Tuesday, November 13, 2007

MySocial SpaceFace

Tengrrl as a South Park characterIn the last week, I've been attacked by several vampires and joined the Jedi in the fight against the Sith. I have a zombie and a pirate army, but I don't pay much attention to them. I go caroling as a Snooper Elf, and I'm a member of Gryffindor. I even have a South Park character who dresses far cooler than I actually do.

The Technology Toolkit column in the December 2007 issue of Voices from the Middle focuses on “The MySpace Culture.” Column editor Sandy Hayes explains that Grunwald Associates’ research found that “71% of tweens and teens between the ages of 9 and 17 visit social networking sites weekly” (59). What do they do when they visit these sites? They communicate and interact with the people they know.

It’s not just teens visiting these sites however. Hayes explains:

As MySpace itself has matured, it now features adult content in a different sense. More than half of MySpace visitors now are age 35 or older. Some libraries have even created MySpace pages (www.myspace.com/hennepincountylibrary) where teens can literally become friends of the library. And as the ultimate signal of cultural acceptance, most of the 2008 Presidential candidates currently have MySpace pages, including, in August 2007, friend lists of up to 164,500. (60)
Teachers number among these adult users of social networking sites as well. Much like the tweens and teens in the Grunwald study, the pre-service, early career, and experienced teachers I see on these sites use them to connect with colleagues near and far, in both serious and silly ways.

I know. The media would have you believe that teachers only go to social networking sites to keep an eye on students. But the truth is that my colleagues and I go to these sites to connect and have fun. Sure, we discuss teaching issues on discussion lists like TechRhet and WPA-L, but we also update each other on our grading, writing, and personal activities on Facebook.

Just like the teens on these sites, we build community as we support and mentor each other. And just as importantly, we learn more about how these sites work so that we can use and discuss social networking in the classroom. If you’re interested in learning more, consider joining the NCTE groups on Ning, MySpace, or Facebook. And friend me— I may even poke you in return. My username is tengrrl on Ning and MySpace, and I’m Traci Gardner on Facebook.


Jayne Higgins said...

I've moved my Rhet 101 class to Facebook, and amid the throwing of sheep and giving of gifts, my students have done a great deal more fruitful writing about our readings and their culture than I've ever seen in this sort of class before. The space is their space, their comfort zone. It isn't like doing homework, so they write. They write more, and they write better. When the space is public, they care about what they write, and when it's THEIR public, they share in very real ways and want to show what they can do.

Andrea said...

I am still a pre-service teacher and have only been warned about teachers or future teachers having my space pages. While we have to make sure that our pages are strictly professional this has proven to me that my space does have a place in the education world. My Husband can now say "I told you so!" mauea@duq.edu

hickstro said...

I had an interesting discussion about online identity with my ENG 201 students this past week. Having never contacted them before in this manner, I decided to send them each an email about class work through Facebook. When we talked about it in class, some of them thought it was "cool" that their professor got in touch with them this way, some found it "creepy." All thought it was interesting that I would have a Facebook account myself though, and that became yet another topic of conversation.

I think that we have a professional responsibility to teach students how to use read/write web tools -- especially social networking -- in responsible ways. But, I also think that we need to respect the implicit and explicit boundaries that spaces like Facebook draw between personal and academic lives. I think that I might set up a Ning network for my classes in the spring semester so we can use these social tools in an academic manner.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this piece about how teachers are using Facebook. It's refreshing, especially in light of Emily Toth's piece in the Chronicle recently, which unfortunately reflects the limited view that many faculty have of technology in/out of the classroom: see here. It's significant that--as you mention--there are so many of us "older people" on these social networking sites. Perpetuating the idea that only the young use such technologies is, in my view, incredibly short-sighted.

That said, I agree with hickstro's point above about the boundaries we should observe when it comes to these sites. So far, I've only used Facebook to interact mostly with old friends, not with students.

Casey said...

I had a talk with my principal today about a blog for our school that I amtrying to set up. She asked for a thumbnail sketch of what blogging is. I think I will include some of what is in this piece. In Michigan, you cna no longer get a Master's in Reading, it is only available as a Master's in Litercy, which includes multi-modal learning. I am happy to see so many school communities using this tool.

Trisha Senkbeil said...

The one thing about myspace is that there are security controls on there that allow you to ban anyone under the age of 18 from viewing your page, or if they want to add you as a friend, they need your permission first (and they can't see your profile until they are accepted as your friend). Starting teaching at 22, right out of college, I had a facebook account, and also created a myspace account - I wanted to keep in touch with my friends back in Wisconsin now that I had moved to Arizona. Last year was the first time students even found my profile. They thought it was "cool" I had one, and were bummed when I wouldn't accept them as my friend; however, they were still amazed that at age 25 I had a page and profile!

I think it would be great to set up pages just for a class though. Keep the personal information out of it, but have it focus on the academic aspects of the teacher and student's lives.

Trisha Senkbeil