Teachers should be anonymous . . .

My friend Paul Baker quoted me in a post about an article at eSchool News discussing Ohio’s “warning” to teachers to avoid social networking via the Internet.

The article doesn’t suggest limits, it seems to be a suggestion of complete abstinence. The memo tells educators that they are not to participate in social networking via the Internet period:

OEA [Ohio Education Association] advises members not to join [these sites], and for existing users to complete the steps involved in removing their profiles,”

OEA‘s action is interesting considering recent recommendations by the NSBA (National School Boards Association). David Cassel talks about the actions of the NSBA in his blog, Blorge.com as does Will Richardson, ” ‘Learner in Chief’ at Connective Learning and the author of the recently released Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms” on his blog. Andy Carvin, from PBS, also addresses the NSBA report at learning.now.

Among comments in the report from the NSBA are the following:

“Social networking may be advantageous to students — and there could already be a double standard at work. 37% of districts say at least 90% of their staff are participating in online communites of their own — related to education — and 59% of districts said that at least half were participating. “These findings indicate that educators find value in social networking,” the study notes, “and suggest that
many already are comfortable and knowledgeable enough to use social networking for educational purposes with their students.”

“In fact, 76% of parents expect social networking will improve their children’s reading and writing skills, or help them express themselves more clearly, according to the study, and parents and communities ‘expect schools to take advantage of potentially powerful educational tools, including new technology.'”

“In light of these findings, they’re recommending that school districts may want to ‘explore ways in which they could use social networking for educational purposes’ ”

Ohio seems to have, for lack of a better term, overreacted. When a teacher establishes a classroom, they provide their students with a set of behavioral expectations and the consequence for violating those expectations. Is the OEA modeling how teachers would begin to incorporate Internet and communications technologies into the learning environment? They might want to read Chris Lehmann’s blog about change vs. innovation. The idea of rethinking schools and the process of education will only be that, an idea, unless the “powers that be” see educators as professionals and the act of education as a practice (not unlike doctors and lawyers – and other professionals who continue the learning process and apply new learning all the time.)

Andy Carvin also raises the point that politicians, who always want to have their hand in the educational process, are possibly out of touch with parents, students, and teachers (in other words, their constituents), “Speaking of district policies towards social networking, the findings of this study would appear to run counter to the thinking of many in Congress, given the wide support for pro-filtering legislation last summer in the House.”

We teach and expect responsible behavior from students, why not from teachers as well? Let teachers discover new ways to use the Internet and communication tools to expand the classroom and class time – unless they teach in Ohio.

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