“What we don’t understand we can make mean anything” Chuck Palahniuk (Diary)
I apologize up front for reopening an old wound; But I recently received an email from a local middle school principal who shared Ben Franklin Middle School Principal Anthony Orsini’s letter about not using facebook or any social media with her school community. She too has urged her families to ignore facebook and all social media. I was willing to leave this issue alone until it reached my office.
Reading Principal Orsini’s letter I immediatly thought of my grandfather, who in the early 1980′s when microwave ovens were gaining popularity, not only refused to own one, but refused to be in a room with a microwave oven on. 25 years later I recall him saying “I can’t come up with one reason anyone would need a microwave oven.” Sound familiar?
I am proud to say my school, Xaverian Brothers High School, went in the other direction and offers technology classes for middle school teachers, parents, and administrators.
These popular and successful workshops include podcasting, webdesign, and photoedititing, as well as;
All You Ever Wanted to Know About Facebook:
An overview of Facebook, how it works, it’s main features, and why it is so popular with high school students. A look at the possible dangers of Facebook. We will set up Facebook accounts as a class exercise and experience Facebook first hand (this will be voluntary).
The Internet offers tremendous learning resources. As our children
reach out online to gain knowledge and engage in research, global communication and information sharing they are also vulnerable to exploitation. Participants will learn how to block Internet access at home and the signs that your child is at risk online.
We are educators, we have a responsibility to these students and parents.
I take particular issue with the Principal’s line “Over 90% of all homework does not require the Internet, or even a computer.” Will they be doing their math homework on an abacus? Is this the best way to prepare the children (and yes I agree they are still children) for high school and beyond?
As a new father I understand the desire to protect our children from any and all potential harm, but to presume that the only people on facebook are predators and bullies is ignorant. I worked on graduate school papers and presentations on facebook, exchanged information about enrollment and demographic trends with professional colleagues, reconnected with old friends, and looked at pictures of my friends children in Seattle…all in the same day. Facebook has enormous potential for all levels of education and life.
Mr. Orsini concludes the letter with “some people advocate that the parents and the school should teach responsible social networking to students because these sites are part of the world in which we live. I disagree, it is not worth the risk…”
Most people and institutions, including Xaverian disagree with Mr. Orsini. As educators we have decided to educate; because as he said himself, these sites are part of the world we live in and these sites are quickly changing and shaping the world we live in, they cannot be ignored, this is not a trend.
I work in a school of almost one thousand students and have learned the fastest way to ensure an adolescent does something, is to forbid them from doing it! Demonizing the “scourge” of social media all but ensured those at Ben Franklin Middle School not on facebook soon will be; I would think a middle school principal would have a deeper understanding of middle school student behavior.
So Whenever the 17 year old rebellious teenager in me rises up and compels me to post something potentially offensive or overly controversial on Twitter, Facebook or the like I remember how, at 37 years old I chose to edit myself…I friended my 64 year old mother on Facebook.