There have been a bunch of thoughts swirling around in my head over the past week that I really have to write down so that I can move on to other things. My experiences as a teacher involved in the Digiteen Project this year have gotten me thinking alot about how to engage teenagers in meaningful discussion about how they interact online. While I had these thoughts swirling around in my brain I listened to an interesting and maybe somewhat related podcasts.
The story was about my.barackobama.com or myBO. I might get my facts a little mixed up but the gist of the story was about an incident this summer when a large group of Obama’s supporters disagreed with the way he voted on a particular issue to do with Phone Service providers and Phone Tapping. They formed a group on myBO in opposition to his vote on this issue. What I think was amazing is that Obama had three of his advisors go on the social network and they spent 3 hours taking questions from this group and explaining why he voted the way he did.
What I think is significant about this from the perspective of using social networks in education is the way dissenting opinions were engaged, not shut down. Often as a teacher I find that my first reaction when faced with a situation that I am uncomfortable with or that I think might be troublesome is to use my teacher ‘power’ to shut down the situation, thus making it difficult for much learning to take place. There is certainly a time and place where this type of response is appropriate, but I am becoming more and more convinced that the way to help our students learn the skills they need to safely and competently navigate online social realtionships is to be willing to engage them in dialogue. Even if it is difficult.