Text messaging, displaying pictures on the web, and blogging are second nature to today’s youth, so why not use these skills to provide them with a platform to share their voices and their learning experiences? This summer, we worked with a group of San Francisco Unified School District students who were interning with businesses as part of their career academy programs to develop an online professional presence using a private social network.
Nearly all of the students we worked with said that they were already on some kind of social network such as Facebook or MySpace (or both). But how many of them had stopped to consider how their online lives might affect their professional lives? Not many! We compared socially driven networks like Facebook to professionally driven spaces like LinkedIn. By incorporating a social network in the students’ summer internship program, we had the opportunity to discuss how employers have begun using social networking as part of their marketing strategyâ¦and that some actually monitor employee posts. Despite their seemingly inborn genius for instantly adapting to new social technologies, many youth haven’t considered the implications of what they post online; as educators, it’s crucial that we have these conversations with them.
Further, social networking isn’t just about what you post concerning yourself — it’s also about what you post in response to other people. Sadly, some people aren’t as careful or thoughtful about what they say when they “say it” through a keyboard, so we reviewed basic netiquette and had the interns examine cases of inappropriate online behavior like flaming and trolling, and we discussed how to respond properly to abusive content. By setting the standards of online discourse, we helped to set the tone for the private social network and for the internship program itself.
Here are some activity ideas for helping youth examine user-generated online content:
- In small groups, compare a Facebook page, LinkedIn, and Twitter feed for the same person (you may want to create a sample account for this). What kind of impression do you get from the profiles? How much about this person’s life can be deduced from his/her online content? Has anything been posted that this person might regret 10 years from now? What advice would you give this person if he/she were about to begin looking for a job?
- Have youth examine a blog entry with multiple comments. In pairs, they should rank the comments from best to worst and share with the group. Is there any kind of consensus to the rankings? Discuss what criteria they used to define best and worst, and develop a comment rubric for the group’s future use.
After each activity, give youth a chance to reflect in a journal or blog entry about how these ideas apply to their own online behavior. Will they change how they engage with others — why or why not? Do the guidelines discussed with the group apply to their private online activities?
Next week, we’ll take a look at some of the ways we incorporated student voice into their internship support program.
Additional Reading on Educational Social Networking
- How to Use Social Networking Technology for Learning Fran Smith. Edutopia.
- Social Networking in Schools: Incentives for Participation Patricia Deubel. THE Journal.