use the videos because they consume band width.  With special needs students, I have used  it to help them develop social skills.  They struggle with writing but they want to communicate with their peers (many of whom have graduated already) and I use Facebook to help with this.  I use Word to convert speech into text and they pastes it into Facebook.  With regards to content on Facebook, they are instructed that they are responsible for what they see and do on any site, including Facebook.  I have instructed them that I cannot possibly list every inappropriate piece of content which they might encounter, but they will know it when they see it and are to immediately move away from that content.   Dwelling or calling over buddies changes everything and it is dealt with as a discipline issue..

I hope they do not use a single blocking mechanism.  I can only see it going to a very locked down place.  Communities would be forced to accept the values of other communities, be it too much or too little content from the internet.   Are we going to see an internet blocked based on needs of Kindergarten students?  Will high schools be different?  What about K-12 schools?

Given that the internet is a moving target, we need to educate.  We need to educate our students, teachers, parents and administrators.  Do they realize that within a couple of hours of blocking Facebook, they will need to get IT to block a proxy server?  I have been so impressed with how well the filtering has worked and how helpful David has been.  I hope that it does not change and that people can be educated.  Easy solutions are not always good solutions.           Ed Fahl, High School teacher, Avonlea, SK

Is the Pope Catholic?  Believe it or not we even have off task behaviour in the classroom!  I know let’s use shock collars!

Is off task behaviour an issue?  Only if you let it run rabid.  How do we deal with it?  Supervision, education, learning, protocol, expectations (kids can come up with and agree on expectations – our cell project proved it – I did the same with facebook, no problems yet), respect, responsibility, and the odd consequence.  It’s no different than classroom management.  Same startegies work in the classroom as in the lab.  We need to move into the new millenium here.  Planning, preparation, and management.  Oh yeah, learning, engagement, and expecations.

Other solutions?  Let’s start teaching and learning about technology and respectful/responsible use.  We can’t put our kids in a bubble, but we can teach them how to be respectful/responsible people.  This is where we are missing the boat.  We aren’t going to be there to censor their activities when they are 19, so we better teach them right from wrong when we do have the chance.

I don’t know if this helps or not Dean, it’s pretty broad.  All I can say, is since we have adopted the philosophy of teaching/learning respect/responsibility for technology and the net, our off task behaviour has decreased because kids can make good decisions about their learning/lives, too.                        Gord Taylor, Principal Craik, SK

I am struggling with this issue in my classes and in general.  Usually the logical consequence for an off-task behaviour is, after a warning, removal of the stimulus.  In this case it is not possible to remove the stimulus.  Facebook, or any social networking tool, twitter, etc. is extremely addictive as it seems as if you are “out of the loop” you are truly missing out on something that seems impossible to catch up on at a later time.  I have to admit, I have checked my facebook during work hours myself.  The temptation is great.  I struggle with what consequence to enforce…denial of internet access?  Seems extreme when most of their classes require them to use the internet.  In-school suspension?  Meeting with a parent and having them promise not to do it again? How could this be enforced in any way but scanning their use logs everyday to ensure that anyone accessing off-task sites were given the same consequence.    My belief is that the temptation is great as our students are multi-taskers who are used to typing an essay, creating a spreadsheet while surfing you-tube for music and IMing on facebook.  They do not see this as a distraction at all.  They believe (may be true) that they can scan their facebook while doing other things and it isn’t a problem for their focus.

We have had an instance of bullying that was documented on facebook during school hours.  The student who made the comment on the wall of another student did so during school hours from a study period that is “supervised” by the library technician.  The issue was dealt with as a bullying issue, not a technology issue.  I supported, promoted, and stand by this.

We do not have adequate staffing to supervise all students on all computers at all times in our building. We have students completing on-line courses that are, unfortunately, not always supervised.  In my own classroom students are accessing off-task sites on the sly.  I have 27 students and one me.  They know that if I am helping students in the far corner that I can not see what they are doing on their computers in the other side of the room.  These are good, reasonable kids.

In the end, when all is said and done, what I am doing in my classroom?  I did my educational piece on internet, bullying, proper use of work time, what businesses expect (i.e. fireable offence to waste company time on off-task behaviour), etc.  This does not seem to curb the use of facebook…I teach PAA classes and so I am allowed to assign a mark for business-like attitude and behaviours.  I dock this mark for off-task time.   Does this curb the behaviour?  No.

The reason that I am harping on facebook is that of all the off-task sites, it is by far the most addictive as the very social networking nature of it makes it so tempting.  Games, youtube videos, etc…do not seem to be a problem.  The main problem is facebook in our school.  The main problem with dealing with facebook is the seemingly lack of logical consequence to enforce.            Lona Froshaug, High School teacher, Assiniboia, SK

Finally, this conversation is with Patricia Yeske, High School teacher at Riverview Collegiate in Moose Jaw,SK.