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Inside Teaching : June 2011
www.atra.edu.au | firstname.lastname@example.org 10 THINGS I’VE LEARNED 29 students I share freely online. I involve myself in online teaching communities and in return receive unparalleled support from them when I need it most. 3DISCUSSION Young adults spend much of their socialisation time online with the same peers they socialise with offline. Students still spend time offline flirting, joking, sharing games and opinions, but now some of this formative behaviour takes place online as well. Time my generation spent talking on the phone at home or chatting in corridors or scribbling notes in class is now also spent in chat rooms and shared social media spaces like Facebook. Often maligned for a seeming lack of depth, the social interactions of teens online exchanging the minutiae of their day is important. Just as important is the ability to move beyond it and understand how to work with and appeal to a broader audience online. Students need to know how to pose critical questions to a community of any size outside the comfort of their familiar social groups online. 4READING Recent studies have shown us that time spent online may not reduce the opportunity for reading offline. In fact for some student demographics, more time spent online could equate to reading for recreation offline. According to a recent survey in the United States by Scholastic, students are very interested in ebooks, but still cherish books in print. How we share our love of reading and our exploration of narrative is also shifting. Young adults are able to more easily contact and even converse with an author, they can review and discuss the novels they read with vast groups of interested readers, and more easily exchange suggestions for new titles. There are a significant number of reading and writing groups online, and introducing students to them can help encourage a love of reading. In addition, there are numerous new ways of using technology to engage reluctant readers. 5CONTEXT AND PRIVACY Students can struggle with the shifting context of what they share online, and the scale at which it can be shared with others. A photo or a comment intended for an individual can quickly be misrepresented before a vast audience. This is an area in which students are particularly vulnerable, with so many of them using social media products like Facebook, with its ambiguous privacy settings. Students need support to help them understand the notion of context with different audiences. This is also crucial to their understanding the responses they receive. I don’t like Facebook, and don’t hold an account, preferring other social media services like Twitter instead that are better suited to my sharing with others working in education. I did, however, register a Facebook account for a while to explore its potential, and to better understand what the pitfalls might be. I explored the privacy settings, and where misunderstandings or vulnerabilities for young adults may lie. 6PERSISTENCE Content is persistent online. It hangs around long after we’ve forgotten it. The images we upload and the opinions we state may remain for a lifetime. This can concern students – or their parents – worried by the notion that imagined careers may be adversely affected, or relationships irreversibly damaged. It’s important to remember that the employers of tomorrow are the students of today. They too will have had childhoods strongly influenced by social media, and will consider others of their generation within that context. This is not to encourage or excuse misdemeanours online, but to allow students perspective, and hopefully minimise the paranoia that may lead to a lack of involvement or a sense of alienation on the internet.