Friday, May 29, 2009

The Online Social Network of Teens

danah boyd recently did some field research with teens in Atlanta about how they viewed Social Networking and media. I was surprised by a few things, and contentious about even more. Here are some of the highlights that I think impact education:

1) Teenagers don't use e-mail
2) Parental control & privacy concerns
3) They have a severe lack of media literacy skills: (I love this quote)

Media literacy amongst teens is extremely varied, but the short answer is that most don't know what to trust. They know that they are not supposed to trust Wikipedia because it's editable (and they automatically recall Wikipedia when you ask about trustworthy information.. that's so actively hammered down their throat, it's painful). One girl told me that she trusts websites that "look" like they are reputable. When I asked her about this, she told me that she could "just tell" when something was a good source. And besides, it came from Google. Le sigh.

What I find the most interesting is their view of teachers in social networking sites:
This is messy. Many teens have ZERO interest in interacting with teachers on social network sites, but there are also quite a few who are interested in interacting with SOME teachers there. Still, this is primarily a social space and their interactions with teachers are primarily to get more general advice and help. In some ways, its biggest asset in the classroom is the way in which its not a classroom tool and not loaded this way. Given that teens don't Friend all of their classmates, there are major issues in terms of using this for groupwork because of boundary issues.

Most of the research I have seen has found this to be true, but I still struggle and maybe I just want to believe that we can find a happy medium between the two. I mean if students aren't using e-mail, but Facebook & texting to communicate, how can we as educators connect with them if we aren't trying to utilize either the same tools or the same type of tools? Shouldn't we be making an effort to take this new way of communication and see how it can fit in the classroom. I'm not saying we should teach in Facebook, but can we utilizie something like Ning to reach out to our students and connect with them. Or should we just stay out of it?

1 comment:

emapey said...

Bethany, just tell the teens where they can find you online. If they are interested they will contact you. If not, leave them alone.

They use social networks to socialize with their friends. Not for learning.

If you want to give them support create a Ning. They don't use this type of networks and they will see it as a learning and networking tool