George Lucas Educational Foundation

Facebook and YouTube access in school

Facebook and YouTube access in school

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How do we have our teachers and students use sites like facebook and youtube for educational purposes during school, yet be able to keep them from the parts of the site that are not appropriate?

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Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

One answer is that you need to set rules and then trust teachers and students to do the right thing or suffer logical consequences. The other requires a more nanny-like approach.

There is "Teachertube" and there are ways to download YouTube videos so they can be used in class without opening up the whole ball of wax of unfiltered access, so my first thought for YouTube is a work around.

Facebook, like passing notes in class, can be used for helping others, having meaningful discussions, or for silly and possibly hurtful things.

In the end, it's always going to be a cost/benefit analysis, coupled with lots of trust and expectations of responsibility.

Heidi Zeigler Twitchell's picture
Heidi Zeigler Twitchell
M.Ed Multicultural Ed & Creativity; Fine Arts & Tech integration advocate.

Months later, I've discovered this brief but powerful exchange- powerful as it is a true reflection of the disconnect between teachers and administrators that so sadly that prevails in schools today and that pervades the quality, integrity and potentially rich education that teachers could be providing for students. Without the trust and support of our principals and other administrators, attained only through solid, "professionally personal" relationships, teachers are extremely limited in their ability to access and utilize a world of strategies and tools that would otherwise provide students with the very experiences necessary to the engagement and resulting enrichment of their 21st century minds! To the disservice of students, the very nature of such mutually beneficial relationships is curiously and WRONGFULLY now DISCOURAGED in wide practice. Countless teachers today now expend their energies in efforts to meet the demands of a high-stakes test-obsessed system- a system which all who have been career teachers and who are of sound mind would immediately recognize, by that description alone, as being a horridly broken system. Nearly extinct now are the sincere desires and hearty efforts of passion-driven teachers in providing their students with their deserved year's worth of intrigue, curiosity, discovery and growth. How do we get out of this mess and refocus our sights on educating kids? Kids who are DIFFERENT from each other and who require DIFFERENTIATION? Oh, dear, I could go on forever, but let this suffice for now. =)

Ellen Chapman's picture
Ellen Chapman
9-12 Biology teacher from Harrisburg, PA

Our administration also blocked youtube from teachers and students. Our IT tech was permitted to download youtube videos to our flashdrives so we could use them in class. I think that he got inundated with requests that he convinced the admin that teachers use youtube properly. Too bad our admin didn't come to that conclusion by themselves. It was very bitter. Anyway, we get to use youtube on our school computers now. It is nice. Students still do not have access in school.

Dane DeSutter's picture
Dane DeSutter
Digital Education Specialist

It is nearly impossible to offer tools like YouTube/Facebook as vetted applications without preventing enduser misuse. There are way to many query variables involved for a firewall to properly filter out inappropriate or off topic queries.

In secondary education, Facebook will likely never be a viable option inside the classroom: it is too distracting. The instant feedback culture that has developed there is consuming, to the degree that redirecting the focus of every student would resort to nothing more than behavior management, not learning augmentation. Although developments like Blackboard's Facebook plugin do provide promise for post-secondary education.

YouTube on the other hand developed in a more instruction-based framework, given the vast number of DIY's and tutorials that can be found on the site. Google's strong algorithm then pulls in related videos, upping the likelihood of user-driven investigation; more simply, it removes possible distractions one degree further than the likes of Facebook.

Instructional quality must be controlled by the teacher. Unfortunately the student will always be too tempted by the dopamine fueled feedback s/he gets from watching funny video memes, not learning to simplify radicals.

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

I know schools have an in loco parentis role during the day, and some parent may notalways approve of using social networking tools of any sort as part of class, but pretending they are evil and will corrupt our youth is simply ignoring the fact that these things exist and kids a/ young as middle school are regularly participating. I would much prefer we taught kids. To use tools wisely are for a constructive purpose as well as entertainment, ( after all, you can read to learn or read to entertain...) rather than pretend they don't exist and increase the disconnect between the 21st century kids live in and the classroom which can easily be recognized by someone who taught in a one room schoolhouse in 1900 as a classroom. We are not currently, across the board, preparing our kids to be good digital citizens. We're preparing them for about 1993 at best.

Eric Olive's picture

This is a case of 'speak for yourself'- across the board, all teachers have access to this information via the internet and I think all school districts in the USA and internationally have raised awareness of these issues. Teachers need to care about it enough to implement it safely. As an IT educator, I have developed curricula for two school programs that use Digital Citizenship as the overarching framework for the scope and sequence of units taught from Kinder through upper high-school. We offer workshops to teachers/admin and parents. It comes down to people having the time and energry to commit to it.

Furthermore, schools are not the parents of children. The parents are. Schools cannot police what children do at home, where they spend a lot of their free time on social networks. We get involved when the student's use of social networks invades the classroom in cyberbullying cases and disrupts learning.

For educators to bring social-networking resources into the classroom they need to realise that there are alternatives to Facebook (as someone else mentioned-- it's too distracting, there is the potential for cyberbullying, and it has limited use) compared to other Web 2.0 alternatives, Facebook is not very rich. Youtube, on the other hand, does provide access to lots of good content... and bad. Teachers need to monitor the use of it in their classes.

I like the 'preparing them for 1993' statement!

ntcook's picture

I'm working on my initial teaching certification now, and are doing 17-hour-per week practicum at a local high school. I can see how movie clips can be beneficial for education, so I found it exciting that your school district now allows teachers have access to YouTube. I don't think my school district allows that though I've heard some teachers wishing for access to it for classroom use. I believe that your school district made the right choice that students did not have access to it while in school. My school district, which offered WiFi only to teachers and other staff members until this school year, now offers 'Guest WiFi' into which students can log with their WiFi-capable device. Students seem to enjoy it since they can check their Facebook, Twitter, or whatever they need to do online, but it has been distractive needless to say. Banning the whole internet access or the use of cell phones in high school seems almost impossible to me. Yet, school districts should try to limit students' internet access so that students won't get exposed to harmful websites, and wrong or disturbing information.

Sue Parler's picture

What would happen if schools allowed free use to all video sites? I can't speak for any other school, but chances are good that our Internet access would come to a screeching halt. Bandwidth is a limited resource. A YouTube video in HD can easily exceed 1024Kbps. Multiply that out by the potential number of users.

I know that sometimes schools act as wardens, but in the case of high-bandwidth videos, perhaps the school is thinking of the teacher who spent four weeks designing a web-based lesson that s/he cannot run because two or three classes of students and teachers are out on YouTube.

Keith Heggart's picture
Keith Heggart
High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia

Wow! Some passionate responses here. I think I agree with Whitney - it's about trust. It's also about realising that we are working with children. They will do the wrong thing sometimes, and it is important that there are procedures in place to deal with that when it does happen. Teachers have a role to play (as do parents) in educating students about digital safety and appropriate use.

Having said that, in my district Facebook is banned, but YouTube, G+ and Twitter are all go. We deal with a few issues, but most of them occur out of school time, so we'd have to deal with them anyway - blocking these sites wouldn't work outside of school.

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