Economist Debate on Social Networking in Schools

Hey Radical Readers:  This came through my inbox today….and is going to consume me for the next few days!  Figured you’d be interested too:

Dear Bill,

I saw your blog and thought that you and your readers would like to know that today, kicked off a new Oxford-style online debate tomorrow on social networking and the value it adds to the classroom. Since you’re a member of the technology and blogger community that is highly relevant to this topic, The Economist wanted us to give you a heads up.

·          This month’s debate proposition is: “The house believes that social networking technologies will bring large [positive] changes to educational methods, in and out of the classroom.”


  • Our expert debaters are two leaders in education and technology, and will square off for three rounds of debate.
    • CON Michael Bugeja , Director of Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, Iowa State University of Science and Technology. The author of 21 books whose research is often cited by the New York Times, Dr. Bugeja was among the first to analyze the use of social networks ( Facebook & Second Life) before their use by students and educators was widespread and well-understood.

    • PRO – Ewan McIntosh, National Adviser on Learning and Technology Futures for Learning and Teaching Scotland, the education agency responsible for curriculum development, and a member of the Channel 4 Media Advisory Board. He writes about social media and learning for the Guardian and the BBC, speaks internationally and consults for organizations including the British Council, the RSA, General Teaching Council of Scotland, RM and Scottish Enterprise, advising on how social media can be harnessed for to improve learning. He blogs at

·          Guest participants will also contribute featured comments .

o     Parry Aftab , Founder & Executive Director,

o     Judith Krug, Directory, Office for Intellectual Freedom, American Library Association (ALA)

o     Ann Flynn, Director, Education Technology, National School Board Association (NSBA)

o     Nancy Willard, Executive Director, The Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use

Follow the Debates on Facebook

The Economist has launched a Facebook group for followers of the debate. If you’re already a Facebook member, we encourage you to join our group where you’ll find syndicated content and be able to interact directly with members of The Economist community, including some of our previous guest participants.

Here’s a short debate schedule:

·          Tuesday, January 15 – Opening statements & floor opens to comments from public

·          Wednesday, January 16 – Guest Participant, Parry Aftab ,

·          Thursday, January 17 – Rebuttals

·          Monday, January 21 – Guest Participant, Judith Krug, American Library Association

·          Tuesday, January 22 – Guest Participant, Ann Flynn, National School Boards Association

·          Wednesday, January 23 – Closing statements

·          Thursday, January 24 – Guest Participant, Nancy Willard, Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use

·          Friday, January 25 – Debate winner announced

Check back regularly to see the latest comments by your peers and to see if the moderator or debaters picked up your or other viewpoints from the floor. And as always, if you prefer not to be contacted again by me regarding The Economist Debate Series, please let me know. I’m more than happy to comply.





One thought on “Economist Debate on Social Networking in Schools

  1. Michael Bugeja

    Thank you for covering the debates. I’m not sure that your readers know about the glitch that occurred in this forum.
    The Economist issued this statement:
    Readers of Michael Bugeja’s opening statement as first posted on January 15th may have been struck by its brevity–usually a virtue, but in this case taken to excess. A mechanical error truncated the statement halfway through. Readers were denied access to the conclusion of Dr Bugeja’s intended argument, which added much to the shape and power of the whole.I can only ask, in the interests of fairness, that if you saw Dr Bugeja’s opening remarks early on Tuesday, please do go back and read them again in their completed form. We will be extending by one day the period between the opening statements and rebuttals (and setting back the close of voting by a day), to make allowance for this.In his later paragraphs Dr Bugeja has addressed two points that I raised in my own opening statement. He has related his argument to a basic model of social networking, not merely to well-known social networks already in operation. And he has warned that online social networking is liable, by its very nature, to substitute for personal interaction, handicapping students who “above all need to think critically and interact interpersonally to succeed in a diverse, multicultural world”.You might say that this hiccup has lent support to Dr Bugeja’s argument that applied technology is dangerously fallible. My apologies again to Dr Bugeja; and to our early readers; and to Mr McIntosh, since he must now grapple with an even stronger counter-argument.

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