Social Networking Thoughts

Last week, Ollie Bray came to Falkirk to talk to a small group about Internet Safety and Responsible Use. I really enjoyed listening to what Ollie had to say, especially his views on raising awareness on how the web works (with teachers and parents/carers, as well as students) and about taking responsibility to protect reputations online.

We discussed how children as young as Primary 4/5 stages are now using social network sites like Bebo and MySpace. These sites are not accessible to children in our Local Authority. Staff members, however, can access the sites after bypassing a warning message that they can proceed to the website at their own discretion. Although twitter was also mentioned, it was more in a ‘while we’re on the subject’ sort of sideways conversation. 

When I came home, however, I was surprised to read Anna’s new post about twitter  and her thoughts about how ” it’s becoming the new bebo,myspace etc“. I’ve since been followed on my own twitter account by seven of my ex Carronshore bloggers and this has got me thinking about social networks in general.

When I received Anna’s request to follow me on twitter (my account was locked for a short time – but that’s another story), I thought long and hard about the ethics and whether or not this was acceptable. I remember creating a Bebo account in the past to allow me to keep tracks on my No.3 son while he roamed about Canada on a gap year. At the time some Primary 7 girls must have tracked me down on there and I noticed the requests. I (tactfully?) explained to the girls that this would not be appropriate …. so why the change of heart now that the same thing has happened on twitter?

I’ll try to analyse my thinking here:

  • My Bebo site was set up for personal reasons and I was a bit taken aback when the girls (very innocently) requested to follow me. We had shared exchanges online before via the class blog and their individual blogs, as well as this blog, but crossing that line to a ‘social network’ site was  definate ‘no no’ at the time. The very thought of us exchanging correspondence out of the public eye just seemed instinctively wrong to me. Actually, it wouldn’t  have made a difference if the sites were public – I would still have felt uncomfortable.
  • My twitter site, on the other hand, was set up initially for CPD purposes. A quick look back at my twitter account origin reveals that the people I first followed were already authors of educational blogs. I was a regular reader of  John’s, David’s, Neil’s, David’s and Ewan’s among others and they were all twitter users, so I thought I’d give it a go.
  • I was amazed at the CPD opportunities that twitter offered and blogged about it on a number of occasions on here. And it may even have been similar CPD prospects that helped me decide (not lightly, I might add!) to allow the ex Carronshore bloggers to follow me – and why I feel comfortable following them back.
  •   I feel that I know these students well. When I received the ‘follow’ invites from Anna, Nina, Bethany, RhiannJaydean, Marc and Ryan I remembered the Blog posts and wiki stories we shared. I’ve blogged on a number of occasions about the change in the classroom climate that was brought about by this sharing. There was a level of trust involved in the set up – but the advantages outweighed any risks
  •  A significant difference between bebo, etc and twitter is that twitter is somehow more accepted in educational circles. Twitter is less likely to be blocked by Local Education Authorities…. and even the CPD Scotland Team encourage its use 🙂

Anyway, it seems that Anna has started an ‘ex Carronshore students’  blogging trend …. I hope it continues. It would be great to read more posts from them 🙂

11 thoughts on “Social Networking Thoughts

  1. really great post!! i totally get what your saying and i think that twitter is definetly becoming the new ‘thing’ if you like 😛 Glad i’ve got lots of people blogging again,seems to be most of the girls though haha,now i’ll write a post but i need time to think about what im going to write! :)x

    • Thanks for the comment, Anna.

      Writing posts is hard work sometimes. I always start with an idea in my head – but when I start to write it down, I go off in all sorts of directions.

      The issues with the blog host tonight didn’t help …. well, that’s my excuse anyway

      Now it’s your turn to write again!

  2. More food for though Margaret! I agree with you – I have a Facebook account which is private and not shared with pupils (I used to have a Bebo account with the same rules but deleted it) I have recently had pupils following me on twitter and have not blocked them. I thought about it but as you say Twitter is open – anyone can see what I am saying regardless of whether they are following me or not.

    I am of 2 minds re the use of Facebook in education. As I say my Facebook account is private and always will be (you are my ‘friend’ and will therefore know why ;-)) but a group of our seniors have started to use it to work on planning their Trash fashion show – they have created a group and are using it very well. The problem is they also use it to talk and share pictures of their life outside school.

    I think if Facebook is to be used as a learning tool in a secondary school pupils should perhaps be using dual accounts – one for learning and the other socialising.

    I wonder what other think?

    • Is Bebo and Facebook available to students in Stirling (or even to staff?). What about twitter? I know that Bebo and facebook have been recently made available here to staff (with a warning messge). Twitter has been freely available for some time, though … but I’m not sure about student access.

      I like your idea about students having duel Facebook accounts. That makes a lot of sense to me – especially if they’re using their educational planning side of it well.

      Now you’ve given me even more food for thought 😉

  3. Hi Margaret

    Neither Facebook or Bebo are available to Stirling pupils or staff. I have great (social) conversations with about 20 SHS staff on Facebook, never of the educational variety mind. For me twitter is for work and facebook for fun (although twitter is quite often fun too!)

    Twitter is available in my school at my request.

  4. Hi Alan and Margaret

    I’m from a HE/FE background and we used facebook to set up a page to communicate with students for programme / module updates and reminders; however, we found that students were sharing social pictures and thoughts (that could be deemed unprofessional and inappropriate) and not in the way we had intended; we since have discontinued the page. I think this was because they use facebook for social things and maybe find it difficult to separate and may have thought that us using it for programme stuff invaded their social space? Although I have no hard evidence for that thought.
    I have just started with twitter and am using it for keeping up with educational things rather social, I have a facebook page for that!
    Interesting though isn’t it what makes it different?
    Kind regards

    • Thanks for the comment, Clare.

      I found your experience of using facebook with your students very interesting because I read quite quite a lot about young peoples uses of social network sites when I was writing up my CT dissertation (but not twitter). The research showed that they do in fact like to ‘furnish’ these sites and create their own online identity through them – so I think you may be correct in saying that using these spaces for educational purposes would be like an invasion of that social space.

      Maybe the difference with twitter is that, although you can ‘dress up’ your profile page, it’s quite unusual for followers to visit that part of your twitter account. Most of the communication is carried out on the main fast moving twitter page. There are only short succinct statements/thoughts on there and it definately has the feeling of a ‘shared space’ anyway?

      There’s definately lots of food for thought here, I think 🙂

  5. Pingback: Anna's Blog

  6. Pingback: Anna's Blog

  7. Pingback: Anna's Blog

  8. Pingback: Anna's Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *