Relevant and Valued Goals

David Warlick just published an interesting post on his site, 2 Cents Worth. He replied to a comment I left at his site in which I wondered aloud if we would be soon be providing “internal” blog/profile sites to all students, just as we did email accounts a few years ago. What is happening on Facebook is interesting but unmonitored (by individual schools) and relatively unvalued. Internally provided profile sites could be monitored and more protected from the general Internet. At first, they likely wouldn’t be heavily used (just as the first school-provided email accounts weren’t), but as time passes their value may grow and be recognized (at the same time that abuses are reduced).

Here’s my response to his post:

Interesting response– I like your last sentence best. What stands out is recognizing the students’ world, and how we can have a positive impact on it. Providing relevant goals is definitely part of it, as is recognizing the value of what they achieve.

My situtaton is unique, but becoming less so as time passes. I’m at a private independent school and close to 100% of our familes have had computers and Internet access for some time. 120 of our upper schoool students just responded to a computer use survey, and we found that about 50% have blog/personal profile pages (such as myspace or facebook), and of those about 25% check them daily.

Now, if you’ve plugged “Facebook” into Google News lately, you’ll find fascinating reports about how college students are using the service. It’s reported that 85% of the students are registered at some institutions. A teacher told me today that her college-aged daughter says, “You have email, we have Facebook.” If you read the reports, it’s now playing a major part in their lives, mostly good but some bad.

Facebook now has a high school section, and it is growing. As educators, I believe we need to stay in the loop as much as possible and have a positive impact. I feel we’ve done this with email, and now I believe we need to step up to the plate on this. Much of your response refers to “teaching technology skills.” Obviously, half of our students have figured out how to create and use these sites, but it’s clear that their use could be more mature and forward-thinking– just as with the abuses of email in the past. They also need clearer goals to accomplish, as you suggest.

To do this, we have to find a little common ground to understand “their world” and have a little patience. In some ways, we need to experience it in order to advise, which is mostly what I’m learning from the blog I’ve created. All of this seems to be more under the heading of self-presentation, communication and positive networking, rather than technology skills.

Along with this is the critical need for parents to be in the loop and to be central in the process of helping their children be “street smart” online. In a day or two I’ll share some of the guidelines we’ve developed for this.

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