What do you think of this statement on Social Networks?

Below is a comment I left on a blog this morning. It includes a quote from the blog itself which I found intriguing but the meaning is not clear. Hopefully the author will respond with some insight. In the meantime what do you think the point is...?

I am interested in the discussion about the students but at the moment another part of the entry caught my attention.
Will you say....
"One of the moments in my presentations that always amazes me is when I point out that upwards of 55% of kids are using social networking sites, and then I ask how many teachers in the room have one. It’s rare to get over 5%. That’s just one sign of the disconnect, one that I think having students in the room could really help to assuage"

So I am wondering what role you see for social networking for educators.

Various blogs have been talking recently about the Ning site Classroom 2.0 which Steve started and some are seeing no point in it...why not just stick with blogs they ask.... Maybe we still just don't get what the students get...which is all the more reason to spend time over there. (here)

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There are still many fears among educators in the UK about "mixing it" on a social network with students.

There are a multitude of reasons for this and it may be a rich area for research.

I know of colleagues who will not respond to "chat" requests from students, even on moderated safe web sites, and even with their own students, because they consider that their behaviour may be regarded as at worst inappropriate and at best misguided..... "Why were you chatting to Susan at 10 o'clock last night Mr Smith ?" etc etc
I think they may be likening this technology to that of the personal phone call, which of course is a very different thing.
There are elements of prurience and caution in this. What are colleagues views??
I think this may be true in the states as well, especially in more conservative and urban communities. The boundaries that exist between student and teacher are generally perceived as necessary. I think you would be hard pressed to find an administrator in the states who is okay with the idea of a teacher directly communicating with students online outside of the classroom. If a teacher were to talk to his students on networks like ning, myspace, facebook and the like there would probably consequences.

Another thing to consider is that part of the appeal of facebook initially is that it was a student-only kind of place. Even now that they've changed that it still has a very kids-only feel. How reasonable do you think this kind of social separation is?
The faculty at Science Leadership Academy in Philly, the only one-to-one laptop school I have visited, have student-teacher IM after hours and from what I've heard, feel it's a great thing. I understand the safety concern, but the idea that a student would want to ask a teacher a question is seen as very positive. But I'm going to point a couple of folks from there to this discussion to make sure I'm not misrepresenting... :)
I've enjoyed all the insightful comments here and echo Steve's idea that what I've just been doing, is indeed the arguement I want to make for SNs. Blogs to me seem less about listening and connecting. They are more permanent and solid. But education needs something more flexible and breathable. SNs offer this and play to our enculturated and evolved need for community, contact and connection.

Jared is right about educators taking a more proactive role in terms of organizing the applications so that they are more "teacher" friendly. has to happen or we will continually get very creative things/ideas/tools that run aground. Stuck because of very practical concerns like time, access, flexibility, organization etc.....

I want to look into Susan's example. I have always seen so much hope in SNs, as a place for homeschooled, self-schooled students to create their own school/intellectual and learning community. Classrooms in the traditional sense are a very very very very wasteful thing. A waste of students lives (and I'm reminded of that wonderful poem If I could have easily ridden with Jesse James / for all the time they stole from me) and we know empirically that students can learn their subject material in 1/15th the time they spend in schools... Technology is in this way, liberating. Eventually a path of freedom for students.

So yes, like someone else wrote, I advocate focusing on the students using technology. the rest will come out in the wash.

David
Steve, I think you're probably right about the advantage of being able to ask a question or engage with the teacher any time. I think I was asserting a position on popular social networking sites. I didn't mean to imply that the social networking is implausible for educators because of cultural values.
I think it is a tricky area, and for the most part, your assessment was correct. I was just glad that I was aware of a visible exception. :)
It sounds great, but when is a teacher supposed to have a personal life? I love technology and love to see kids on it, but I don't want to be talking to my students after 4:00 PM. I want to have my own life.
Dave and Jared,

I may be an exception to the mainstream in this, but I have few boundaries about students' communications after (and within) school hours. Students write to me on Moodle, they participate in Moodle Chats (and I often join), they react to threads in forums in later afternoons and evenings. Students have email accounts outside of Moodle as well, and send notes often. I have a 4th/5th grade class. After leaving my class, students continue to stay in touch with me via email and the social networks, yes, after hours.

