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Social Media Access in K-12 Schools: Intractable Policy Controversies in an Evolving World

June Ahn, Lauren Bivona and Jeffrey DiScala

ASIST 2011 Annual Meeting
New Orleans, LA, October 9-12, 2011


The use of social media in public primary and secondary education (K-12) presents schools with numerous obstacles and constraints. Educators might use new media to enrich the classroom, but there are also accounts of grave student misconduct (such as cyber bullying) and legal liabilities for school districts. Education leaders and policymakers face difficult questions of how to promote access and use of technology while safeguarding children. In this paper, we present a frame analysis of several policy forces that govern technology use in K-12 schools. We present a qualitative study of the technology acceptable use policies (AUPs) of a sample of the largest U.S. school districts. Through the analysis, we highlight how an evolving, technology-mediated society and traditional education institutions create competing policy frames. These conflicting policy frames lead to intractable controversies that threaten student opportunities to access and learn with new media tools. Such an outcome may have negative repercussions in literacy, learning, and workforce development. This paper discusses several key policy controversies and offers suggestions for ways that K-12 institutions can set policy to facilitate technology in schools.

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