Friday, November 6, 2009

AASL Conference - Day 2 - Social Networking and Our Students

All I can say is “Wow!” danah boyd really laid it out there in talking about social networking and our students. We are creating digital identities and there is an evolution happening and a possible identity crisis.

The most eye-opening information that she shared was the socio-economic and social disparities between MySpace and Facebook. You’re probably going “huh?” right about now, but it was incredibly interesting how the two social networking sites broke down in the teenaged mind. Basically, it’s the same old division from the beginning of time, just in the context of social networking sites. The lower socio-economic class and the less educated (remember these are perceived disparities that are proven in her research) use MySpace as their primary social networking tool. The more affluent, better educated turn to Facebook as their home on the web.

So all those class and social groups that are prevalent in the “real world” (read “middle school” or “high school”) are now becoming more obvious in the virtual world.

The at-risk kid in our schools will most likely be an at-risk kid online. In other words, we need to pay close attention to what those children are putting out there in their web presence. We have to look out for them, not only in our schools, but online. So how do we do this if we have schools that block social networking sites and school districts that make policies about “friending” our students and connecting with our kids online?

We have to be transparent about our online interactions with those in our care; we have to be the other adults in their lives, looking out for them and teaching them how to navigate the world of social media. They are going to use the tools, whether we like it or not and whether we are there to support them or not.

Doesn’t it make sense that we teach them the best ways to traverse the virtual world so that they have healthy, safe, happy online experiences? Why can’t we make it all about the learning?

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