I am a guest participant in a debate on the Economist web site. Here is the proposition:
Proposition: Governments and universities everywhere should complete to attract qualified students, regardless of nationality or residence. more
Social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook have now become a ubiquitous part of many students’ lives. The value of social networking has been defined, in one sense, as the collective power of community to help inform perspectives that would not be unilaterally formed – e.g. the best thinking comes from many not one. Others argue that significant time spent on social networking platforms actually distract students from their studies. So a question emerges, could the introduction of social networking tools be useful in a formal classroom setting? Additionally, is the concept of social networking a progressive, but legitimate, form of student-to-student and student-to-teacher collaboration?
My guest commentary will be posted 1/24. I am also working on a chapter of a new book on effective Internet use management in a Web 2.0 world. (Yes, a new book. The working title is Youth Risk Online: A Guide for Adults Who Work With Children and Teens. I hope this will be a helpful text for teachers and librarians, and other adults, on these issues. Research-based. No fear-mongering.)
Anyway, all of this got me to thinking about these issues. I am thinking that one of the problems is the terminology we are using. Whenever we say “social networking in schools” people will invariably think that we mean that we want students to be able to use MySpace and Facebook at school. The vast majority of us recognize that this approach will likely not fly because these sites are not educational. Note the problem that NSBA got into by not being clear about what they meant about social networking in schools. Even I criticized them for not being clear about what they were advocating.
So what I am thinking is that we may have a terminology problem – that is pretty easily fixed. The term “social networking” has all sorts of negative baggage – much of this grounded in irresponsible fear-mongering, but negative baggage none the less.
What if we switched terms and started talking about the use of Web 2.0 technologies in schools? Read the proposition above, substitute “Web 2.0” for “social networking,” and eliminate the reference to MySpace and Facebook. Wouldn’t this shift the conversation in a better direction?