Friday, March 18, 2011

The Social Media Irony in Education

Today I am attending the CUE Conference in Palm Springs. This is my second year attending CUE and I continue to be impressed with the energy, knowledge and curiosity of the fabulous presenters.

Here's an ironic observation I made today.  Most of the educational technology conferences I attend are geared towards higher education.  At those conferences, just like here at CUE, the sessions frequently showcase ways to use social media in support of learning.  But when I listen to the comments made by K12 teachers and compare them to comments made at higher ed conferences by college professors, I notice a very interesting difference. 

K12 teachers voice frustration over their inability to have students participate in or with social media sites (Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, etc.) because they're blocked by their institution.  In essence, the "openness" of the online environment is viewed as "dangerous" to students so the sites are blocked.  In contrast, college professors commonly say, "I can't/won't use that because it's too open" referring to concerns over violating student privacy. 

The point here is that K12 teachers are advocating for the need to use social media tools in support of learning -- in an open environment -- because it's the only way we can begin to educate our students how to communicate and socialize online (sort of an important skill in 21st century life).   Today's opening keynote featured a teacher from Australia who noted his country's open policy around using social media in schools and said, "Shutting students out would be just silly."  And, on the flip side, we have college educators voicing concerns about using social media for learning because of the risks of violating student privacy (FERPA).  So, let me get this straight.  Those who are unable to use it, want to and those who are able to use it, don't want to use it.  Hmm. Sounds like we have something to talk through. 

I'd love to hear from some of you who have social media use policies in place at your institutions (k12 or higher ed) or may be working on one.  Please share!  Help us all learn together.
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