Tumblr Is More Than Porn: Tumblr for Inviting Participation and Conversations for Learning

This past Wednesday at work, I was attempting to cross-post content from one of my Scoop.it dashboards to my Tumblr account; I was started to discover that it was no longer available to me on campus.  Tumblr, which was previously open and available to our students and teachers at school, was recently blocked at the district level;  when I questioned why the resource was blocked, the response was:

Tumblr was blocked this summer do [sic] to pornography it was hosting…When we are aware of a site that violates Board Policy IFBG, Children’s Internet Protection Act and the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act then we will take appropriate measures.

I would have no issue with a specific offensive site being blocked, but denying students and teachers access on campus to the tool for their own constructive uses seems extreme to me.  If a site hosting porn is the disqualifying factor for access and applied that as the standard to every website, we would most likely be blocking many educational resources that are identified as quality information streams or tools for learning.  Like many web authoring mediums and content hosting spaces, Tumblr can be used in  educational ways that I think outweigh the less-than-school friendly applications.  Tumblr has been super hot with our teens for blogging in the last six months or so, and I would like to utilize Tumblr as a space with them for digital composition and reflective thinking since it so easily allows users to post contents in many formats/multimedia.  I especially like how Tumblr lends itself to formal as well as informal networked learning and dovetails beautifully with a participatory stance on learning and librarianship.  I’ve loved playing with my own Tumblr account over the summer and exploring the possibilities for networked learning as it has become yet another node in my personal learning environment for discovering and sharing content.

Overall, my district has been progressive in recent years in increasing access to web resources for students and teachers, and while I’m appreciative of that, I don’t think I’d be true to my role as an advocate for intellectual freedom if I were to be content with what is accessible for the here and now and to be silent when previously accessible resources are blocked.  I could continue to use WordPress with students (and I do still love that medium although you can’t cross-post content to WordPress.com as easily as you can Tumblr, which defeats the concept of your learning tools speaking to each other and playing nicely together for a seamless learning/curation of content/thinking experience), or I could possibly use Posterous, but who is to say those resources won’t be blocked at any given time for the same reason in the future?  Looking at the bigger picture, this issue in my corner of the world speaks to:

1.  the growing tension in K-12 education and national debate about the possibilities and pitfalls of using social media in the classroom and equitable access to information streams in all formats.  The debate within K-12 educational circles as well as libraries reflects deeply differing opinions that in my opinion, speak to an even larger conversation about what the purpose is of public schools and of our libraries (academic, public, school, special).

2.  the greater need for educational institutions everywhere to consider handling filtering issues as you would a challenged print material through a committee and to consider the “challenged material” (in this case, a website) in light of its overall pros/cons.

Consequently, I feel compelled to assemble a  portfolio of educational uses of Tumblr as a tool for learning and digital composition as part of my efforts to make the argument for restoring student and teacher access to Tumblr; I thought I’d share just a few random sprinkles of inspiration gleaned from browsing my favorite Tumblr blogs this morning…

Idea #1:  Favorite Book Quote Crowdsourcing

So this Tumblr post has me thinking–what if a class is reading a novel, and everyone submitted their favorite quote from the book by creating a zen style photo and posting it to a shared class blog? Or what if you created a library Tumblr blog and had students post their entries in that space?   This idea dovetails perfectly with Cathy Jo Nelson’s awesome “Picture It” theme for Teen Read Week 2011 that Cathy reminded me of this morning via a Facebook conversation! ( also see the Google planning doc she created)

Idea #2:  Crowdsource Original Book Jacket Designs

I know our teens are eagerly awaiting the release of John Green’s new book, The Fault in Our Stars.  Take a look at this Tumblr blog that invites people to submit their original book jacket designs for the book!  How fun would this be to do through your library?

Idea 3:  Connect Your Readers to Favorite Authors via Tumblr

I love incorporating the social media streams of author in my research guides and YA Readers’ Advisory; an author Tumblr blog is another fabulous way to connect teen readers to favorite authors!  Thank you Kristin Fontichiaro for pointing me to the Penguin Teen Tumblr stream.

Idea #4:  Random Tumblr Goodness and Inspiration for Learning and Libraries

Recommended Reading

Your Ideas and Inspiration?

Are you using Tumblr through your library or classroom?  How is the use of Tumblr making an impact on learning in your community?  I invite you to share your practices, ideas, and resources!

4 comments

  1. Buffy, I’ve looked hard at the challenge faced by those managing the filter, because it is similar to the one I face when managing SweetSearch, albeit with different implications. There are many domains such as Tumblr, Google Sites and others that have many users, often educators, contributing high quality content, but also have quite a few contributing porn. In the case of SweetSearch, there is no practical way for me to include the quality content and exclude the vast number of pages with inappropriate content. When there are domains, such as newspapers, that have one inappropriate section (such as “advice” columns that are an excuse to go into the gutter in the name of “news”), I can exclude that specific section, but this is not practical when the number of offending domains is large and grows every hour. What those managing the filter may/should be able to do in your case is to allow access to the Tumblr homepage so that students can set up accounts, and then enable teachers to allow access to each of the pages set up by students, as well as any other pages that a qualified reviewer “whitelists.”

  2. Tumblr is a way I and many other teenagers I know release their problems, it’s like a safe place. Anywhere you go online you would be able to find some kind of pornographic imaging so blocking this site is absolutely stupid. I’ve been through a lot of emotionally damaging things and until I could gain up the courage to see a specialist I would vent on tumblr where I also got advice on what to do and that is how I got the help I needed. I am an Australian public school, female student, (maybe I’m exaggerating a bit but) blocking the site will eventually cause more damage than Education Queensland thinks it already has.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s