Teachers, students using social sites raises concerns

(Edmodo.com)
August 5, 2011 8:43:00 PM PDT
A new state law in Missouri is making it illegal for teachers to be friends with students on social networking sites like Facebook. The idea is to protect students from any sexual misconduct. That new law is causing quite a stir in Silicon Valley. Already, one Bay Area company has come up with a solution that connects teachers and students in a safe and supervised environment.

The problem with some of the social networking sites is that they are accessible to so many people, therefore making students vulnerable. The law in Missouri prohibits sites unless school administrators and parents have access to them.

At a conference on technology in schools, Silicon Valley teachers learned the latest computer tools that will help them in the classroom. Facebook and Twitter were not among them.

"There's stuff that I put up there that I don't want my students to see, stuff about my children, my family, that is just not for them," teacher Mariana Garcia said.

"There are some dangers, we've seen some examples of that and I think appropriately addressing the danger to make sure that we can mitigate the risks but yet we can leverage social networking for all the good that it has to offer so we can increase student achievement," Silicon Valley Education Foundation spokesperson Muhammed Chaudhry said.

None of these teachers ABC7 spoke to interact with students through Facebook.

Still one of them said she sees nothing wrong with teachers and students communicating through Facebook.

"I think it's important for us to extend our leaning community and to solidify them as our community," teacher Meg Omainsky said.

Many school districts in the Silicon Valley already forbid teachers to friend students on Facebook.

"I don't use Facebook; the students I work with I use what is accessible with the district," teacher Corinne Takara said.

San Mateo-based Edmodo is one website school districts do allow -- even in Missouri. The Edmodo "wall" is remarkably similar to Facebook's but the website is there for students and their teachers to discuss, share and learn only school-related material. Students and teachers cannot have private conservations with students without supervision and students cannot share outside their classroom network.

"In addition to that we have parent accounts and school administrator accounts which provide those extra layers of visibility," Edmodo CEO Nic Borg said.

Edmodo now has two million subscribers, up from 500,000 just last December. The three teachers ABC7 spoke to were using or had heard of Edmodo. It is free and it is also available in Spanish and Portuguese.


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