Our Kids and MySpace, Facebook, Twitter…Going, going, GONE!

Here at CUE2009, I’ve now attended 3 sessions geared directly towards what we, as educators, can do to understand and use the Social Networking phenomenon to reach our students.  In the classic words of Dr. Ian Malcolm, the great Chaos Theory expert whose cynical voice predicted the fall of Jurassic Park, “You spent so much time asking if you can do this, that nobody bothered to ask if you should.

Now, each presentation had its various statistics about how many people use MySpace, how it’s the 5th largest country in the world, and how every day 300,000 new users are added.  But rarely, in any of these sessions, was the issue of most importance ever addressed: What’s the learning objective?

This very morning, Dr. Robert Marzano spoke at the Keynote Address, and his underlying message was that we need to stop getting caught-up in the bells and whistles of technology, and start asking ourselves what we want the students to learn.  MySpace is a terrific example of that endeavor.

Are we exploring MySpace’s usage in the  classroom, because it has actual merits in an academic setting; or, are we pushing for its unleashing on the educational society, because it is the Holy Grail, the Mt. Everest of technological integration conquest?  Are we the Web 2.0 Conquistadors looking to impose our Dogmatic views on the Digital Natives who are running happy and free of the imposition of a teacher?

And this is where we as teachers keeping asking “How, how, HOW DO WE?!?” instead of “Should we?”  The answer to “Should we?” is ‘yes,’ depending on the question being asked.  I’ve heard various levels of desire to use MySpace brought up by teachers over the years, and quite a few of them are very spot-on.

Some teachers want to simply be aware of MySpace, be mindful of the fact that their kids are on it, and know how to monitor it for its potential spillage into the classroom.  This is a noble, and very justified cause for MySpace and education.

Others want to use MySpace as an actual networking tool in the classroom.  The problem here, is that you’re taking a tool that was meant to connect the unconnectable, and use it to connect the already-connected.  But, that’s just the surface.

The bigger issue here is the assumption that students want us — adults, educators, parents — in their world.  It’s called “MySpace” for a reason.  It’s theirs, not ours.  When we look at ways to bring MySpace into the classroom, the student response is not going to be, “Oh, cool!”  It will be the same response you would get if you tried to get “Jiggy” with it at your kids’ parties and dance to that “Little Wayne.”

Just because we know where they are, doesn’t mean we’re invited.  There are ways to bring social networking into the classroom.  There are student blogs, Ning, and other resources.  Our job, as teachers, is to show them in an academic setting, how to be an appropriate student, and expect that those lessons find their way into their personal Social Networking usage.

It’s no different than when we work with students on how to solve their problems.  We take that teachable moment in the class to demonstrate how to solve a problem, with the expectation that it will transfer (and hopefully transcend) into their personal problems.

So, the problem here, is that when we try to force ourselves, and even infuse ourselves into their own getaways, we run the risk of driving our students and children even further underground where we can’t find them, can’t help them, and can’t teach them.


One Response

  1. I really wish I was at CUE. I went to the ILC fall 2008 and learned a lot. I agree that asking “should we” has become just as important at “how do we”. I think most of us have learned the how’s by now and if not then we as educators are really far behind.
    As far as myspace is concerned I have used it personally and academically. I had an account before becoming a teacher- hiding it away from my students by using a modified name and personal email address. I started using it academically when I started teaching high school AVID. I used it for the students to plan projects together and I gave my feedback on their collaboration. I posted reminders about homework, asked how their weekends were, but didn’t get involved in their personal lives. I spoke to them about the use of profanity and how it wasn’t allowed on my myspace, but unless their parents had an issue with their computer behavior, I did not press the issue. Myspace was their space and I was invading it. I allowed them to be teenagers and just gave them an avenue to communicate with each other and with me about what they wanted to communicate about. Social-networking needs to be respected and as professionals we need to allow students space. We can’t criticize everything the students do because they are our students, and we are their teachers. I think the line between educator and student can get blurred when students have access to our personal lives and we have access to theirs. As long as that isn’t occurring I think whatever medium teachers use to communicate with students is fine.

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