Fear Mongering, Social Media & You

hidingI have really been trying to pick my battles in school this year. Rather than trying in vain to integrate every new technology I find into the curriculum of every faculty member I am trying instead to focus on one larger project at a time. So my first project of the year is perhaps the largest, to get my school to relax the internet filtering system to the benefit of all. It has been a bit of a bumpy experience so far, but I think that I am making headway.

After my initial meeting with the Superintendent went pretty well, he asked me to come and speak to the entire administrative team about the issue. This meeting was where the discussion got bumpy. The meeting was going pretty well, I had convinced them of the educational value of sites like YouTube, and then the subject of Facebook came up. This is where the conversation came to a screeching halt. The administrators in the room where adamantly against allowing Facebook to be used in school. When I asked what the issue was “that nothing serious ever happens on Facebook” (paraphrase), “it is a place to waste time with your friends.” I assured them that thanks to my new PLN if they gave me 24 hours I could give them ten valid educational uses for the service.

Then the conversation took a turn to where I knew it could go, but hoped it wouldn’t…”Facebook is a dangerous place where predators stalk kids.” At that point in the meeting I just sat and listened. These administrators are good people who seem to have legitimate concerns for the well being of their students, not merely a fear of litigation (although I’m certain that was present). Some of them quoted recent events in the national media like the so-called Facebook Killer, or other sorts of vague reports of kids being abused by sickos.

These fears are roadblocks to the least restrictive internet environment and unless I can craft a thoughtful and logical argument to rebut it the service will remain off limits here. Are these fears unfounded? Are they partially correct? Can I use technology to make it safer, or is this as I suspect a rather matter of culture.

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