Schools banning social networking sites is counterproductive. The reason you still hear so many stories about people getting in trouble about something they’ve done online, is no one has been educated. The teachers don’t often know how to use social web tools, many parents are afraid of the technology and the students therefore just do what kids often do — learn from friends or on their own through trial and error.
Some companies think there an opportunity to sell schools educationally “relevant” social tools at a premium. These sorts of redundant tools frustrate me. It’s one thing to protect and encase localized information within an ecosystem that keeps it there. But it’s another thing to adopt costly half-measures that are endemic only to that system and leave the end users no smarter than they began.
It makes far more sense to teach educators from administration down to the classroom about the power of social media and how it can be leveraged effectively. I don’t expect everyone to use it and if they did, I’m not sure it’d be that useful. But for some enterprising teachers, there are a myriad of creative ways to employ the bevy of tools out there. I’m sure some of it is already happening in a forest where few can hear it.
It’d also be great for students to understand the power of the web. Sure, it means they’ll sometimes use what they learn and experiment. Sometimes, those experiments won’t please people in charge. None of this is new, though. With the mainstream having made a full embrace of the social web, it’s time to teach our children how to be smart online.