A front page article in the Red Deer Advocate, ‘Teachers Facing Cyber Attacks’ tells how the Red Deer Public School Board blocks myspace, facebook and other social networking sites in an attempt to fight cyber bullying of both students and teachers. According to Ron Eberts, assistant superintendent for information technology services, “The No. 1 reason we do block those sites is for that reason…”. Blocking social networking sites isn’t unique to Red Deer or even to schools. A simple google search will result in almost a million links on the subject. These links include the why, who, where and even ways to get around it. Included in this article is a response by Bill Belsey, a teacher and founder of the websites: bullying.org and cyberbullying.ca who suggests that,”Chasing technology is like playing whack-a-mole, you can get one but three others will pop up.” He suggests that schools and parents need to work together to deal with bullying and how children make use of social networking sites and the web in general.
Have the school boards considered hosting their own self contained social networking sites to enable students and teachers to collaborate on projects and learning in general? In a world that is changing how we communicate and share ideas, as described in Wikinomics by Don Tapscott, our children should be educated in how to use these new web based tools in a responsible way. Chances are that when they enter the workforce, they will be using such things as social networking to communicate with their co-workers.
Here is an example of a web 2.0 tool designed for school use: Ecto and their promotional video. I don’t know enough about the company to vouch for them, but they are mentioned here as an example of what is available to allow students to harness the power of social networking without the risks of the myspace and facebook type sites.