There is quite a flurry of discussion on US bloggging and eductaion sites about the passing of the DOPA – Deleting Online Predators Act.  I suspect it is a case of well-intentioned ignoramuses making policy that throws the baby out with the bath water.

We all know the benefits of engaging students through online interaction.  Look at the project being started by Drama Australia – Vineblogs (an exciting implementation of WordPress MU) to see the potential.

However, in the great ttradition of prohibition the DOPA over steps the mark  The debaes that are emerging are multi-pronged – the common threads are gainsayers and do-gooders who seem ill-informed about the technology in question.  The do-gooders seem to be fired up by the intention of the act rather than the efficacy – the gainsayers include most of the mre lucid arguments but there are always some crackpots about.

One of the most engaging starting points I found was was Henry Jenkins – What DOPA means for Education – I love the implication (dopamines)!!  He refers to a significant thesis he was reading and how the educational impact of the research by Ravi Purushotma is likely to be overlooked because it addresses educational uses of social networking.

Henry refers to some of the more interesting discussions on the topic – where you can also see some of the more vox pop responses in the comments section – admittedly this article does cite Henry as a major critic of the DOPA.

To my mind Henry’s viewpoint holds a lot of value – especially when he comments thus:

I have made the argument that if supporters of DOPA really wanted to protect young people from online predators, they would teach social networking in the classroom, modeling safe and responsible practices, rather than lock it outside the school and thus beyond the supervision of informed librarians and caring teachers…

But Ravi’s thesis suggests something more — we are closing off powerful technologies that could be used effectively to engage young people with authentic materials and real world cultural processes. Here, social networking functions not as a media literacy skill but as a tool for engaging with traditional school subjects in a fresh new way.

Henry laments the impact of the DOPA and I think we need to pay some heed here in Australia is we are to avoid the same nett outcome of internet hysteria.  Internet predatrion can only occur with an ill-informed or ignorant user base – the DOPA ensures that students will remain exactly in that demographic…

This artcile also points to some interesting uses of Web 2.0 – unfortunately the Digital Chalkie slipped by his notice!  But here are some links to projects…

 Ravi has done more research than anyone I know about into how teachers are using this technology now and what purposes it might serve in the future. He has prepared his thesis as a multimedia web document that mixes sound, video, and text in ways that really puts his ideas into practice.

…a recent blog post, more and more teachers are discovering the value of getting kids to learn through remixing elements of their culture….

Here, for example, is a middle school Literature teacher who has students prepare profile pages for the characters in Shakespeare’s Richard III. This exercise offers students a rich opportunity to dig deeper into fictional characters and understand what makes them tick.

Or here’s the testimonial of a writing instructor who incorporated blogging into his 8th grade class and saw immediate shifts in the ways that children thought about their assignments…

We learned about this teacher’s project through Weblogg-ed which provides an important community resource for educators deploying these kinds of technologies in their classes.

Let’s hope that Australian authorities have a little more insight before they start wading in and destroying amazing educational possibilities.

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