Well, I had to share this! Finally a bit of press promoting what we do all the time! Take a peek and pass it on to your administrators who are blocking your sites! Great news--My tech administrator sent this to me. We may be making some progress? Enjoy..
This progress will also fall under scrutiny... not by teachers or students, but by administrators, IT support staff and parents. I can appreciate all of the good that comes from Web 2.0 resources, but it opens the door to cyberbulling and potential unsafe communication with unknown individuals. It is concerns like these that have administrators, IT support and parents questioning the concept for school instruction. Administrators and IT staff are charged with the protection of students information and exposure to inapprorpriate material (as teachers are) through resources like firewalls, content filters, desktop management software and monitoring software. When this protection breaks down and a student is injured in anyway it is these groups that are questioned. This is why it is important to research all aspects of the sites you wish to use in your instruction. It certainly would not hurt to talk to your IT group for guidance as well as it relates to potential risks that may be presented to the students.
I had this same problem last year. I started using Think.com and there was an issue with cyberbullying. Parents were not happy and we had to shut it down. I am looking for a site that will help with this issue. I am looking into Studeous.com for there is the ability to turn the chat function off. On the other hand, the kids have the ability to create their own sites. No matter what, parents are the ones who end up ruining it for the few. They refuse to let their children take responsibility for their actions and insist it is because the teachers are not doing a good job, at least that is what has happened in my experience. Kids need to be held accountable for their actions. If we don't teach them how to behave in these social networking situations, who will? Not their parents. The usual attitude is "It's bad. Stay off." It doesn't have to be bad, does it?
Karen, Our class blog is made with Drupal and it has really filled the bill--I was looking for an authentic writing experience. We keep it pretty locked up but have NO spammers or intruders. We tried think.com for three years and didn't have any trouble with it (until they did away with email) but I found it so rinky-dink that nothing good was going on there.
Be sure you have an AUP in place with both parent and student signatures then you can take care of the infractions easily. Unless students, especially K-8, are doing a collaborative project they can leave the socializing for home. ( I know A LOT of people disagree).
Here's my response to a "Facebook in the classroom" discussion, and why I think it takes a lot of work to use networking sites with kids (I was speaking specifcally of ning but it applies to any networking site)
I said this before, maybe in this discussion, but I think there are too many nooks and crannies in ning for any teacher to do a good job of monitoring. With the ability to have discussions (which is a good thing) there are individual pages where students can say or post anything they like included copyrighted material or videos and pictures. The students can also send private messages and invite friends. I would stay away from ning with 13-16 year olds, most middle school teachers have over 100 students to monitor. There is just too many avenues for trouble. I've got a classblog which I monitor daily and have used other tools---webpages, wikis, Moodle etc so it's not like I'm anti-tech, I think there are a lot of tweens and young teens who make stupid decisions. I think sometimes educators just tech for tech sake without a thought of whether there is learning, teaching, thinking, and reflection going on. I tend to be more conservative--I make sure the tool enhances what we are doing.
Thanks Sue. That will be a great article to add to deli.cio.us . Our Education Departments expect us to embrace the new technologies and then tie our hands.Hopefully we will see some positive changes in 2009.