The Times' portrayal of Banned Websites Awareness Day, an offshoot of Banned Books Week, (brought to you by the American Association of School Librarians!) demonstrates among other things that in savvy schools the Internet, computers and social media have become thoroughly intertwined with students' learning and with student-teacher interactions.
The article highlights different activities supporting unrestricted Internet and social-media access in schools, including email campaigns, debates over the pros and cons of censorship (Would you want your kid accessing Tea-Party websites at school?) and, at New Canaan HS in Connecticut, a 'social-media solidarity blackout.' The upshot of the blackout?
“It’s not even lunchtime, and I’m already dying,” said Michael DeMattia, 17, a senior, who carries a laptop to school.
In his Advanced Placement Biology class, where lab groups have created a Facebook thread to collaborate and share data, he could not log in. In honors comparative literature, his classmates were unable to show a YouTube video during a presentation.
The Internet, Michael said, has “made cooperation and collaboration inside and outside of class much better and faster,” adding, “It’s really has become an integral part of education.”
Just so we're clear, Michael is talking about using social media in his AP biology class and his honors comp-lit class. A lot of kids—a lot—aren't enrolled in classes or in schools where their teachers have the skills, support and opportunities (including access to hardware, prep time and professional development) to integrate FB, Twitter, YouTube or other trending tools.
But the critical quote, underplayed perhaps in the middle of the article, is the teacher who frames the real reason that web censorship is self-defeating:
Deven Black, a librarian at Middle School 127 in the Bronx, also said that filters had blocked a range of useful Web sites.... “Our job is to teach students the safe use of the Internet. And it’s hard to do that if we can’t get to the sites.”
Would you want your kid accessing Tea Party websites without critical-thinking skills?