Saturday, April 22, 2006

Web 2.0: How do we move them out of MySpace?

I am becoming interested to understand more about how I will guide my students into the wealth of social networking and collaborative scholarship that Web 2.0 encourages. What is the role of education in this ever-changing digital blogosphere and more? On one hand there are the teachers who are not even aware of the ways of Web 2.0 and the wealth of work being published lately. They do recognize the Web as a resource and will ask their students to simply search the Web for material (See Alan November on information literacy). On the other hand, there are the kids who are out there interacting in social spaces like Xanga and MySpace. In the middle somewhere are teachers like me tip-toeing along a rugged path that lies between the two; we are exploring this new universe and posting our own blogs and adding to Wikis, posting to Delicious, Flikr and the like. Some of us are even trying out Writley and pondering the added value it brings to ordinary word processing. See my colleagues' blogs-- Connie You's blogs for English 10 and 11 at BSGE and Ken Stein's blogs on the trials and tribulations of teaching social studies and more at Satellite Academy.

One of my 6th period (that's code for a new NYCDOE mandate for 37.5 minutes of small-group instruction at the end of the day) students made a Spring Break homework calendar and stared at it for a long while before adding anyting. When she did it was shocking to me. She placed a colorful big block letter in each box, one for each day starting with Sunday and ending on Saturday. It spelled M-Y-S-P-A-C-E. Clearly my students are in the Web 2.0 world, but what they do there is of concern. How do we guide their passion for social networking to more scholarly persuits? Where do we beging? I begin with this blog and will see what I learn about myself, my pedagogy, and my ability to interact in this blogosphere.

When I asked this bright-eyed 12-year old if her if her mother knew she had a MySpace account she said that she did. I know many of my middle-school students have MySpace and Xanga accounts and with their parents' blessings have made settings to keep stranger out. "So, what will you do there in MySpace all week?" I asked. She said that she will prbably mostly look in on her friends, look for new ideas and fix up her own space. It's kind of like marking. It's clearly a way young people are finding their identity and making a place for themselves during this limbo period in their lives when they are neither babies nor adults. They are finding their way.

As teachers, aren't we supposed to be guides? Where shall I guide them? Is Schools Wikicities the way? Where do we start? Please comment.


Anonymous BenS said...

I think Blogs are so much more user-friendly than webpages. A few years ago there was a big push to get students to create webpages. Though we pushed students to learn HTML, FrontPage, or Dreamweaver, few mastered the art enough to make webpages that continue to both be maintained and to have a sticky audience appeal.

Blogs are different. Blogs are easy to set up and maintain. You don't have to learn HTML or Dreamweaver. They are all about writing and reading, which is what we in school are all about. There is thus a pleasant synergy here with this new technology. I suspect more of our students will be inclined to produce and maintain blogs than webpages.

Unfortunately, I think the webpages that students are gravitating to are those sites resembling Sconex and MySpace. These have the stickyness to win the hearts and attention of our students. These sites are extremely easy to configure and mostly consist of communications along the line of "U so cool!!!!!!!" and thus are the antithesis of everything literate we are about. These sites are like semi-gated communities of young people who are increasingly re-enacting struggles that remind me of William Golding's "Lord of the Flies". These sites scare me because of the damage they allow their users to do.

11:26 PM  
Blogger Madeline Brownstone said...

Sconex and MySpace scare you in ways that Blogs dont? I really wonder if we lead them into the greater world of blogging our kids' ramblings might not deteriorate into such worlds of adolescent struggle. When I was using Blackboard discussion forums with my kids, their banter read like an IM session. Of course I took that as a teaching moment and reminded them of the nature of a "public" bulletin board and indeed their postings took on a more thoughtful tone. The difference between Blackboard discussions and blogging in the wild is just that--blogging is in the wild and kids will take it where they want to meet their needs. I wonder how we can meet their needs through leading them to more intelligent discourse. I teach 7th graders, some of whom spend a lot of time alone in such environments as MySpace. What need is that filling? I suspect part of it is a need to belong, a kind of "public intimacy." Fixing up their sites is a grooming mechanism to attract others. Blogs might not appeal to the groomers, it's just not juicy enough. Blogs are really about reading and writing, and at their best thoughtful conversations.

9:00 AM  
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