Dear Ms. Gattinger,
For the last 2 years the influx of cyberbullying in our community and school has been on the rise. The grade 4 teachers have had an excellent idea that might help children develop digital citizenship and digital literacy.
Megan Woodard and Andrea Bregg have come up with an innovative fourth grade ELA project which incorporates posting to Facebook; a website commonly used by our students. During this project students will be expected to post to a private group, reflecting on their learning and updating their peers on the progress they are making on their project. The group will be closely monitored with only the teachers, parents and students have access to it.
Throughout this email we intend to highlight why incorporating Facebook into the classroom is key for building digital health and wellness. We hope that this Facebook project will help students understand how to use the internet in a kind and responsible way.
Our students are needing to learn the tools to navigate our digital world. Therefore this project intends to teach the students about the nine elements of digital literacy. There are nine essential elements to digital citizenship that our students should learn and understand in order to be an effective part of our developing society:
Digital Access: We want to ensure that our students understand that people may not have the same level of access to technology. Factors that can affect a person’s participation on the internet can include their family’s income or if they live in a rural or urban environment. This is particularly relevant for our students as they have varying degrees of exposure to technology, due to the major differences in terms of wealth and access to technology. We believe that bringing Facebook into the classroom can provide equal opportunities to participate online, without feeling pressured to bring the technology home. Using this tool allows all of the students to have a facebook page, which can help combat the bullying some students experience because they do not have an account.
Digital Commerce: If you have been keeping up with the news lately, you would know that Facebook has come under scrutiny because they have been using user data to place ads on Facebook pages. We believe that this can be turned into a learning opportunity to help students understand that the ads they see have been tailored specifically to them. We will also be doing several activities designed to help students spot and understand fake newsin a way similar to how it has been done before.
Digital Communication: The students will be able to use the online community to complete group work, reflect on learning and communicate with others. In light of the recent bullying incidents, we are aware that the students in our school are communicating with each other online. One of the main goals of their project is to help students change the way that they communicate with each other. We wish to turn those negative interactions into positive ones by teaching students that what you say online isn’t anonymous and impacts the person who receives your comment. We will be stressing using positive and constructive comments, leading to the point that if you don’t feel comfortable saying something in person why would/should you say it online?
Digital Literacy: We believe that students should have opportunities to navigate online spaces under the guidance of adults. The majority of this ELA project will be done through facebook. We want the students to understand that the internet is a place where they can learn and share their ideas.
Digital Etiquette: Once again I bring up the cyberbullying problem that our school has been facing. We strongly believe that the students in our class need to learn how to be kind to one another online. We will be using the THINK model when we are interacting online. This will help the students think about if they are spreading rumors, if what they are posting isn’t helpful or inspiring. They will also think about if the thing they are about to post is necessary for an online space. And most importantly they will need to ask themselves if what they are about to post is kind.
Digital Law: Although this subject will not be formally addressed throughout this unit, we believe that students need to understand Digital law. This can include addressing subjects like sexting where students are sending inappropriate photos.
Digital rights and responsibilities: Once the students post something online it is out there forever and often does not belong to them anymore. This course will help students begin to understand how copyright works. We hope that they will become more cautious of what they post.
Digital health and wellness: In a world filled with Instagram models and filters. We want our students to understand that you are okay just as you are, don’t need to filter yourself. We will be using the hashtag #nofilterneeded throughout the project.
Digital Security (self-protection): We will help students learn how to protect themselves by following the previous 8 elements as well as understanding that privacy is something that does not necessarily exist on the internet. You must guard yourself and be conscious of what you are posting and where.
Thank you for taking the time to consider our request and reading our rational and supporting evidence. We look forward to speaking to you further about our proposal.
Thank you for sending your ideas and evidence to us about your proposal of using Facebook in the classroom. However, as the school administrator, I have received several requests from teachers in the past who would like to incorporate Facebook into their classrooms. I have looked into the matter extensively and have decided against it. My reasons for this decision are as follows:
As stated in the article Facebook and Education: The Pros and Cons, we cannot require students be involved in something that requires them to put personal information on a server in the United States. This article rightly points out that many users do not know that when using an application like Facebook, that if students and teachers are not careful with privacy settings, they might be disclosing personal information to complete strangers.
Another strong point made in the article Facebook and Education: The Pros and Cons, is that Facebook stores data in the United States, there has to be an option for the students to preserve their anonymity. The fact that this is not possible with Facebook (which has its servers located in the United States) raises a bigger issue: users should be concerned with how secure the service is, where the data sits, who owns the content, and how it is being used.
This raises the issue of liability and our responsibility to maintain student privacy. In her article Should Public Schools use Facebook: Pros and Cons, Grace Chen points out that posting student information online is not only a bad idea in some cases – it could actually be illegal in others.
Liability and privacy aside, we need to ensure the technology we incorporate into our teaching has educational value and is age appropriate. In her article, Why Social Media is Not Smart for Middle School Kids, Melanie Hempe asserts that Social Media (i.e. Facebook, etc.) was not designed for children. According to Hempe “tween’s underdeveloped frontal cortex can’t manage the distraction nor the temptations that come with [Facebook] use.” Hempe continues her argument by raising a number of concerns surrounding the utility of social media in an educational setting;
Hempe argues that you cannot teach the maturity that social media (i.e. Facebook) requires. She argues that teachers who say they want to teach their students to use Facebook appropriately, don’t understand that their midbrains are not developed yet. She likens trying to teach young students to use social media to trying to make clothes fit that are way too big, children will use Facebook inappropriately until they are older and it fits them better.
Furthermore, she sees social media (i.e. Facebook) as an entertainment technology, asserting that it does not make students smarter or more prepared for real life or a future job. It is not necessary for healthy social development.
Moreover, she asserts that social media is attached to a marketing platform which extracts personal information and preferences from students.
Hempe also cites the addictive nature of social media and tweens “more is better” mentality as a dangerous match. She states that social media (i.e. Facebook) is an addictive form of screen entertainment: Like video game addiction, early use can set up future addiction patterns and habits.
- Another negative cited by Hempe are the lost opportunities for face-to-face interactions, which require an entirely different set of skills than online communication She argues that social media replaces learning the hard social “work” necessary for success. Notably, that the use of Facebook greatly lessens opportunities requiring students to practice dealing face-to-face with their peers, a skill they need to master to be successful in real life.
Before incorporating Facebook into our classrooms we also need to consider the implications for a student at home. Hempe points out that social media can cause teens to lose connection with family: They view “friends” as their foundation and since the brain is still being formed, they need healthy family attachment more than with their peers. It is just as important now as when they were preschoolers.
Lastly, Hempe addresses lost potential by raising the point that Facebook use represents lost potential for teens: The teen’s brain development is operating at peak performance for learning new things. Studies show that it is nearly impossible for them to balance it all and teens waste too much time and too much of their brain in a digital world.
Similar to Hempe, Karen Lederer, in her article Pros and Cons of Social Media in the Classroom, notes that a common complaint among educators is that social media is distracting in the classroom. These instructors maintain that tools like Facebook divert students’ attention away from what’s happening in class and are ultimately disruptive to the learning process.
Lederer also addresses the very real risk of cyberbullying. She points out that while social networking sites like Facebook provide a way for students and teachers to connect, they can be a weapon of malicious behavior. When it happens in the school, it becomes our problem.
At this time, the risks and potential harms of incorporating social media tools such as Facebook into the classroom are too great. Therefore, in the best interests of our students, and based on my research, I have concluded Facebook is not an appropriate tool for children and teens in an educational setting.