We do study internet safety quite a bit; I feel I'm teaching the students something by providing them with a safe space for learning networking skills. (I've talked in another forum about the very strong skills growth I've seen in writing due to Moodle--there are big benefits, arising directly from the need to get your point across to a group.)

Moodle Chats, at least as we have it set, are recorded, so you'd have evidence if someone wondered what you were discussing with the kids. We actually sometimes do themed "learning session" chats, on particular topics.

It may be that I can do out-of-school social networking with kids with parent support because I'm perceived of as "motherly," and we work within a rather small and progressive school community, so this would not likely to apply to everyone.

Students see Classroom 2.0 up on the SmartBoard often; I leave postings up and sometimes talk with the students about what "my teacher network" is thinking about. I ask their opinions about things we're discussing. They see the power of sharing ideas and knowledge; I get so excited when someone sends along a new technological tool or site, and often share the demo with the kids immediately.

The latest thing I'm doing is participating on Facebook. I thought about it a lot, and interviewed about 15 high school and college students about the various considerations in doing this. The younger kids (early HS) are more uncomfortable with it; the older kids (later HS, college, and beyond) seem to enjoy having "their old teacher" on the network. Actually, I'm beginning to provide a connecting point for an alumni association for our school by doing this. After 30 years of teaching, I have a lot of students who would like to stay connected with each other, with their schoolmates, and with me.

The Facebook world is quite fascinating. You get bits of news about your friends in a stream across the front page, stuff they've posted or done. You get updates, pictures, notes. I try to sort of "stay in my place" and let the kids contact me, initiate the conversation. But I'm also experimenting with starting questions or suggestions on my wall, or in my notes (like forums) to see what avenues there are are for group expressions.

Some of my latest questions have been about whether there are some former students who would like to jump over to CR2.0 to comment on educational issues. Some of the older students (college/grad school, post college), especially the ones who are considering education, psychology, or social sciences, are very enthusiastic, and seem pleased that they have been asked to voice their views.

So here I am using a variety of networks, and even trying to link them together in some ways. I'm working against social separation. Might as well get some multi-generational stuff going... By the way, CR2.0 colleagues, if you are on Facebook, contact me there, ok?
Barbara, this is a great thread you started! I wouldn't say that of either blogs or SNs, one is better than the other. In the real face-to-face world, we sometimes sit in meetings, sometimes add a comment to a conversation, or maybe deliver a speech at a conference. A person wouldn't rely on only one of those modes for all their networking and professional development needs. The distinctions here are similiar.

I've been blogging for a few years, but my reasons for blogging are not the same as my reasons for joining networks. I'm way over in Turkey, where I have basically no opportunities to attend ed-tech conferences to meet other edubloggers and create some F2F connections. I'm sure that those F2F times are a catalyst for a more friendly interest in each other's blogs and for more conversational back-and-forth commenting. Besides, even if I had a wider readership in my blog, I would still want to stick to my own themes mostly, so it wouldn't meet other needs I have for connecting with people.

Networks, on the other hand, are like the coffee bar at a conference: you mingle, exchange business cards or blog addresses, then split up again for a session or workshop, where you find more people who are interested in the same things you are.

So for me, if I want to let people know I'm looking partner schools for a biodiversity project, I have a place to go. And this is much better than the bulletin boards and email lists that I used to rely on, because in a network I can find out more about the person who is contacting me, read their posts, and read their comments on others' posts.

On the other hand, networks feel to me like they take more work: so many more people and threads to track, that even though I'm aggregating all the SN activity with RSS, I'm adding that to the 100+ feeds I'm already reading. Plus, I'm not as proficient or prolific a commenter as I'd like (though I'm working on it) and lively posting and commenting is the life blood of SNs.

So maybe a factor is the generation difference is that, as we get older, some of us feel that we already know enough people, and aren't looking for more things to read and react too. And if you don't already know at least a few people in a network, it's harder to dive in.
Wow..this has certainly taken on a life of its own and there is a great deal here to really think about. in reading through the various perspectives represented I am struck by a couple of things.


