In my 9 years of teaching I’ve worked in two school district that are only separated by 125 miles. The geographical location is relatively close, however the student body demographics and backgrounds are completely different. Regardless of the differences in the student body the school districts have the same opinions when it comes to Internet social networks walled gardens. The stance both districts have taken is to not allow the students access to social network sites at all. As social networks become more prevalent and relevant to a student from the ages of 10 on up we come to a crossroads with Internet inclusion. Should we consider using social networks in the classroom as part of our lesson plans? First, we must understand what a (social network) walled garden really is. Webopdedia defines a social network walled garden in this way.
On the Internet, a walled garden refers to a browsing environment that controls the information and Web sites the user is able to access. This is a popular method used by ISPs in order to keep the user navigating only specific areas of the Web, whether for the purpose of shielding users from information — such as restricting children’s access to pornography — or directing users to paid content that the ISP supports. America Online is a good example of an ISP that places users in a walled garden.
Schools are increasingly using the walled garden approach in creating browsing environments in their networks. Students have access to only limited Web sites, and teachers need a password in order to leave the walled garden and browse the Internet in its entirety.
The term walled garden also commonly refers to the content that wireless devices such as mobile phones have access to if the content provided by the wireless carrier is limited.
When we talk about social networks our first thoughts usually turn to Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, YouTube and possibly online gaming. What does not come up are all the websites that have educational roots for classroom instruction. These websites include, BuddyPress, CourseCracker, Diigo, Elgg, Grou.ps, and many more websites. The Educational Networking website offers a list of educational networking websites and a description of their function, including links directly to the websites.
The common goal of a walled garden is to protect the students from inappropriate content found on websites. The problem with this attitude is the firewalls put up to block content and websites is very general and widespread. Therefore, most if not all social networking websites are block from student and teacher use at school. If a student is accessing a social network before and after school to find help with homework, then why not incorporate that into classroom instruction. Creating social network websites specifically for a curriculum that allows students to share ideas and information will only improve their chances of succeeding in the classroom and outside of school.
Students today use the internet daily for staying in touch with friends and family, gaming, checking grades, watching videos, listening to music and other activities. An article in Science Daily (UM 2008) states, of the student’s surveyed 94 percent used the Internet, 82 percent go online at home and 77 percent had a profile on a social networking site. When asked what they learn from using social networking sites, the students listed technology skills as the top lesson, followed by creativity, being open to new or diverse views and communication skills. These are some of the skills that are required of most high school and college graduates when applying for jobs. A study done by tella Wen Tian of the University of Science & Technology of China (Suzhou Campus) and Angela Yan Yu, Douglas Vogel and Ron Chi-Wai Kwok of City University of Hong Kong found that social networks have a positive impact on a student’s educational experience. The study shows that “In terms of learning, students reported that Facebook allowed them to connect with the faculty and other students in term of friendship/social relationship, provide comments to peers/share knowledge, share feelings with peers, join Groups established for subjects, collaboration: notification, discussion, course schedule, project management calendar and to use educational applications for organizing learning activities (Tian, Yu, Vogel, and Kwok 2011). Author Christian Dalsgaard believes that social networking should not be the main source of educational instruction but rather a supplement to other tools for enhancing instruction. He also states that transparency in the communication between students, and student and instructor is vital to the potential of social networks in education.
There are always positive and negative aspects to any argument, however when it comes to incorporating social networks in curriculums the positive out weight the negative heavily. A social network can be a tremendous asset to teachers during school and outside of school for communicating information. If the goal of a school district were to prepare their students for a career in tomorrow’s world, the district would be doing the student an injustice by not incorporating social networking into the curriculum.
Dalsgaard, C. (0000). Social networking sites: Transparency in online education. Institute of Information and Media Studies, University of Aarhus, Helsingforsgade 14, 8200 Aarhus N, Denmark. Retrieved July 1, 2011, from
Inderscience Publishers (2011, May 9). Social learning: Can Facebook and related tools improve educational outcomes?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 2, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110509091557.htm
University of Minnesota (2008, June 21). Educational Benefits Of Social Networking Sites Uncovered. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 1, 2011, from
Wieland, K. (2007). Walled gardens come tumbling down. Telecommunications, 41(9), 16-18. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.