August 13, 2007

UK and Irish schools need to educate, not ban, now

The need for schools in the UK and Ireland to educate children on what self-publishing means rather simply than ban the tools, has never been higher, as Bebo are on the verge of opening up their platform to developers.

By following Facebook's lead in allowing developers to create their own applications to work within the teen social network, Bebo is set to see a similar explosion in the number of users and the amount of use - more, perhaps, than the current 41 minutes of time spent each night by the average UK teen. The ultimate aim, to keep Bebo alive.

But there's a huge difference between Bebo and Facebook that makes this move smell a little fishy: the average age of Bebo's users must be about half that of Facebook.

The move to open up means that the information placed online by teens, both before now and from now on, will become far more spreadable, far quicker. Applications ask for permission before being used but what they do with your information after that point is unpredictable: one case in point, from Facebook, the number of people who appear to be suddenly happily married or, worse, divorced from their better halves [How Facebook ended my marriage].

Facebook_perils Potentially, a new application installed on your page could start to replicate your data out of context elsewhere on Bebo, for public consumption, in much the same way as some Facebook apps have done. Adult users of Facebook, 'expert users' like Crampton, even, have already had to learn to navigate this open-ended app-filled social networking world the hard way. How much we are willing to let kids explore this on their own, in the wild, and make their own mistakes the hard way is another matter, when the consequences are arguably greater. How Bebo pitch this to their younger users will be an important factor, too, for educators wanting to plan digital literacy into their work.

So, if you are a teacher in a UK or Irish school, the latter a country where Bebo has 95% penetration in the teen market, don't hang about for Bebo. You need to start thinking about how you are going to educate your students in the art of self-publishing without signing away their content, their private information and their online life. What Bebo want to do is not 'bad' per se, but it's open to misunderstandings and mistakes will be made by young people who don't know how to play the game because they haven't been told how.

Are you going to ban or are you going to educate, Teacher?

Update: Some further points on this from Harry Potter...


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Unfortunately most of us don't get to choose what to ban and what not to. Even if I come across a site which I think is suitable, but which is blocked, it won't just be unblocked on my word, someone else needs to check it.
It took the intervention of our Head to have our trip blog unblocked - my mission over the next few weeks is to try and have the rest of my blogs unblocked.
I only got on to Facebook this week, so probably it needs to be unblocked so my classes can give me a quick lesson...

Are you going to ban or are you going to educate, Teacher?
I am with Lynne.
Am I going to get the choice?
This should perhaps just mesh in with other aspects of personal safety and connect with personal and shared values.
If I had the power to unblock I'd unblock flickr or some such rather than a social network site, I think the lessons we could teach on flickr (and do teach with blogs) could transfer to the child's social networking. In the same way as teaching children punching is not a good way to settle disputes hopefully affect there life outside school.

My last sentence is pretty unfair for the members of the choir reading the blog, but is exactly the kind of kick I'm hoping we can start to apply to Local Authorities. LAs have always (will always) maintain control over what they sanction and don't sanction, but to go against good practice would be illogical. What is required now is a rock solid example of a Local Authority wide programme that trains teachers and students in digital literacy. East Lothian are developing just that this year. We'll be doing our best to push this under the noses of as many folk as possible.

Hi Ewan,

think for once I am in a fortunate postition in an independent school where I get to choose what I think is suitable for the children with it being a case of the system being designed to fit the teacher rather than the teacher trying to fit around a system. Yes people need to be educated into using systems responsibly and carefully as I discussed on my blog yesterday and it is for educationalists to meet their needs. System administrators rightly so need to put safe guards in place otherwise there is no come back, however, they also need to listen to staff who can justify why a site or tool should be used rather than dictate what they think we should use.


Good news from Ireland, we're training the teachers to become social network users so they can educate their students on Internet safety issues.
By the end of August primary & post primary teachers in 8 different Education Centres around the country will have voluntarily undertaken the NCTE's new Internet Safety continuous professional development course:Integrating Internet Safety into Teaching & Learning. (See, the course will run as a regular fixture in our CPD schedule nationwide)
Curriculum support bodies have devised personal safety on the Internet lessons/workshops & classroom activities on digital literacy and safety which will be piloted in the new school term.
We're not hanging about - we're Being Safe and Being Webwise!- see

Just brilliant stuff, Grania. I look forward to browsing the sites. If there's anything else we should look out for please do let me know.

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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