danah boyd on teens and social media (great posts, pt. 1)

I haven't been utilizing this blog to great effect lately. I consider this a place to air ideas I'm formulating, put my reflections down in writing, and share items that I've found noteworthy. However, my less-than-regular posting schedule the last couple months has seen many ideas, reflections, and noteworthy items come and go without being recorded here. Hopefully this post will mark the start of slightly more regular postings.

In the past couple weeks I've come across three posts that have resonated with me deeply. I'd like to share them with you. This post is the first of the three. The other two will follow shortly.

Living and Learning with Social Media by danah boyd

This is a transcript of Dr. boyd's talk at Penn State's Symposium for Teaching and Learning with Technology. danah boyd studies teens and how they interact with social media. This talk is probably the best pieces I've seen (evar) on social media and its implications for the students in our classrooms. Let me hit you with some highlights:

On differences in populations using MySpace & Facebook:

More problematically, I've heard many of you talk about using Facebook directly in the classroom. And I've heard you talk about recruiting through Facebook. What kinds of assumptions are you making? Are you aware of these issues?

A refrain I'm starting to hear as the norm from those I follow online that I couldn't agree with more:

Just because youth are using social media doesn't mean that it can fit well into the classroom. It needs to be thought through pedagogically and y'all need to understand how it's being used in everyday life before bringing it into the classroom.

Describing why using social network sites in the classroom is probably not a great idea:

On social network sites, you have to publicly list your Friends and you have to have the functioning network to leverage it. What happens if you're an outcast at school? Does bringing it into the classroom make it worse? [...] Bringing social network sites into the classroom can be very very tricky because you have to contend with social factors that you, as a teacher, may not be aware of.

And lastly, describing why teens have a lot to learn about social media even though they may use it regularly:

For all of the attention paid to "digital natives" it's important to realize that most teens are engaging with social media without any deep understanding of the underlying dynamics or structure. Just because they understand how to use the technology doesn't mean that they understand the information ecology that surrounds it. Most teens don't have the scaffolding for thinking about their information practices.

So much of what boyd says flies right in the face of how many educators view social media. In my experience social media- especially social network sites- are seen as a disease. They think it puts teens into dangerous situations and prevents them from doing "productive" activities. danah points out that much of what teens do online is normal teenage socialization using a new tool. She's careful to point out that there are differences between socialization on Facebook and socialization in real life.

Dr. boyd also notes that we shouldn't assume that teens have a deep understanding of how social media even though they may use it all the time. For me, this point emphasizes how important it is to teach students about social media in our schools instead of simply banishing it. Internet filtration is well-intentioned but often their main effect is to lock out some of the most relevant teaching and learning opportunities for our students (as I've mentioned before). As educators we need to have an open dialogue with our students about these technologies- something danah boyd points out and I coudn't agree with more.

If you haven't read any of danah boyd's other research and writing, I highly recommend it. Her website contains many of her articles