Thursday, March 18, 2010

Social Networks - Friends or Not?

I deactivated my Facebook account about eight weeks ago, and I don't miss it. Really, at first I was checking it every spare hour I had, but I got to the place that I really started to dislike it. A lot of it centred around privacy issues for me. I'm sure we have all heard stories of people losing their jobs because of pictures being posted or comments being made that were inappropriate. While I was not worried about anything being posted without my permission or that might be compromising, because my life is pretty quiet (almost boring), I disliked having to read other people's news feeds that was full of swearing or silly comments.

Initially when the fad started I added everybody I knew. People I hadn't seen or heard from for years were adding me. I never talked to them even after they became my Facebook friends, but they were on list. That's all that matter. But eventually I started filtering out people I didn't want on my friends list. Apparently deleting them from your list is called a Facebook slam. However, the intention was not to slam anybody, but just bring my list down to a realistic number of people I wanted as friends.

But even after that people were tagging photos they posted of me and writing silly comments that I got tired of. So I made the plunge to deactivate the account to see how I might survive without it. I have done very well without it. I really don't miss it all.

I have concerns about how young people are using it today. I realize that it is pretty hard to ban the use of Facebook in schools when almost every student is carrying a cellphone that they can use to access Facebook. But I find it a huge time waster. I have seen young people sit in front of the computer screen going through photos after photos, writing comments, chatting online for hours. It clearly has become a major social network for students to use to communicate with one another. But clearly, they need to learn about how much information to post about themselves and how they need to interact with one another. Just like we used to spend time teaching our own children and our students about how to speak to one another politely and courteously, we need to teach our students about social networking etiquette. Here's a couple of links about determining how to use a social network like Facebook; Social Networking Etiquette or The Ultimate Social Media Etiquette.

Recently, I had a conversation with a number of educators about whether or not they added their students to their Facebook friends list. The overwhelming consensus was "absolutely no way!" And I agree.

Call me old fashion, but let's put this into context. Remember the time before computers and MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter, did we engage in social activities with our students? Did we go to the weekend party they were at and hang out with them? We didn't have email, or SMS, or Facebook, but did we send them Valentine cards in the mail, or write personal letters to them telling them about what we were doing in our lives, or share our photo albums with them. We didn't do any of that stuff, because it would have seemed weird and inappropriate.

So my question is how does the new trend of social networks and technology make it acceptable. I know teachers who have students as their friends in Facebook and use it to post assignments. But in a case like this, I would want a separate account that was just a teacher profile. But most students don't take the time to create two profiles, and I'm not sure I want to see all the stuff they put on their profiles. I think that is the parents job to see what their children are doing online.

While the majority of teachers are trustworthy, I think friending students on Facebook is risky and weird. I wouldn't recommend it. While I don't want to sound paranoid, I do think there is potential for both teachers or students to get into trouble by what gets posted. Everybody, who is friends with that person, sees what is said about them, to them.

Reputations are on the line. Kids innocence needs to be protected. I wouldn't do it. There are other resources like Ning, EduBlog, Wikispace to use with students.

However, I was introduced by Greg Limperis, founder of the Technology Integration in Education to LinkedIn. This site is makes it's distinction from Facebook by being a professional network. It's a place to collaborate with people in the same line of work or share similar interests with one another. I certainly haven't figured out all the ins and outs about it's advantages and disadvantages. But my first impression is that it's not in the same category as Facebook. So I'm going to try it for awhile.

I hope to add to some of the educational discussions that come up in this network. I'm really not interested in sharing with the world what I'm eating today, or what I'm watching on TV this very moment, but I am interested in participating in dialogues about how do we improve learning standards in our classrooms, or how to integrate 21st Century technology with our learning outcomes. These are the things that excite me. That being said, I really enjoyed this video called, Learning to Change - Changing to Learn. I hope you like it too. I think is has some important things to say to us as educators, parents, and students.

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