First I really like Tom's description here- 'Networks, on the other hand, are like the coffee bar at a conference: you mingle, exchange business cards or blog addresses, then split up again for a session or workshop, where you find more people who are interested in the same things you are."

It does encapsulate part of the beauty of SN and it points to the potential for creating connections and relationships with a much broader group than one might naturally encounter through blogging. The picture he painted also helped clarify my thinking on a second issue raised in the many comments here.

IM, Chats and forums with students is an effective way to be available ...Joyce Valenza from library 2.0 talks about wanting to be where the students need her when they need her. ..in her case it does not meaning im or chat 24 x 7 but it does mean assuring that resources are always available. What I am thinking is that the "Social" in SN is what makes us worry about using them with students. Ewan McIntosh spoke at Boston learning Communities about making explicit your public face. Part of his point was that we need to be clear and explicit about our communication. I would suggest that my "social" relationship with my students is governed by a far different set of standards of behavior than my social relationships with my peers.
After learning about wikis, blogging, podcasting, social networking, I did not warm up any of it for quite a while. Being an elementary technology teacher new to this network and to other web 2.0 tools, I am now hooked. In gradualte courses, we network as part of the requirements. Because of the depth and breath - Classroom 2.0 network has taught me more in two days than I ever thought possible. I am learning so much more about integrating podcasting, blogging, and wikis in my plans this year –and that’s just the beginning. I also teach workshops and technology courses in my district -an entire course needs to be taught in my district on web 2.0 tools. Being part of this network has been a source of great information and motivation. I am actually eager to begin a new school year in August.

My elementary students - and teachers - need to learn the functions, the etiquette and the ethics of technology tools. (All are part of being in a social network.) Unless I know how to use the power of the web, I cannot translate this effectively to my students. What our students are doing and where their interests lie is key to motivating them to learn. We have a whole new wave of learners so we need to teach them where we find them, and mine are more tech savvy each year. My students are engaged in many social networking sites, so if I can find ways to integrate that in the classroom –we all win. It certainly all depends on how the teacher uses it to help students learn from and with computers.

Like with most everything - we need to have a balance in our education. It is up to us to figure out what tool is best for the job-blogging or networking. It is just like you have always heard- there is a time and a place for everything. Actually videos that I learned about on this network (from Susan I think) at dotsub.com sold me. I hope I add the link correctly - one example is about social networking.
This is a really rich discussion! There seems to be a big difference between social networking and blogs, although as many people pointed out, they are connected sometimes. Recently my about-to-be-freshman-in-college daughter and I discussed the difference between Facebook and MySpace, both being pretty popular in our community. MySpace, which is more of a blog, requires more work on the owners part, which is why many people start spaces and then give them up. Facebook on the other hand, grows as a result of other's contribution to one's space, which is why it is so engaging. My daughter says that kids really prefer social networking because you can connect with people with the same interest, no matter how obscure, see what's being said and contribute to the discussion. It's very non-threatening and you don't feel as vulnerable as you do when you post a blog entry.

Here's the thing that Will doesn't really bring into the discussion. Look at the psychology of a young person. It's all about the "friends".....the more "friends" the better. The compelling part of being part of a social network is to participate in the community because "hanging out" with people their own age is part of the emotional and psychological makeup of a younger person. When kids reach their teens, their focus becomes their peers. That's part of how they are wired.

A middle-aged teacher like myself, with a husband, three kids, a dog, and a full time job....the motivation to participate in social networking would have to be pretty compelling. I might be going out on a limb here, but I'm guessing that when you get to a certain point (or age) in your life, you stop caring about the opinion of your peers to the point where you have to go on line and check your social networking site 5 times a day (like my kids do).

I have a great deal of respect for Will and his work. I read his books and his blog. I read a lot of blogs for that matter. I just think that he needs to take a step back and reflect on the underlying reasons why kids do something and grownups do not.

As with many of the posts in this thread, I do think teachers need to capitalize on the way their students use the internet. Teachers are really missing the boat when they don't use the web 2.0 to extend the classroom and engage the students using their own medium for communication.

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