You can view the transcript to my VoiceThread below.
Walled Gardens Blog
Webopedia has defined the walled garden in this way, “On the Internet, a walled garden refers to a browsing environment that controls the information and websites the user is able to access.” (“Walled garden.”) Administrators and educators have used this concept to create an online setting that they view as conducive to learning; one that minimizes student exposure to inappropriate websites and images, keeps student information private, and eliminates distractions. But are these educators in touch with learning in the 21st century?
Image: Brick Wall, Flickr
While these types of administrators and educators are well-intentioned, their idea of learning may merely be outdated. By prohibiting their students from participating in the social networking community they are actually hindering progress while their intent is to foster growth. Just because social networking isn’t a traditional approach to education doesn’t mean it’s bad or ineffective. There are many benefits to social networking and it definitely has it’s place in education.
Image: Black and White School, Flickr
I have been living within the confines of the walled garden and was completely oblivious to that fact! I have been encouraging students to collaborate and interact, but within the confines of ther school. I feel a little like a fish who’s spent her last few years milling around a fishbowl while others were enjoying the freedom, wonder and beauty of the ocean. I had no idea what I was missing! Social Networking in education is the transition of our little fishes from their bowl to the ocean. Students who experience this transition will find themselves in awe, wonderment and fascination with the outside world. Social networking is an outstanding way to enhance education for a variety of reasons. I would like to focus on two.
Image: Yellow Fish in Tank, Flickr by Craft0logy
First, social networking creates opportunities to build student’s communication skills and understand different points of view (“Social networking as a tool.”) The use of social networking as an educational tool will allow us to reach beyond physical barriers to connect with people from other classrooms, cultures and communities. By creating learning opportunities for our students in classrooms around the globe, we are opening up a whole new world to them. These kinds of learning experiences take students to places they may never go and allow them to see people who would otherwise remain invisible to them. For example, students can have a live farm experience as they take a virtual field trip to a farm in Kenya via Skype or visit a primate rescue facility in the UK. These are just two examples of thousands that are available in the online world. (“Connecting a classroom.”)
Image: Ocean, Flickr
Next, social networking allows students to “practice the kind of 21st century skills we want them to develop to be successful today” (“Social networking as a tool.”) Students will use social networking in college, among peers, and in the workforce. Many of our students are already involved in social networking on a personal level, it will be to their advantage if we teach them how to network educationally and professionally. According to one study of social media in education, “the strongest determinant of students’ success in college is their ability to form or participate in small study groups.” These study groups may very well communicate and collaborate online. The Department of Education has noticed a deficit in the way technology is being used to educate students and they are calling for change. Their National Education Technology Plan 2010 demands "revolutionary transformation rather than evolutionary tinkering." The plan encourages all states and districts to experiment with social networks and other Web 2.0 technologies "both within and across educational institutions" to expand collaborative learning opportunities for students and to create communities of practice among K12 teachers. (“Social networking as a tool.”)
Image: 21st Century, Flickr: Greenberg
The benefits of social networking in education are staggering. Improved communication and technology skills, increased student collaboration, increased student engagement and participation, exposure to diverse views, and … to name a few. When comparing the benefits with the dangers, or in many cases “supposed dangers,” the imbalance is preposterous. There are enough tools in place that allow educators to participate in online communities while keeping students safe. That is no longer a valid argument against using social media in the classroom. If safety is your main concern, then start big. Not every educator will find it within their comfort level or means to implement unique, individualized social networking experiences for each student, so simply engage on a classroom level. I know that’s how I plan to begin!
Image: Social Networking, Flickr
Walled garden. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2017, from http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/W/walled_garden.html
Social networking as a tool for student and teacher learning. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2017, from https://www.districtadministration.com/article/social-networking-tool-student-and-teacher-learning
Study suggests benefits of social media in the classroom. (n.d.). Retrieved March 1, 2017, from
Crowley, B. (2016, April 29). Connecting a Classroom: Reflections on Using Social Media With My Students. Retrieved March 1, 2017, from http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2015/09/09/connecting-a-classroom-reflections-on-using-social.html