31 May, 2007

A social networking "primer"

I found this article about social networking by way of Weblogg-ed last month. It was just what he said it would be: an excellent "primer" for educators (and others) who are starting to explore the potential of social networking sites. The article explains in simple terms how social network sites work. This information couldn't have arrived at a better time, as I am experiencing MySpace vicariously with my son's babysitter, who, incidentally, is NOT a teen. She is 43 and a grandmother. We plunged together into MySpace a few weeks ago when she asked me to help her set up an account so she can stay in contact with cousins and other relatives separated by busy work schedules and geographic distance. They are all on MySpace!

While acknowledging the attendant challenges -- the blurring of the line that separates the public and the private spheres, the many unresolved questions about how to engender appropriate and responsible use -- the author, Danah Boyd, encourages educators to embrace social networking applications. (I am reminded of Chris Lehmann's suggestion that we think of these tools in terms of "academic networking." It's a good starting point.)

Boyd concludes with a number of recommendations and next steps for educators. Two big "ah-hahs" for me:

First, she recommends we create a presence (a profile) for ourselves on the sites most popular with our students. Wow. I have always maintained it's "their space." Why would I want to intrude? Now, thanks to Boyd (and Teresa, the babysitter), I am starting to come around in my thinking.

Second, and more important to me, is Boyd's reference to the role media literacy curriculum will serve in preparing students for engaging responsibly with these new technologies. This is huge! I'm thrilled to see someone drawing this connection.

Is anyone else out there examining classroom 2.0 through a media literacy lens?

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