Home > Uncategorized > Facebook – are we creating a Lord of the Flies?

Facebook – are we creating a Lord of the Flies?

There seems to be a great deal of discussion currently, around the censored vs open internet access arrangements in places of education. Many people are discussing the issues around professional judgements of the suitability of content. There have been surveys done in the US showing that nearly three quarters of high school students see the censorship of content in places of education as their greatest barrier to using new technology in the pursuit of learning.

As important as these conversations are, they seem to skirt somewhat around the a much deeper issue of the way we prepare young people for an age where the internet, and specifically, an open access, open content internet is all pervasive. My colleague Tom Barrett posted an interesting discussion recently on his edte.ch blog that summerised Google’s recent introduction of a ‘YouTube for schools’ as a ‘sticking plaster mentality’ to dealing with the issues that open internet access brings. A lazy, ‘get out of jail free’ card that avoids the difficult and responsibility-burdened decision of whether a teacher is qualified to make a professional judgement about the suitability of content, or to what risk we expose our pupils if YouTube is open within the school environment. But why stop at YouTube?

Most open content, social media and social networking websites are blocked in schools. Yet we are only fooling ourselves if we believe that young people do not access them in their open format everywhere outside of the school, and quite possibly within school on mobile devices connected through a 3G network. Schools are becoming bizarre isolated islands, cutting themselves off from the utterly embedded nature of social web content in the society that they serve. The result is that websites like Facebook and Twitter are becoming 21st century, living examples, of the island on which William Goulding marooned a small group of boys in his 1954 novel, ‘The Lord of the Flies. Young people grouped together in self built, private networks of contemporaries that are totally without adult guidance or scrutiny.

Sadly, it is my experience that like the boys on the island, this isolation from adult support often results in the descent into savagery. Ferocious bullying, the posting of inappropriate violent or sexual material or worse still, connections to entirely unsuitable individuals. This world that explodes into the classroom every so often, after a particularly unpleasant evening on Facebook chat for example, is destructive to real world relationships and learning. In every other aspect of children’s lives adults set boundaries and educate them about social relationships and real world dangers. We discuss bullying in our classrooms but not social media. We talk about stranger danger but not social networking. We talk about the way we treat one another and what to do when you see something that upsets you but not social networking, and yet the online world is as real, if not more real than the school environment. ‘What is to be done?’ ask anxious policy makers, about cyberbullying and online predators, how can we screw social media down into tighter and tighter controls to protect our children? The answer, of course, is that we can’t. No more can anyone control social media than control society at large and nor should we want to. From social media has come, possibly the most exciting surge of creativity in the history of mankind, empowered by collaboration that was never possible before. Our role and responsibility as educators is to teach our children how to navigate the pitfalls of the web. By bringing social media and social networking into the classroom we can open it up to adult guidance and scrutiny. By shining a bright, positive light on it we drive out the darkness within that its current, hidden status provides. Failing to do this promises a future not dissimilar

Web censorship in schools creates dangerous isolation

to the future that Goulding suggests for the boys on his island, had the Navel Officer not arrived just in time. We must become social media’s ‘naval officer’ and do so now because quite simply, the time is upon us.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. David Warlick
    January 22, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    A very interesting take on a very old and much discussed issue here in the U.S. As someone who has been involved in the educational use of ICT for 30 years, I can say that this reluctance to take responsibility for helping students to develop responsible information skills has been one of the most frustrating walls I’ve had to beat my head against.

    Yet, I’ll have to say that the last year or so has seen a pretty dramatic loosening of constraints as more education leaders come to realize the potentials of making learning more social.

    Thanks for continuing the conversation.

    – dave

  2. January 23, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    Interesting analogy. We’ve decided not to block those sites from our students. The Middle and High School students will access Facebook on their smartphones even if we block their wifi access.

    It’s nearly impossible to control how students use social media at home – which is why we need to educate students about cyberbullying. However, we can control social media use in classrooms without blocking sites. Some tricks that work for me:
    – Give specific time limits for accomplishing specific objectives. If students know they are accountable for learning before they go on break, they are likely to spend less time chatting via social media or google mail/docs.
    – Implements “screen free” zones and “screen free” times of day. Our students are not allowed to use computers on campus during recess, lunch, or after school. Instead, we want students to exercise and develop face-to-face relationships.

    Janet | expateducator.com

  3. January 23, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    Fitting analogy of SM to the island in Lord of the Flies. We have already arrived late, but at least we are starting to arrive. I am using SM in our school for my classes as are many of our teachers after a long debate similar to the one you described here. Now, we have set up camp on their island and have turned it into a school house. I’ve blogged on this use a couple times http://www.1teachontheedge.blogspot.com.

    Janet, I like your suggestion for screen free zones and times. Now that a great number of our teachers are using the tech tools we have provided, we are also encouraging “unplugged” lessons. It’s an important balance!

  1. January 23, 2012 at 8:16 pm
  2. March 25, 2012 at 8:42 am
  3. May 30, 2012 at 5:09 pm

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