We learn from our mistakes. Hot stoves. Broken bones. Bad choices. With each wrong move, we gain experience and information that will help us to make better, wiser decisions for the next time. This idea transfers to technology as well. Shielding students behind “walled gardens” prevents them from facing real-world experiences and learning from their choices.
Webopedia defines “walled gardens” as a “browsing environment that controls the information and web sites the user is able to access.” As a teacher, I understand why schools use extensive firewalls to keep students away from unsavory information; however, I’m not so sure that building walls is the best way to teach our students about the Internet and how to handle the information they may find. Think about it: When you were young and your parents said no to something, how did it make you feel? It made you want to do it more, right? By putting stop signs after 5 out of 10 clicks, we are essentially doing the same thing. Limiting our students to only a few approved websites nullifies the benefits and usage of the Internet (and technology) in our classrooms.
In her article “A Guidebook for Social Media,” @coolcatteacher brings up an interesting point. She notes that students need to learn different forms of writing; however, with each new skill they learn (be it letters, e-mail, or social media), we are “opening our students to a whole new dangerous world.” Should we let the potential for danger prevent us from learning? No! I think we should instead face that potential for “danger” and instruct our students on how to deal with it.
One way to teach our students how to properly interact online, specifically using social media, is to utilize it in our classrooms. Let’s show our students that social media is not just a way to show everyone what you ate for dinner last night or your new high score, but rather a way to analyze a character, to summarize complex texts, to collect and annotate data, to broadcast learning.
Social media gives students the ability to connect with people all over the world. That idea scares a lot of people, but again, by making social media a part of education, we are creating opportunities to teach netiquette and digital citizenship as well as privacy/safety rules. Additionally, there are a number of global collaboration projects made possible by social media. For example, the Edmodo Pen Pal Project connects students around the world. It allows students to discuss everyday topics and current events with people from other cultures; thereby teaching students to respect and appreciate the opinions of others. Skype in the Classroom is another excellent benefit of using social media. Through Skype in the Classroom, students get to experience things that were never before possible. For example, students can go on virtual field trips, invite guest speakers from across the globe into their class, participate in Mystery Skype, and even collaborate with other schools.
As I said before, I understand “walled gardens.” It makes sense to me, but I believe that there is a better way. Walls don’t teach responsibility. Walls don’t teach respect and maturity. Walls don’t benefit our students. Real-world instruction does. Facing the Internet and social media head on does more for our students. After all, one day, they have to leave the protection of our classroom. I’d rather that they leave knowing what’s waiting for them. Wouldn’t you?
Walled garden. (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2017, from http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/W/walled_garden.html
@coolcatteacher, V. D. (2014, February 27). A Guidebook for Social Media in the Classroom. Retrieved February 26, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/guidebook-social-media-in-classroom-vicki-davis