I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s this website called “YouTube” that has videos on it. Some of these videos are interesting and so, when available in school, YouTube can offer a distraction to otherwise studious pupils.
Oh great! Now I have to compete with interesting videos as well as iPods, cell phones, and fashion magazines for a moment of time for my insignificant “teachery” stuff!
Perhaps it is my own hubris, but I have never worried about being less interesting than the din of media. I have always found that if I use my time respectfully and in a way that “pays off” for everyone’s goals, I don’t have to compete with YouTube; YouTube has to compete with me. In fact, here are 3 reasons that opening the internet’s flood gates can actually be a benefit to you, your class, and your school.
1) Teachable moments galore*. As this Mashable article by Greg Ferenstein demonstrates, banning social media and device use can generally have the opposite of its intended effect. Not only is the lure of the forbidden too great to resist, student attempts to circumvent the blockage can take more time and energy than actual work.
2) Realistic workplace training. Fewer and fewer offices block parts of the internet. It creates an unpleasant workplace culture and is an IT nightmare. Instead, companies have employees sign an internet use policy and trust them to make appropriate choices with regards to their surfing. Having such a policy in place in a school allows teachers to guide students toward more responsible surfing choices.
3) Transmedia instruction. A big buzzword right now, “transmedia” just refers to telling different pieces of a story through different media. Think “webquest” with a narrative backbone (and reliance on more than just web resources). A more open policy allows teachers to create immersive units with video, social media, and wiki-based components.
*There is the possibility that numbers 2 and 3 are functions of number 1. I’m OK with that if you are.