School-based social networking in multiple countries

Great idea: Help students avoid cyberbullying by requiring them to sign up for a moderated social network site. That’s what Baranduda Primary School is doing, the Border Mail reports. It’s among 100 schools in Australia trying out SuperClubsPLUS, a UK-based “social learning network” designed for school use by kids aged 6-12 and now also in use in Europe, Kenya, Malaysia. Features include chat, email, blogging, discussion boards, and building Web pages (maybe profiles?), according to the Border Mail, which adds that “La Trobe University researcher Jennifer Masters, who is helping co-ordinate the launch in Australia, said [the site gives] children a deeper understanding of Internet ethics.” Teachers are involved in the site moderation (though the Border Mail piece doesn’t make it clear if they’re local to member schools or employed by the site in the UK). An even better idea, I feel, is using Quest Atlantis, an educational virtual world designed at the University of Indiana, in schools. The program trains teachers before they use it in their classrooms. It also monitors all student activity in-world, but most effective in teaching positive social development and good citizenship is collaborative learning in the form of the virtual world’s curriculum-tied quests. One could argue (and kids do) that learning citizenship is boring; learning it as you’re learning social studies, science, etc. in an environment that kids find very compelling – a virtual world – is a whole lot less boring! [Meanwhile, the Australian government will soon be piloting a $3 million (Australian) anti-cyberbullying project in 150 schools. reports but without much detail on the actual program, though saying it’s not without its critics.]

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