My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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National School Boards Association pushes for SNS adoption in schools

While the Attorneys General are off demonizing social network sites, the National Schools Board Association has been collecting data on all of the good things that teenagers are doing with the sites, including learning about colleges, talking about homework, engaging in collaborative projects, and otherwise operating as active learners. To combat the myths generated by mass hysteria, they highlight that only .08% (note the point, this is less than 1%) of students have met someone in person through an online interaction without their parents’ permission. In short, they argue that not only is the Internet not nearly as dangerous as the public seems to believe, but it’s actually quite helpful for students and teachers should be encouraged to support their students in using it. They offer recommendations for how schools should directly engage with these sites and the practices of their students.

YAY! Go National School Boards Association! Thank you thank you thank you for not perpetuating the culture of fear. Please make the elected fearmongers hear you!

I strongly encourage everyone who holds power over teens – parents, teachers, school administrators, law enforcement, youth ministers, press, and politicians – to read this report. I’ve been saying these things for years, but they are more authoritative and, besides, they have numbers and people like numbers. My only qualm is that they don’t do a good job of talking about how important it is to socialize youth into a society where these publics have different structural issues, but still… everything they do offer is a step in the right direction. Yay!

So go read the report! And if you need more pro-school and tech energy when you’re done, check out this teacher tube video about why teachers need to pay attention to social media.

(Tx to everyone who sent me this!)

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6 comments to National School Boards Association pushes for SNS adoption in schools

  • Steve

    I looked at this report, and it seems there is a little conceptual fuzziness there about what is “social networking”. Take for instance the following paragraph:

    Still, despite the rules, there is
    some officially sanctioned, educationally
    packaged social networking
    occurring in schools. Almost
    seven in 10 districts (69 percent)
    say they have student Web site
    programs. Nearly half (49 percent)
    say their schools participate
    in online collaborative projects
    with other schools, and almost as
    many (46 percent) say their students
    participate in online pen pal
    or other international programs.
    More than a third (35 percent)
    say their schools and/or students
    run blogs, either officially or in
    the context of instruction.More
    than one in five districts (22 percent)
    say their classrooms are
    involved in creating or maintaining
    wikis,Web sites that allow
    visitors to add, remove or edit
    content.

    Now these are probably fine activities. But are they “social networking”, or are they just the Internet? The report in general appears to be a kind of “bait and switch” where the benefits of internet use are documented, under the name “social networking”, and then become an argument for the use of SNS sites.

    I think that an SNS can be a venue for education, because most of them are constructed with enough generality of function that they could be adapted as a venue for just about anything. But are they the most effective online venue for academics? Or would the socializaton activities serve as a distraction from educational goals, just like note-passing in class did in my generation?

    I’m probably going to come off sounding kind of hard-ass about this, but I really believe that a focus on academic achievement and a focus on who’s hot and who’s not are mutually competitive agendas. If we want teens to become proficient at the very demanding skills needed to master subject-matter disciplines, maybe we should encourage them to cool it somewhat with the socializing concerns – at least within academically designated regions of space and time.

    Not that social concerns don’t have their place. But it is a *different* place from that devoted to academic goals.

    -Steve

  • I didn’t read the report but I watched the teacher video.
    I was an English teacher in Victoria, Australia. I learned about Bloom’s Taxonomy in 1969. It’s not a new concept, even though in Australia, it is being treated as it is.
    Of course we must engage our students. As a young female in tough working class schools, I had to or I would have had chaos in the classroom. I did learn to engage my students. But that was before the internet.

    When I became a teacher librarian just before the internet took off, I got on to it myself at home very early. Librarians had to. But the schools weren’t providing the back up needed to engage students with it and when some did those networks were soooo slow.

    I collected webquests and so on for teachers. They were visually and intellectually engaging.

    I had retired by the time internet social networking arrived. I don’t know if I’d use them. My son never had a mobile(cell). He didn’t want one. He certainly had a computer at home. He used it to play games. He used Nintendo and the like too. All of these activities, I supported because I could see that for one thing his reflexes were being exercised and he had to read things.

    Now he is doing Physics Honours. He doesn’t read, except for physics terms and whatever else they read???

    We weren’t poor and we were educated rich, but we didn’t have enough for an iPod. He doesn’t have one, I don’t have one.

    We still have to consider those who do not have, in our educational institutions, as a priority.

    I’m on Facebook and have fun but my son is not interested. I write a blog but he always found these things useless. But that’s a Physics student for you.

    I would use a cell (mobile)in the classroom if everyone had one and it led to thinking, analyzing, reading…but the texting? It would have to be English.

    I would certainly use podcasts and videos. The internet as such is a wonderful tool. But you also have to get through to your school council as to how you can use the internet and other gadgets. When I was last there in a school, mobiles were banned as they are in most schools. Free access to the internet was also banned. So many netnannies. I was always of the view that students should sign a contract agreeing not to use the internet for “noneducational purposes”, but the majority of my colleagues wanted sureties that they couldn’t use those sites. Stalemate!

    You’d need a computer network in every classroom to use them when you wanted to.

    Just a few comments on the video to raise some problems. In general, I agree with using almost anything to engage the student.

  • Not a comment on this specifically, but I read the interview with you in the Melbourne Herald Sun on Saturday and was delighted. Thanks for doing so much to try and push back the culture of ‘Internet = DANGER!’. Wish I could have gone to see you speak while you were here, but it was still good to have at least one person in the Australian media talking about the opportunities the internet offers, rather than stoking the fear. Cheers.

  • You’ve criticized Pew’s methods (http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2007/01/07/pew_data_on_soc.html) in the past in part because teens may be answering questions on the telephone with their parents nearby.

    I’d love to know more about Grunwald’s methodology without paying them $9-12,000. Do you have a sense if the Grunwald/NSBA report is hampered in the same way?

  • My critique of the PEW data is that their numbers are going to be low because teens have to speak in front of their parents.

    I don’t know the full methodology on this report because I can’t get all of the data or the methodology, but I suspect that there will be some bias based on what teens think that the adults want to hear – there always is. What’s important to me is not whether or not the numbers are accurate, but the ways in which it portrays general trends. Yes, many teens use this to share homework. Yes, some teens use this to create content. Yes, lots of teens do college looking through these sites. No, most teens do not go out and meet people (with or without parental permission). All of this matches up with what I’m seeing qualitatively. Whether the numbers are accurate for all online teens can be debated, but the general trends are significant (just like the general PEW trend that most teens are on SNS is important).

  • Joe

    FYI, the NSBA link for the PDF report has changed; at least, I get a one-blank-page PDF using the link in your post.

    This one works for me:
    http://www.nsba.org/site/docs/41400/41340.pdf