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Hi all,

I am a guest participant in a debate on the Economist web site Here is
the proposition: 

Proposition: Governments and universities everywhere should complete to
attract qualified students, regardless of nationality or residence. more
Social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook have now become a
ubiquitous part of many students' lives. The value of social networking has
been defined, in one sense, as the collective power of community to help
inform perspectives that would not be unilaterally formed - e.g. the best
thinking comes from many not one. Others argue that significant time spent
on social networking platforms actually distract students from their
studies. So a question emerges, could the introduction of social networking
tools be useful in a formal classroom setting? Additionally, is the concept
of social networking a progressive, but legitimate, form of
student-to-student and student-to-teacher collaboration?

My guest commentary will be posted 1/24. I am also working on a chapter for
a new book on effective Internet use management in a Web 2.0 world. (Yes, a
new book. The working title is Youth Risk Online: A Guide for Adults Who
Work With Children and Teens. I hope this will be a helpful text for
teachers and librarians, and other adults, on these issues. Research-based.
No fear-mongering.)

Anyway, all of this got me to thinking about these issues. I am thinking
that one of the problems is the terminology we are using. Whenever we say
"social networking in schools" people will invariably think that we mean
that we want students to be able to use MySpace and Facebook at school. The
vast majority of us recognize that this approach will likely not fly because
these sites are not educational. Note the problem that NSBA got into by not
being clear about what they meant about social networking in schools. Even I
criticized them for not being clear about what they were advocating.

So what I am thinking is that we may have a terminology problem - that is
pretty easily fixed. The term "social networking" has all sorts of negative
baggage - much of this grounded in irresponsible fear-mongering, but
negative baggage none the less.

What if we switched terms and started talking about the use of Web 2.0
technologies in schools? Read the proposition above, substitute "Web 2.0"
for "social networking," and eliminate the reference to MySpace and
Facebook. Wouldn't this shift the conversation?

I would love to hear your thoughts. I have posted this on my blog. Please
post your thoughts there - because they will be more accessible in the
future than through email.


Nancy Willard, M.S., J.D.
Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use

Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats: Responding to the Challenge of Online Social
Aggression, Threats, and Distress (Research Press)

Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens: Helping Young People Learn to Use the
Internet Safely and Responsibly (Jossey-Bass)

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