Regulating Content on/in Student Owned Tools: Where Do We Draw the Line?

 

Librarian completely disregarding his own "no mobiles" sign by hugovk.

Regulation of content on student-owned digital tools (whether hardware or online) by school authorities has been an ongoing debate for a while now (see for example this post  or this article I wrote about a year and a half ago). Where do we draw the line? The issue has become even stickier when it comes to student-created content outside of school that has nothing to do with learning, but could be considered immoral, illegal, or unethical. Often, this content will make its way to students, teachers, and/or administrators and have substantial consequences, such as in the case of a student in North Carolina who was suspended for 10 days for posting an altered picture of his school’s assistant principal on MySpace (Student Press Law Center); or a 2005 incident in which school officials of the Northside School District in San Antonio, TX considered holding MySpace responsible for unrest caused at a high school after several students posted threatening messages on the Web site.

Now this discussion has become even more heated with regards to the use of student-owned mobile phones for learning. According to a post by Tony Twiss on the Upwardly Mobile Blog:

Something that a number of students involved in focus groups I have conducted has been students questioning whether or not their phones would become regulated if they were to be used for school.  They are talking about the personal content on their phones – and while none have specifically mentioned pornography, an example of offensive content such as racist images was given.

So – debates about what is and isn’t acceptable on a person’s private property that is being used for school will really start to heat up as the walls come down and cellphones creep in to schools. However, I think this is healthy.

Obviously this debate will not be limited to mobile phones as more digital tools make their way into schools, especially web-based ones.

Image Credit: “Librarian completely disregarding his own “no mobiles” sign”, from hugovk’s photostream:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/hugovk/10983383/

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