Sunday, March 30, 2008

Social Networking Sites

Blog Posting #8- Social Networking Sites

Ahhh…finally something I have had some experience with. I must say that with some of these blog postings I have had little or no experience at all, with social networking sites I was a fence hopper for months and finally jumped in with the rest of them. I was always one of those people that claimed if I wanted to stay in touch with someone I would call them or go for coffee with them, I didn’t think an electronic relationship was sufficient for those I was even mildly close with. I was wrong, I admit it! Through facebook I have come back into contact with people from high school, people from the old small town I used to live in, friends of my family, family itself etc. I find out who has had babies, bought a new house, got married and graduated and much, much more. It is hard to change the way you think in regards to things of this nature, you must admit to yourself that what you once believed has, yet again, been changed by technological innovations. I remember a time when my father (now addicted to the stock market) said that computers were a waste of time and people needed to learn a real trade. Now when I think about that statement I laugh…the man now has 2 large computer monitors and the best computer money can buy. I was the same way with Social Networking Sites…I thought of them as immature ways to “hook up” with boys or chat MSN style with friends. It turns out that these sites can be incredible forms of communication and great fro sharing life’s precious moments via pictures and quotes. Facebook is a social networking site that I frequent on a daily basis. I have not often thought of its uses in school because it has had quite negative stigma attached to it in my school. Principals warn teachers to not allow students on their facebook profiles (which I obviously completely agree with if it is a personal profile) and principals also do not allow it on the District computers. I do have several of my colleagues on my facebook and this is the only real professional/social relationship I have had. It is nice to see what your colleagues do outside of the school doors, really schools are not our complete world. I did notice that some of my colleagues have parents of the students in their classes on the profile…that seems like a bit of a fine line, but I think it is acceptable. I can now see having a facebook profile that is dedicated to your classroom or library and all of your students and their parents can have access to it. I believe that teachers must have their personal lives separated from students outside of the school, but not in an obsessive way. I think that it is a great idea to have a class facebook profile as a teacher or a teacher-librarian .


Before I rant on and on about the uses of Social Networking Sites let me define them in the way that I understand them.
“…web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system. The nature and nomenclature of these connections may vary from site to site.” (


This is the best definition I found for all that these sites entail. The possibilities of these sites are endless, but I have narrowed them down to…building electronic communities for people who share common interests and activities, or want to share in those of others.
Some examples of Social Networking Sites include Facebook, Friendster, classmates, Flickr, Flixster, Librarything (a great site for book lovers) and MySpace. The one I used a lot is Facebook, but I also use MySpace for music interests. To set up my Facbook account I simply went to Facebook. Com and followed the easy and free registration instructions. This is something else that is fantastic about these sights-they are free to join and use for everyone involved.

Are they beneficial in the classroom?

I can see some Social Networking Sites being useful in the classroom, although I do not see them as being as beneficial as some of the web 2.0 tools like Flixster and Wikis. I think that much of what they offer in terms of games, writing on each others walls and buying each other items is a complete waste of time. However some of the options available could be useful. For example I could see the teacher and each classmate being a part of each others facebook profile to learn about each others families, home life etc. I could also see it as a collaboration tool. Students could collaborate about group projects and teachers could assign projects and keep parent sin tune with what is going on in their classrooms. Parents could be on the class facebook to see their children’s friends and class participation. MySpace would also be useful for these reasons.

Cons to Social Networking Sites:
I do find some negative attributes to Social Networking Sites though. Many times when I go on mine people have left notes, pictures etc that I am not interested in nor do I want any part of. Although there are security measures I am sure it wouldn’t be difficult to “hack” into someone’s private profile. Also I think that these sites are hard for parents to monitor. Students could have private settings so their parents/teachers could only witness some of what is going on; also they have private passwords so that parents wouldn’t even know they had a profile. Also, just like in chat rooms, when you are dealing with virtual relationships, anything is possible. People could claim to be someone else… this could be dangerous even on a classroom site. When reading J.A. Hitchcock’s article “Cyberbullies, Online Predators and What to do about them,” I learned about all kinds of bad situations. In one example from the article some students pasted a classmates head onto the body of a cow. I could see this happening on a classroom site. Also the article mentions that many online predators have false identities and can influence the minds of young children. I hear about these cases all the time on “Dateline” and other News channels; it seems that it is too easy to be bullied by these predators, even on a closely monitored site. Hitchock definitely mentions some great advice when dealing with these situations, but you can never be too careful when introducing your students to a web 2.0 tool that could be negatively used. I guess you can say that about many of these tools, however this one seems particularly negative to me.

So all in all I think that there are better Web 2.0 tools for collaboration and classroom uses than Social Networking Sites. I think these sites are more beneficial for personal use.


Linda Morgan said...

It's interesting that your principal warns teachers regarding Facebook protocol....this has never come up in our school, probably because it's an elementary one. I'd be interested to know if anyone else in our class experience with Facebook protocol in elementary schools.

Val said...

We don't have specific rules at our elementary school but it is an unwritten rule that kids shouldn't be using chat sites during school hours. Our highschools in our districts are filtered and cannot run Facebook, MySpace or YouTube.

Yes Jean, I agree at this time there are better web tools for the elementary classroom and library (although John Curry would strongly disagree with us, he chose Facebook as his #1 web tool for teaching - mind you that is at an undergraduate level).

Katie said...

I was just like you at first, I still think that texting is a waste of time, but I am a total convert to Facebook! When I first started I was completely addicted, but I'm a bit better now. One of my friends calls it "Facecrack" because it is so addicting!

You brought up some good points about security. Our school has blocked Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, etc. altogether and I'm not sure it isn't a bad thing. I do have some reservations about blocking sites, but in this case I think I agree. We are a high school and there are lots of cases of problems involving the internet, so I think that's the main concern.


elizabeth said...

We have also been warned about Facebook protocol in our district. Like you Jean, I dont see a use for Social networking tools over other web 2.O tools. I wouldn't feel comfortable inviting parents of my students as friends on Facebook. It would be very important to me to keep a professional profile completely separate from a personal one. Perhaps this is because I live and work in the same community.

Arlene said...

Jean, your suggestion of a class Facebook profile made me wonder if homework of questions to ponder could be updated in the status for class members . . . arlene