August 26, 2010

A Meshing of Realities

I have been on facebook for quite some time now. Actually, I think I was one of the first people I know to join. It didn't seem like much of a social networking site in the beginning simply because there were not many people I knew using it. I didn't even use my real last name. Since then I have learned to use my grown up name - to be myself and manage my online identity. I learned that this is a valuable lesson, and strive to help my students come to the same realization.

My first meaningful encounters on facebook actually came as a teacher. I created a teacher account and had my students sign up. We used it as an online classroom. This too, was before many people had joined. At the time we didn't really realize how quickly the site would grow and change. It did however, offer me (and my students) a wonderful opportunity. From the very start, we saw the academic potential of facebook (because this is solely what we were using it for).

It is no wonder then that when I took a job at a different school that I quickly created another teacher facebook account and started using it in much the same way. Interestingly though, the students took some time to come around to the idea. You see, they had been using the site on their own, with little or no "adult" influence. A few other teachers followed my lead and created teacher accounts as well. They started doing some wonderful things that I had never even thought of. Without even thinking about it we began meaningful conversations with students about being responsible online and managing their online identities. Today we discussed just how much of a positive change we have seen in just under a year.

So now I have three facebook accounts. My personal one, my old school teacher one, and my new school teacher one. Every day I sign on to each one and network with three different groups of people. I have debated meshing all accounts into one, but have my reasons for not doing so.

This last June my father came along on an outdoor ed canoe trip. He acted as our guide. In just under a week he formed some pretty positive relationships with my students. After I got home I logged on to facebook and found that he and 3 of my students had become friends. Tonight he posted a happy birthday wish to one of my grade 11 students. He said "have fun, and behave". They messaged back and forth a bit. I'm not sure what this all means. I do know that my 3 different facebook "realities" have often overlapped. But not to this magnitude. Here is my father, one of my role models, being a role model for some of my students. All because of social networking sites (he lives 5 hours away). It's a little strange, and a little exciting - because I know that in some indirect way I am helping provide positive role models for my students, as well as helping them to realize that an online community is still a community. It is full of real people. Your actions still have consequences. And your connections can be real and potential filled. Now to decide - start meshing some of my personal facebook connections (ie: my father) with my teacher ones?

1 comment:

  1. Great post Ryan. I too think Facebook has many possibilities in a school setting. I'm in the process of setting up a grade 3 account for my students to communicate what they are doing in class with their parents.