Monday, March 30, 2009

Response to Ryan Bretag: Should we or shouldn't we....

I got a tweet from @briancsmith that mentioned a new blog post by Ryan Bretag. I hadn't read his stuff before, but found it interesting that he was posting about the same topics I have but from a different perspective. It looked to me like he was discouraging "friending" students on Facebook. I got the feeling that it was let them have their space. Let them have their "hangout"

Sorry, but I disagree. I don't want to be the creepy adult lurking in the kids tree house. Just like I wouldn't join in my kids slumber party. However, I would darn well supervise the slumber party, and let the kids know I was going to checking in on them from time to time. The same is true of online spaces. Students should not be allowed to develop the false impression that adults don't frequent the internet. Employers are checking on potential employees, students should know that adults are online.
My comment on his blog is below:

I replied to this post in my own blog about two months ago: But wanted to make a comment here. The argument, and concern I have is if we abandon these spaces to the kids and basically let them have their "hangout" we are then throwing them to the sharks. If we as adults are fearful of being to available to students or to out there, then the only adults in that environment are the dangerous ones, or the ones who are willing to snub their noses at convention, if instead we as adults and educators firmly stake our claim in that world, and then model good behavior by good clean appropriate conduct we are doing not just students, but the whole online environment a huge favor.

IMHO it is vital though that we set explicit (in the being clear sense not the other sense) guidelines with students for example:
I will add you as a friend if you request, I don't request students as friends.

Whatever we are comfortable with is what we should set up ahead of time. Also, involve the powers that be. Explain to administrators why and what you are doing. No principal wants to find out after there is an accusation of misconduct that you are online friends with a student.

I also wonder what Edna Mode means when she states I keep the number to a minimum? If we selectively choose which students we accept as friends we run the risk of alienating some students and giving the impression that we favor some. For instance, if a teacher only accepted young men, it might give the impression of impropriety.
I actually think it is a really good idea to set up guidelines about what we think is appropriate with our online interactions with students and will make some suggestions the topic of a future post.


Online Learning Insider said...

This is an interesting debate that wasn't even an issue 15 years ago. The times really have changed. Online learning is an option for school attendance in some districts, and definitely for college students. As it relates to grade, middle and high-schoolers, I personally agree that it's important to have emotionally and relationally healthy adults make their presence known in social networking arenas which children and teens frequent like facebook, twitter, and myspace. As you suggested, guidelines for interaction should be established ahead of time so no one is surprised by the possibility of a later administrative decision based on a teacher's online behavior.

Thanks for posting this!

Ryan Bretag said...

Hi Jorgie:

Thanks for the comment on my blog and this was my response. I thought I'd share here since you have a nice post up. Again, thanks for engaging in a nice discussion about what all this means.

Here are some thoughts that are running through my mind when reading your comment:

1. Don’t we let kids have their hangouts now in the physical? I never went to my students’ hangouts and there were invites. For me, the reasons why I didn’t are obvious. I see Facebook as their hangout and don’t want to invade their space even with an invite. I am on Facebook but not for merging my virtual hangout with their virtual hangout.

2. The logic of adults being fearful of being available to their students doesn’t resonate with me. I don’t think choosing not to connect with students on Facebook is a fear of being available. I think for some, there are better options.

3. If we stake claim in that world, I personally believe students will find somewhere else to go.

4. I agree with you that guidelines are huge and that broader discussion is need.

5. I couldn’t agree more about being selective. This simply creates more problems.

Finally, I read your other post and think you may be painting with too broad of a stroke yourself. I don’t think asking these questions is a sign of being a technophobe. I think it is a sign of being a responsible adult and a thoughtful person that takes the time to see both sides and asks many questions.

If connecting that post to mine, I’ll say why Facebook. If your goal is to help students understand social networking, I think you may just be cutting the students short. They understand it and could teach us a few things (maybe an argument for Facebook connections). However, I think it can be done in a variety of social networks.

I also think we do our profession a disservice by not educating the adults. Your focus is on students. Great! But, how about the teachers? How about the young teacher with four years of a digital footprint from college?

As I stated when I began my post, this isn’t about attacking social networking, creating fear, or blaming technology. This is about putting asking some hard questions and including a wide range of stakeholder in the discussion.

Jorgie said...

Thanks Ryan, Yours is one of the first comments on my blog, and I agree, I am probably painting with a very broad brushstroke.

I am going to have to think about your points before I can respond fully. One, thing I really would like to understand better is this idea about kids just migrating to a new hangout. It seems to be common sense that kids will move to a new hangout either physically or virtually when adults invade it, but my questions are: Should we knowingly avoid the tool because we know that younger people will abandon it when we adopt it? Do we consciously choose to let young people build an environment that allows them a false sense of 0 adult supervision?

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