Social Networking and Walled Gardens

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Think for just a moment about living in a gated community, or perhaps within the walls of a great castle.  What are the benefits of living in such conditions?  For the most part, you would be familiar with those living around you.  Furthermore, you would be protected from dangers looming on the outside of the walls.  For just a moment, this might sound ideal.  However, what happens when a particular needed person, tool, or information is outside those walls.  Can you gain access easily?  Quickly?  Within this scenario lays the problems many schools face with their walled gardens.

Particularly in the United States, the free exchange of information and ideas seems foundational to the way we live and the way we think.  However, the high risks present on the internet does not allow schools to simply let students loose on the internet.  Especially since certain protections, from information that is obscene or dangerous to minors, is guaranteed by the Children’s Internet Protection Act.  Some openness, however, is necessary to prepare our students for the world changing around us.  As pointed out in Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, everyone is learning together as the world changes.  It is very important to seize this moment when we can make changes to education to improve student engagement and prepare them for their future.

I agree with Fran Smith in her statement, “Schools should reflect the world we live in today. And we live in a social world. We need to teach students how to be effective collaborators in that world, how to interact with people around them, how to be engaged, and informed twenty-first-century citizens.”   In her article, How to use social-networking technology for learning, it becomes evident that these changes are inevitable.  If we truly want to put our kids first, then we have to expose them to the world they will inherit.  They need access to information, experts, and collaboration outside the walls of their school and classroom to prepare them for tomorrow.


Bull, G., Thompson, A., Searson, M., Garofalo, J., Park, J., Young, C., & Lee, J (2008). Connecting informal and formal learning: Experiences in the age of participatory media. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 8(2). Retrieved from

Burnett, F. H. (2011). The Secret Garden. Simon & Brown. walled garden. (n.d.).Webopedia. Retrieved from

Smith, F. (2007). How to use social-networking technology for learning. Edutopia. Retrieved from


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