I’ve read and heard a lot of conversations lately that are focused on how teachers are becoming more and more curious about how “new” sites like MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, and others could be used for educational purposes. The thought is that since kids are using these sites so much, maybe it’s time educators take advantage of the opportunity for teaching and learning. As the saying goes, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”
“Join them?” you might say, “Join them in what? What exactly could I, the teacher, do on one of those sites?” (It’s important to read the “those sites” very disdainfully.) Most of these online activities involve creating and sharing content so it could be as simple as leaving comments on a blog or as complex as a full-blown character analysis or the sharing of a student-created video. Besides sharing, though, is the idea of belonging to a group, or community, of online citizens. That’s the social part of social networking.
Since MySpace and YouTube and others are blocked at many schools, educators have been looking for other possibilities. Two that I’ve seen tossed around quite a bit are Ning and imbee. Both of these sites allow users to create their own social network, label it private, and allow only approved users access to what’s inside. Ning would appeal to older students while Imbee has features that younger students would enjoy.
Ning allows personal pages, discussion forums, photos, videos, groups, friends…hey that sounds a lot like that black sheep, MySpace, and it’s all controlled by the teacher. To see what a Ning site looks like, check out Classroom 2.0, a network of teachers exploring the use of these new technology tools. Like Ning, imbee allows the uploading of photos and videos, blog posts, etc., but presents it in a more kid-friendly format. Outsiders aren’t able to get in to see what an Imbee sight looks like (that’s the point), but take a lot at this special information they have for teachers.
This is what kids are doing online in their free time…it’s worth exploring these tools to see how they might engage students both during and after school.