'Safe' Social Networking Tailored for K-12 Schools
This school year, the students in Robert A. Miller's 5th grade class at Port Orange Elementary School in Florida have been chatting with historical figures. They've given Thomas Jefferson advice on how to write the Declaration of Independence and touched base with Benjamin Franklin. In early spring, they had conversations with explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark as the duo made their way west. The explorers sent back detailed descriptions of prairie dogs and the sights they saw on their travels. Students had to restrain themselves from revealing to the explorers the pivotal role that the recent addition to their team—a pregnant Native American woman named Sacagawea—would play.
Students are having conversations with those celebrated figures (played by Mr. Miller), as well as each other and their teacher, using the social-networking site Edmodo , which is designed specifically for use in schools. "It makes learning more interactive" Mr. Miller said. "It's a way to extend the classroom after hours, but I'm also using it to present lessons."
Social networking is playing an increasing role in education, as educators realize it's a way to engage students who feel at home on such sites. And while many schools, students, and teachers are using mainstream social-networking sites, like Facebook, for such purposes, those sites aren't designed specifically for educational use and give some school leaders pause. Worries about security, advertising, information-sharing, and social interaction in such an environment have led some educators to instead seek out social networks...
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