- Walled Gardens, an internet browsing environment in which the user’s ability to maneuver through information sources and to various websites is controlled by an outside entity. The purpose of such environments can be to protect its users such as preventing children from accessing questionable or inappropriate content or to manipulate its users by directing them to paid content to the benefit of the supporting ISP.
- Walled gardens are frequently used in educational environments limiting not only what students are able to access but also the content and tools that teachers can access. Despite the protective and preventative nature in which walled gardens were created with good intentions they are still obstacles which may prevent the unknown from coming in, but also prevent the positive from coming out. Not only do such practices keep some of the most unique and innovative uses for technology out of user’s hands but they can not guarantee protection from the negatives that are attempted to be blocked.
- One program of significance that can be argued is a reason to open up our walled gardens is the travelling scrapbook. This is a physical artifact of global collaboration that requires students to send an actual scrapbook to various locations around the world in an effort to collect pages made with artifacts from those communities and/or schools. This artifact allows students to hold in their hands an item that has traveled around the world and back, been added to by students and teachers in places they’ve never heard of yet alone more than likely never thought they would have connections to. For my school district which is a high poverty area for some students this may be the closest they come to traveling in their lives.
- Another example of the opening of walled gardens is the My Hero project. This program uses the realm of media technology to give students a voice in the creation and sharing of the stories of others they look up to in an effort to battle against ignorance, intolerance and indifference. These stories celebrate the good in humanity which is something I think we can all agree the world, and most definitely the world’s children need more of. This project encourages students to identify their heroes and to shed light on the journey of these people, their struggles and how they worked to overcome obstacles. Through such a project students not only get to share who and what is important to them but they internalize and begin to better understand their potential and the impact they have on making the world a better place.
- Though walled gardens are created to protect the people inside them a wall is still a wall and censorship is still censorship. We can not protect everyone from everything. The higher we build these walls, the more naive we make those inside of them.
- Rather than limit the material we have access to we should give our students the tools to think for themselves, the opportunity to practice good decision making, and teach them strategies for overcoming the evils that lie beyond the walled gardens. As Issac Newton said long before we could have ever thought to connect this quote to technology, “We build too many walls and not enough bridges.” Ignorance is not the best policy is this new and dynamic world. It is time to open the gardens and allow students to prosper, even if it causes them some uncomfort and failure along the way.