Educators integrating web-based tools in the elementary classroom have all seen that same warning: site blocked. It may be inappropriate content, social media, or even online banking. There are several steps school districts take to protect students. The question is, how much protection is necessary? When does the protection of our students hinder learning? I feel that protection is necessary; until worthwhile learning experiences become inaccessible.
The term used in this debate is “walled garden“. The analogy is that students view only filtered and approved media content. I strongly believe that there needs to be some filtering of content in the elementary school setting. We protect our children every day from inappropriate books and magazines. Why would I not do the same for internet resources? The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children found some interesting results in a recent study.
• One in four regular Internet users younger than 17 was exposed to unwanted sexually oriented pictures online during the past year.
• One in five youths received an online sexual solicitation or approach during the past year.
• One in 17 was threatened or harassed online during the past year.
• One in 33 received an aggressive sexual solicitation online involving offline contact or a request for offline contact during the past year.
Knowing that many children have been exposed to information that is above their maturity level, I feel that filtering of some content is necessary. The main area of concern for me would be pictures and video from unmonitored sites. I consider myself an expert in early childhood education, having been a kindergarten teacher for eleven years and earning two Masters degrees. Thus, I should note that I am not speaking for the junior and senior high setting. I have read research on both sides of the walled garden in this setting, and honestly, I can see pros and cons to either side of the debate. With that in mind, I cannot imagine subjecting my kindergarten students to an open internet search. We have all seen what pops up from seemingly harmless search terms.
However, I do not find it necessary to block social media in the classroom setting. There are tools out there that can be very useful, even in the elementary setting. The good news is, there are often child-approved, social media tools that are quite child-friendly. Students in my setting are not old enough for a Facebook account. However, setting up a blog for them to utilize or an account in Edmodo is very safe. I feel that monitored and assisted use of web-based tools in the classroom is worthwhile. Education World recently interviewed a classroom utilizing blogging as a classroom tool. They found that student engagement and motivation increased dramatically. Students are also able to relate tasks to the real-world: “The fifth-graders are seeing the power of writing as it is displayed on a blog” (Education World 2010).
I find this level of motivation in my own classroom of five and six-year olds. When we are filming a Podcast or creating a blog post, all students are enthusiastic and ready to help. There is not a single child who sees the social media aspect of learning as a bothersome task. I can easily turn a learning objective into a socially relevant experience that creates an excited group of kindergarteners. I do not see the point to blocking this experience from my children. Rather, I will monitor content, block inappropriate media, and allow the worthwhile tools to meet the needs of my students.
- Education World: Fifth-Graders Soar in the Blogosphere. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2012, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/tech/tech253.shtml
- Internet Safety Month 2010. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2012, from http://www.missingkids.com/missingkids/servlet/PageServlet?LanguageCountry=en_US&PageId=4307
- Walled garden (technology) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walled_garden_(technology)
- Education World: Getting Started on the Internet: Safe Surfing. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2012, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr073.shtml
- Education World: Social Networking Tips for Teachers. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2012, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/tech/tech256.shtml
- Education World: The Internet Safety Debate. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2012, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr070.shtml
- Education World: Using Technology In The Classroom. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2012, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/archives/technology.shtml
- Need to Know: Internet Safety in the Classroom : Internet Safety. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2012, from http://www.surfnetkids.com/go/safety/57/need-to-know-internet-safety-in-the-classroom/
- Privacy Playground. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2012, from http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/games/privacy_playground/
- Social Networking for Kids. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2012, from http://www.commonsensemedia.org/website-lists/social-networking-kids
- Social Networking: TheirSpace | Edutopia. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2012, from http://www.edutopia.org/whats-next-2007-school-social-networking
- TeachersFirst’s Internet Safety Resources. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2012, from http://www.teachersfirst.com/spectopics/safety.cfm
- Webonauts Internet Academy | PBS KIDS GO! (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2012, from http://pbskids.org/webonauts/