Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Commerce in the classroom

A colleague of mine sent an e-mail around on whether to post a link to a site that is selling something on our very non-commercial site and it got me thinking about commerce in schools. There are several issues that come out of this.
  1. We do not have company advertising in the classroom - should we go to Internet sites that have advertising?
  2. How do we teach students to be alert to what is advertising and what is content?
  3. How do we teach students to be aware of the effects of advertising (the codes, conventions and techniques used to entice, persuade, convince.... viewers )?
  4. Many important thinkers have web sites that also sell things (e.g. Kathy Nunley's site, which has good information on brain-based learning, also sells her books). Should we link to those sites?
We live in the age of commerce. It is impossible to go on the web for more than a very short time without bumping into ads, so it is unrealistic to think we can navigate the net without meeting up with advertising.. Just as when we walk through the streets in our neighbourhood, we are surrounded by commercialism, when we walk out of the classroom into the virtual neighbourhood, we meet the same reality. We have to street-proof our students so that they can understand the neighbourhood and think critically about what they meet.

There is a difference between meeting sites with advertising when students are researching and pointing students to a site with advertising. Are we, in some way, endorsing products? I think this is something we have to address with students.

I firmly believe we have to teach students to use the net carefully, to learn ways to keep safe and to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the environment. We have to give students the tools to look critically and be able to read a web site. Then they will be wary of the commercialism they find everywhere.

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