Social Networking and Walled Gardens

Walled Gardens

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,, 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

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.

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Posted by on July 3, 2011 in Uncategorized


Internet Safety

Internet Safety Presentation

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Posted by on June 30, 2011 in Uncategorized



A tutorial on computer networking.

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Posted by on June 28, 2011 in Uncategorized


Relative Advantage Chart

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Posted by on June 23, 2011 in Uncategorized


Instructional Software Presentation


YouTube video on the present condition of instruction in the classroom in higher education.

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Posted by on June 21, 2011 in Uncategorized


Relative Advantage of Instructional Software

The climate of education is changing as more and more organizations, corporations, and educational advocates are pushing for more technological instruction in the classroom.  A large part of this instruction comes in the form of instructional software.  Instruction software has become a major part of most classroom instruction in both public and private education. Instructional software is being used across the curriculum from physical education to math to language arts courses.  Instructional software applications have also come down in price with an increase in newer technologies to produce the software.  There are a lot of advantages to using instructional software in conjunction with a well-taught lesson plan.  Some of the advantages include: delayed instruction (if a learner misses a lesson, it can be given via a software program), enhancing instruction through visual stimulation, interactive applications for hands on instruction, and having the ability to access the instruction 24/7/365 whenever and wherever internet connection is available.  A few applications categories include:

  • Games and Simulations
  • Virtual Worlds
  • Web-Based course (public and higher ed.)
  • Web 2.0 Technologies
  • Audio and Video based instruction
  • Parent monitoring

Instructional software also needs the support of the school district and administration through faculty training.  Generally, this is done during Professional Development(PD) sessions for the faculty of a district or school.  Traditional PD is typically delivered in a one-shot training opportunity occurring over a very short span of time; one or two-day event (Lewis et al., 1999, Mullens et al., 1996, Crawford, 2003; Starrett & Rodgers, 2003). The training is often delivered in an environment isolated from the school setting and context, and using learning tools (hardware/software) unfamiliar to the learner or different than those found in the learners’ teaching environment (Fullan & Stiegelbauer, 1991).  The instructional software has tremendous potential when the faculty is given correct and in-depth training to use the software at it’s full potential.  Faculty training should include curriculum specific instruction models ensuring the faculty is completely versed in applications that directly affect the way they would use it.  The use of new instructional software also takes time to master to fully maximize the benefits of the program during classroom instruction.  This may take a minimum of a year and as long as three for the teachers to be fully versed in the software.


Wells, J. G. (2007). Key Design Factors in Durable Instructional Technology Professional Development. Journal of Technology & Teacher Education, 15(1), 101-122. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

E-learning’s ability to deliver unlimited 24x7x365 access to content is an invaluable benefit to today’s increasingly more mobile, time-shifting and global workforce, and training executives recognize this (H. Clader 2007).

E-learning advocates tout advantages of e-learning over other instructional

methods, including enhanced knowledge gains, efficiency, motivation, engagement,retention and transfer to new settings (D. Clark 2002).

Roblyer, M. (2006). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey:Pearson Prentice Hall.

E-learning makes the implementation of many instructional methods easier (D. Cook and F. McDonald 2008).

Clader, H. (2007). Why E-Learning?. Chief Learning Officer, 6(4), 8-9. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Cook, D., & McDonald, F.. (2008). E-LEARNING: is there anything special about the “e”? Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 51(1), 5-21.  Retrieved June 20, 2011, from Research Library. (Document ID: 1413872861).


Posted by on June 20, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Posted by on June 20, 2011 in Uncategorized