Bringing Digital Media into the Classroom
The other day my principal called my classroom and asked me to send a few of my students (8th graders) down to her office. She said someone had created a fake Facebook page for one of our campus supervisors, and three of my students appeared to be involved. They had copied a picture of the victim from his own Facebook page, and then gave him a name that was a slight variation of his own. Then they filled the page with all kinds of hateful profanity.
These kids are so clueless about social networking that they invited their friends to be "friends" with this pretend person, and even invited the victim himself. So now their names and pictures are listed as "friends," and they are identified next to every post they made on the page. The next day the victim alerted our principal.
I have been integrating media and technology literacy with my students, but the lack of accessible technology and the pressure to "teach the standards" has limited the amount of time I can spend on it. Social networking is on my list of new literacies that I'd like to address with my students, and I've even found a site that allows teachers to create their own social networking page that is only available to those she invites, like the students and their parents. I think it would be even better, though, if teachers and students could actually use Facebook, since it is what students are already actively using on their own. Of course, most schools block social networking sites, which makes it more difficult for us to teach our students how to use these sites responsibly.
Then I read this article about a first grade teacher who has found a great way to use Facebook in her classroom every day. The page is private, and the teacher only accepts requests to join from students, parents and others with a direct connection to the class. Then in class each day, students take turns updating the class status with a line or two about something the class has just learned. The class works together to craft the sentences, and one student has the privilege of typing it onto the class page.
Not only does this daily activity provide the perfect opportunity for the students to learn the etiquette, ethics and legalities of online interactions, but it supports the teacher's other curriculum as well. Students take time in class to process, review and summarize new concepts, and many continue the learning when they go home and post comments in response to the class updates. Parents are brought into the learning via the Facebook page, which makes it easier for the parents to talk with their children about school.
So now I'm wondering: should I use my password to bypass the district filter so I can adopt this practice for my 8th graders? Sounds like the perfect test case for fighting the filter.