Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Free speech on MySpace

Today’s USA Today article Court: MySpace postings are free speech” reports on a case involving a February 2006 MySpace post by a student, described as “an expletive-laden entry on MySpace criticizing a school principal.” The Indiana appeals court overruled the lower court’s ruling that the student author’s comments were obscene, supporting the student’s appeal in which she argued:

her comments were protected political speech under both the state and federal constitutions because they dealt with school policy…The Court of Appeals found that the comments were protected and that the juvenile court had unconstitutionally restricted her right of free expression.

If you read my post from Sunday, “MySpace defamation suit highlights important issues,” you’re likely seeing the pattern here. In this Indiana case, apparently because the student’s posting to MySpace involved school policies (and were not purely personal attacks) her speech was “protected.”

Events like this did not happen in the 20th century on a global stage because young people did not have direct access to a global stage. We have a responsibility as educators, adults, and leaders in our communities (because leadership is not confined to those with “positional authority”) to help students cultivate ethical and responsible decision making skills when it comes to digital technologies. Today (and for the rest of this week) I’m working in Enid, Oklahoma with a new group of teacher-facilitators for our Oklahoma Digital Centennial Project. The work we are doing here ties DIRECTLY, in my view, to news articles like this one.

By inviting students to create and share digital stories about Oklahoma history with others in our state and around the world, we’re working to help equip students with the skills they’ll need for the 21st century. Digital learners don’t just need TECHNICAL skills, however, they also need to develop (THROUGH PRACTICE, not just theoretical classroom discussions) ethical decision making skills.

How is your school district working to help students as well as teachers develop those technical as well as ethical skills they need in our digital landscape? Are you inviting learners of all ages to appropriately present on the global stage, which is the Internet’s world-wide web? If you’re not, you might consider working towards these goals soon with others. Headlines about lawsuits like this one from Indiana are likely to become even more common in the years ahead.

Thanks to Anastasia Goodstein for the USA Today article link.

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