Networking Collision

My Facebook is personal.  My Twitter is professional. My LinkedIn is uber-professional.  In recent months, those neat little social networking boxes are overflowing and mixing with each other. I’ve had a network collision.  Granted, I’m the one who created those boxes in the first place, so any fault is my own. Initially, separating those spaces made sense and worked quite well, but recent projects and friendships are teaching me not to box myself in.  As I mentioned in my SBPS essay, many of my PLN members have moved from distant mentors to trusted friends.  Yet I continue to use Twitter to interact with them regularly- it’s an organic growth of a relationship in the ground in which it sprouted and grew.  Rather like a little plant, uprooting our online relationships can be traumatic.  So, most of us leave them…. and grow into new spaces with our friends as well.

I’ve recently started working with Monika Hardy @monk51295 and the Innovation Lab she facilitates in our District.  Those students network best through Facebook, and so she has gone where the teens are… and has brought the rest of us along with her! And more recently, Shelly Terrell @shellterrell announced that The 30 Goals project #30goals would have a Facebook page.  More collisions.

Since I want to participate in these things, I’m packing away the boxes.  I’m going to reconsider linking my blog posts back to Facebook via FacePress so that I share there as well as on Twitter.

Are your online networks blending like mine?  How are you handling the introduction of your PLN to spaces like Facebook?  Will it change how you use the tool in the future?

Photo from Flickr by scotproof

Unplugging Edmodo

plugoutletLast week, I had to email and request that Edmodo turn off our school installation by my administrator’s request because of some student conduct issues and parental concerns. I want to be very clear in saying that I think the platform itself is amazing- the folks at Edmodo get it. They are an amazing support resource. Special kudos here go to Ben Wilkoff @bhwilkoff for his support and help during this process.  Ultimately, my building was not ready for this.  Period.

The biggest concerns centered around the lack of moderation prior to posting in the micro-blogging platform, and the ability for students to share links/videos to outside sources.  My response? Uhmmm…. yeah… isn’t that what we want to be teaching students?  That what they say has permanence- Google never forgets… BEFORE they hit Facebook and are totally unsupervised?  And yes, that sharing links and videos is a great privilege and responsibility…. the best internet filter is the human filter.  ((Right, monika?  @monk51295)) The ISTE NETS*S center around online collaboration and sharing.  For me, the primary purpose of using technology is to learn from and collaborate with others.

Are the students ready?  Yes.  Are they going to mess up?  Yes.  Will we have discipline issues? Yes.  Should we just deal with those like we do the equivalent action face to face?  Yes.  Are we going to stop them from using social media? No. They use this stuff- my kids access the internet from their DS, Kindle, and iTouch devices.  It’s not like turning off Edmodo is stopping them from interacting.

Are the parents ready? Nope. No way.  Uh-nuh. This is a huge issue.  Which is a sobering thing when you have students heading into middle school, and an overwhelming number of kids who are already using Facebook, email, text messaging, etc.  If parents are not actively helping their students navigate the digital world… well, that way be dragons.

I’ve heard it said in the discussions around this topic that these are adult privileges and for adults.  Not kids.  They’re too little to use the internet.  They can’t handle this.  Let them be kids.  This really bothers me because I strongly disagree.  I think the internet is as much for children as for adults.  I think it is an unparalleled learning tool, and age really doesn’t have anything to do with it.  The problem is that no one is educating these kids on how to really be good digital citizens in practical ways. Sure, we march them through the iSafe curriculum with the little coloring books on “My computer is sick” about viruses…. but we’re not preparing them for the social media world they live in.  It bugs me.

The biggest lesson I learned in using this tool was how unsupervised students are when using the internet at home.  It’s actually rather frightening to see how late some of my students- and we’re talking 3rd-5th graders- were using the internet, and how long they were online. ((This is where my own parenting bias comes into play- my kids are allowed a lot of freedom online, but they also know they must ask before going places we haven’t already approved.)) I was also very surprised that parents viewed their children’s online conduct AT HOME as somehow the school’s concern.  If this is a universal view, public schools are really going to have to step it up in terms of authentic digital citizenship instruction.

Rather than leave you on that frustrated-technology-teacher note, I wanted to share the beautiful things I saw during our 2 months of Edmodo use. Here are some great uses I witnessed with my students:

  • Students who were sick at home asking other students about homework for the next day.
  • Students sharing video links that related to class content.
  • Students learning to use discussion appropriately.
  • Students learned that what you say online can get you in trouble in real-life at school.
  • Students sharing Scratch games/videos they had created.
  • Students policing their own online community- discouraging bad behavior, reporting inappropriate stuff directly to a teacher.
  • Students learning to download, upload.
  • Students learning to filter their digital content.
  • Students having a productive discussion about something they noticed in a video.
  • Students sharing their recent blog posts.
  • Students really understanding images and copyright, and making decisions accordingly.
  • Students answering each others questions on how to complete assignments.
  • The list could go on and on….

[Read my post on Preparing for Edmodo: The Early Years to learn about what I did to prepare students.]

Photo: Unplugged by rogue3w on Flickr