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Facebook, Finance, and Phone Flexibility

We've seen a few interesting ed-tech stories pop up around the country this week.

In Manchester, N.H., the Union Leader and The Associated Press report that city superintendent Thomas Brennan is proposing a policy that would ban teachers from becoming "friends" with students on Facebook or other social networking websites as well as posting any materials or links to materials that contain "immoral pictures, video or text."

The policy, which is in part a response to a recent incident with a teacher in nearby Londonderry sending a nude picture of herself to a student, has drawn opposition from some members of the school board's coordination committee, who say prohibiting such relationships nullifies social networking's educational potential.

While this differs from a recent ban enacted by Maryland's Prince George's Co., which prohibited students from posting videos or pictures of school activities online, it does represent another substantially sized district limiting social networking interaction for educational purposes. That in turn runs counter to the wishes of the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology, and its director, Karen Cator, who as part of their National Education Technology Plan are looking to facilitate teaching and learning through social networks.

Meanwhile, in Central Pennsylvania, officials from several school districts tell Chambersburg's Public Opinion a five-fold increase in cyber charter school enrollment during the past half-decade is wreaking havoc on school budgets.

That uptick has been large enough to drive up spending on those students by more than a $1 million in one district, officials say, but not substantial enough to enable a consolidation of brick-and-mortar resources to counteract that spending.

And in Keller, Texas, the city's school district will in January allow students to use personal cell phones and other mobile devices on some campuses, reports The Keller Citizen.

The Keller district, which intends to give students numerous opportunities to use the mobile devices for learning throughout the day, has a reputation for being among the most technologically progressive in Texas. You might remember them from my story this spring about school districts who were equipping school buses with WiFi Internet.

So what to make of all this? Well, the simplest interpretation is that increasing ways to integrate technology can bring increasingly diverse perspectives about how to integrate it. But I'd venture these are also cases where each district has distinctly different financial and political realities. And we're not yet at the point where technology changes the reality that one of these stories emanates from a working class city, one from several small-town districts, and one from a middle-class suburb.

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