A year ago YALSA launched the 30 days of positive uses of social networking project. Every day throughout October, three YALSA bloggers posted ideas and information about using social networking in the school and public library. The postings were in response to the U.S. Congress Deleting Online Predators Act and the realization that librarians working with teens needed support and information on using social networking with teens.
Now, one year later, the same YALSA bloggers are each writing an update post during the month of October about the world of social networking, teens, and libraries. You can see Linda's post here and Kelly's post here. Now it's my turn.
As a school librarian, I've become sharply aware of the limitations that are placed on the use of social networking tools in our schools. In more schools than not, social networking tools are banned outright. It's much easier for administrators to say no to all tools rather than try to distinguish among the huge variety that are now available, including those that are designed for educational use. It's an interesting coincidence that one of my favorite school librarian bloggers, Doug Johnson (The Blue Skunk), posted about some of these same issues during October, even as we are engaged in this review. In his October 3rd "rant" (appropriately labeled with his "rant skunk"), Doug discussed the restrictions in terms of intellectual freedom. Blanket blocking of entire classes of information and tools is an unnecessary and illegitimate restriction of students' intellectual freedom. On October 8th, he obtained Nancy Willard's permission to reprint her LM_NET post on Internet fear-mongering. Nancy's observation is that cyberbullying is causing kids far more harm than is sexual predation. Yet police, district attorneys, the FBI, and their audience - school administrators - seem to be fixated on social networking being a direct link to certain sexual predation. Doug's October 30th post contrasts the different approaches taken by two videos on Internet safety - the U.S. Attorney's Project Safe Childhood video and the What You Need to Know video from iKeepSafe. The first video focuses on the Internet and child predators while the second is about what parents can do to protect their children and, more importantly, how parents can teach their children to protect themselves.
Yet great social networking things are happening in schools too. I've just returned from the American Association of School Librarians National Conference and the program was peppered with sessions on social networking tools and Web 2.0 topics. Clearly, the times are a-changing. My feeling is that as these tools become part-and-parcel of the fabric of society, the barriers in schools will begin to crumble. There's simply too much good to be had.