While presenting to a group of elementary teachers about possible ways to use Twitter in education, lots of concerns came up about student uses. I told the group that I’m not a big fan of the idea of students using Twitter in elementary school, although grade 7/8 might be okay (depending a lot on the particular students). When I finally had a chance to read @acampbell99’s new, blog-killer post on tumblr I saw that he has similar reservations. In fact, he used the same phrase in his post that I did in my session, referring to social media as the “wild west” right now.
One of the participants brought up a concern that I didn’t think too much about at the time, but have been mulling over since then. She said that she didn’t want to see all the personal stuff from students that they regularly post as Twitter users (weekend activities, language that wouldn’t be appropriate for school, etc.). For some of the classroom uses of Twitter, the teacher might have to “follow” or at least “list” the students in order for the techniques to work (often a hashtag is sufficient, and would be preferred, to get around this). Following students has two potential drawbacks that are kind of bothering me now.
First is the concern identified by Andrew Campbell: that adults and school are encroaching into teen havens. He says
Teens are using social media as a proxy space for this process of self-definition. The intrusion of adults and schools into teen social media prevents this from happening. To facilitate proper social development of students schools need to steer clear of teen dominated social media spaces. (http://ascampbell99.tumblr.com/)
Second is the concern that as teachers we might become privy to information about students that we would be forced to act upon. For example, if I believed a student was suffering some form of abuse, I would be bound by the standards of my profession to pursue the claim through the appropriate channels (and morally bound, besides). The problem with the information I might find in social media is the question of reliability. I don’t know whether the information disclosed by a student in an online space is more or less reliable than my observations of or conversations with a student, and so I feel more hesitant about the idea of acting upon it. It’s something to think about, at least, and I’m just starting to.
Do you have your students tweet in class? Do you follow them? What would you do if you learned something that concerned you?