Social Networking Sites and Teaching

In his October 4, 2008 blog entitled Facebook – an educational resource? , Doug Johnson writes “Schools DO need to teach safety and privacy with all social networking tools. If we don’t, who will?” If I was still a grade 3-8 classroom teacher I think I would set up a Ning. What a great way to teach safe and appropriate use of social networking for grades 3-8 in a safe, moderated and meaningful setting (students aren’t supposed to be on Facebook until they’re 14 anyway!) Classroom projects and assignments, resources, questions, discussions and reflections could be collected into one advertisement-free Ning.

For younger students I’d start with using the activities and resources from Kids in the Know to teach safe and appropriate internet use for younger students. This is a program supported by The Winnipeg School Division. I’d set up a classroom Twitter community for grade 1 or 2 students. When I was a grade 1 and 2 classroom teacher I would spend countless hours preparing nifty little paper booklets in a variety of motivating styles and shapes to keep the students interest in writing. It would take a lot less time and be even more motivating to students to set up a monitored Twitter network for classroom collections of writings and reflections on the occasional classroom topic or theme using school division e-mail addresses and passwords that the teacher will also know. It would be easy for a teacher to pre-teach expectations, monitor and intervene if inappropriate comments appear. Teachers could also monitor outside activity and teach students about online safety should outsiders choose to follow.

For senior high and adult students – I say let’s get all the social networking sites unblocked and allow students to use them in authentic ways for learning. So what if their private and personal lives intersect with their academic learning now and then? It’s still an engaging way to enhance literacy skills and it’s helped me lighten up and enjoy my journey into Web 2.0 a little more than I would have otherwise.

When I just reviewed my I realized it’s partly a journal of my journey into Web 2.0 over the past several weeks. I then realized that Twitter would be a fabulous tool for students to use as a starter for a journal or reflection journal when they’re working through an inquiry project.

Educational administrators and educators need to embrace social networking tools and capitalize on their popularity and potential for education – not ban them!

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5 Responses to Social Networking Sites and Teaching

  1. Kathy Atkin says:

    Hi Rhonda,

    I think the idea of setting up a Ning for Middle Years Classes is a very progressive one. As you say, not only would a Ning give students the opportunity to network online in an authentic forum, it would also allow them to do so in a more protected environment. Teaching students to become web savvy on social networking sites (and others) is one of the more important lessons a teacher-librarian can give give students and classroom teachers today. I understand that Doug Johnson has a new book on this very topic. Have you seen it yet?

    Brave words on advocating the unblocking of social networks for your senior high school and adult learners! Do you think that it might be a possibility in your division? If anyone could do this in a public school setting, I think it would be you, Rhonda!


  2. Kathy Atkin says:

    Hi Rhonda,

    I love the new blog layout! Is this a WordPress template?

    Looks fab!


  3. Joanne de Groot says:

    Hi Rhonda,

    Thanks for your interesting comments about using social networking sites with students of all ages. I love the idea of a Ning for younger students–you could also include parents so that they could see what was happening (or a Ning could replace a classroom blog…there are so many options!). I also like the idea of using twitter with students. For older students, they are using facebook or whatever other social networking site, so perhaps it is important to meet them where they are at…that said, did you think about what role/responsibility you as a teacher of these older students would take when they are asking you to be friends on facebook? That seems to be a concern with many teachers…

  4. lifelonglearnerrhonda says:

    To answer Joanne’s question:

    “did you think about what role/responsibility you as a teacher of these older students would take when they are asking you to be friends on facebook?”

    I keep in touch with former students on Facebook. They keep me in touch with what’s happening in the northern community of Grand Rapids and Thompson. I personally don’t have a problem with being connected to them through Facebook. I don’t say or show anything on Facebook that I wouldn’t say or show to a crowded room. I also try to respect their privacy and don’t go poking around their profiles and friends lists.

    My own adult children have asked me to not even try to add them as their friends. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to see some of their stuff! Yet some of their friends have requested to add me as a friend and I’ve accepted.

    As a rule, I don’t try to add younger people as friends onto my Facebook, and always accept when former students or young relatives request to add me.

    Thanks for asking – Rhonda

  5. Joanne de Groot says:

    Thanks for answering my question Rhonda. Your situation, as a teacher of adults, puts you in a unique situation…and I had to laugh when you said that your own children didn’t want you to add them as friends. My brother told my parents the same thing, although they aren’t really interested in joining facebook (except maybe to bug him!). There are lots of ‘rules’ associated with these sites and it’s a lot to negotiate, especially for us ‘digital immigrants’!


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