Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Facebook and Wisconsin Schools

"School Library Journal: Extra Helping" recently reported that "WI Schools Ban Facebook, IM Fraternizing Between Staff, Students". The school district is Elmbrook (Brookfield, WI; near Milwaukee), and this ban is on non-school hours communication. Facebook and MySpace are blocked during the school day.

What do you think about this attempt to control the means by which teachers and student may communicate?


  1. Hey, thats my old school district. That ban sounds like something they would enact.

  2. Hey Richard, I went to Elmbrook as well (although when I was there it was a middle school, ah the memories).

    I actually think this ban makes a lot of sense. I am friends with some high school teachers who have blogs/myspace pages/websites and they try really hard to make them unfindable by students (not posting photos of themselves, not using their full/real names, and making messages friends only etc). Especially one of my friends who is a photographer and takes "adult" themed photos, they are NOT pornographic but occasionally show nudity.

    I think at a high school age it's important that the teacher/student relationship doesn't bleed over too much into personal lives on the teachers side. This technology does make it easier for anyone with malicious intent to get a hold of students with no records of the interactions and without a parents knowledge.

    While this sorta ban rubs me the wrong way initially, it seems like a good policy in the long run as long as the students and teachers have lots of sanctioned ways to communicate.

  3. I'm inclined to agree with you, Sara. I think these kinds of measures are becoming increasingly more necessary to protect the personal privacy of teachers (and the safety and privacy of students, for that matter). That being said, I don't know if a complete ban on using these kinds of technologies is necessary - for example, I think teachers should be able to start a Twitter "page" for their class if they want to, for homework purposes or to encourage class feedback or share ideas, etc. I just think the divide between personal and class-related communication needs to be monitored carefully, as this can be a slippery slope in the post-digital era.

  4. I'm interested in how this ban conceives of teachers' privacy versus students'safety. With most social networking, the fears have been about adults contacting kids (presumably inappropriately), but this has left a number of online spaces entirely devoid of adult mentorship and observation.

    In fact, casual interactions with adults (including teachers) online may be able to protect young people from making bad online choices, and may bring disturbing behavior to light earlier. Danah Boyd suggests "digital street workers" who can reach out to kids in need via technology -

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  6. this whole article raises a lot of issues that have been on my mind for a minute or so.

    oddly, a friend of mine was just hired byt a public school, and his reaction to the "facebook problem" was to obliterate it. he didn't want his students to find him, given the fact that he has managed to be photographed having some good times. photographs that might, within the new context of him being a teacher, reflect poorly on him. also, students can't friend him and exacerbate a potentially awkward situation.

    overall, the school's response: “We are building out a new Web portal technology built around iGoogle that will incorporate similar Web 2.0 tools, but do it in our controlled environment,” seems like a constructive one, since they're trying to offer a substitute web2.0-rich environment for students and teachers to use to communicate. in my experience though, this proposed environment will not bea rearly as functional as facebook, twitter, et al.

    also: doesn't "chief information officer" sound like a totally orwellian position?