Intrusive Commentary

Reading another fascinating article from the New York Times via the Age titled OMG, mum’s joined Facebook! I was prompted to wonder on how far we as teachers can “intrude” on our student’s spaces without violating them. In the article New York Times writer Michelle Slatalla tells of her dilemmas from a mother’s point of view when she joins Facebook alongside her daughter. Having been ‘outed’ by her daughter Slatalla went off to check with..

“Michael Wesch …. at Kansas State University whose research focuses on social networks…. reminded me that what Facebook’s younger users really are doing is exploring their identities, which they may not want to parade …..”

This suggestion sparked a thought that when we begin to use as educational tools those things that our students ‘play’ with then and think of as ‘cool’, we also concomitantly run the risk of alienating these tools. Of course in the natural progression of things that is bound to happen anyway, (think how much of a status symbol the Sony Walkman once was). The problem comes when through compromising the adolescent’s primacy in the use of these tools we render them almost meaningless.

This problem is manifesting itself at the moment at our school where we have provided blogs for each of the 116 students in our senior unit. The premise is that the blogs will be the vehicle for an ongoing project of the student’s choice. The expectation is that  the blog will be more than a repository. We are hoping to engage the students in a conversation around their developing project. We are hoping also to encourage students to view and comment on each other’s projects and ultimately encourage parents to become involved as well.

The temptation is either to be rather facile in the comments eg ‘I like your blog, it’s cool’ or to be the teacher and do the full on correction. The latter is especially a temptation when the students, despite exhortations, make postings that have spelling or grammatical errors.  For most students, blog posting is a novel and exciting means of expressing themselves so should the students be allowed latitude to make such errors? Should we risk having parents or others being critical of a lapse in standards? Do we instead see these blogs as a work in progress, a series of drafts and a vehicle for learning about themselves? If so how do we make sure that others know and appreciate the process that is being exhibited? How much care then is needed to construct a commentary on the blogs that keeps the ‘cool’ but promotes the learning we aspire to too? An interesting challenge, I shall keep you informed.

Oh if you are interested, you can view the original article follow up comments via the New York Times.

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