Buffy Hamilton’s post, “Teacher, Leave that Social Network Alone?” in response to Dana Boyd’s post, “some thoughts on technophilia” is timely and thought-provoking for me. We’re strategizing now to address a continuing issue with one of the companies providing Internet website content filtering services for a number of Oklahoma schools, which insists on blocking by default all access to our Celebrate Oklahoma Voices learning community for all students and teachers. Their policy has nothing to do with the content of our site or the way it is moderated by adult educators: They have a blanket-policy to block all sites that include any type of social or educational networking functionality. We have over 400 educational videos created by Oklahoma teachers and students in our learning community, but again– to this company and their policy, this is irrelevant. In their view, any site permitting social networking might as well be categorized as “animal sacrificing.” The entire category of sites is defined as evil and completely non-educational.

In her post, Buffy writes:

I believe there is another digital divide building in addition to the one of access to technology that boyd discusses: it is the digital divide of those who are and those who are not being taught how to harness the power of social networking to enhance their knowledge whether it be for personal or school based information seeking needs. I feel a responsibility to expose my students to the learning potential that lies within the tools; at the end of the day, they can ultimately choose which tools work for them.

I am not an advocate for using Facebook, Myspace, or another commercial social network as your educational “learning management system,” but I certainly am an advocate of finding ways to utilize social media platforms to blend learning and extend learning opportunities beyond the traditional “boundaries of the bell.” This is definitely an “outlier” view amidst many of our extremely conservative and risk-averse midwestern schools.

We DO have multiple “digital divides” in our schools and communities today. This is the reason we selected “Bridging the Divide” as the theme for the 2009 K-12 Online Conference. We desperately need more advocates who understand the power of “professional learning communities” and social/educational networking to share this “gospel” effectively with educational leaders around our state, nation and world.

We need to help leaders replace their irrational fears with educated perspectives informed by constructive, personal experiences.

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One Response to Another digital divide: Understanding Learning Community Power

  1. So does the filtering company’s “blanket-policy to block all sites that include any type of social or educational networking functionality” mean that the Library of Congress site is NOT blocked, but the Library of Congress images on Flickr ARE blocked?

    It is beyond belief that the educational videos from Celebrate Oklahoma Voices are unreachable by the very community that could most benefit from them. It would seem that any rational person would understand this example, but it is always easier to issue a no-arguments-allowed proclamation, especially if you’re in the filtering business.

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