I read an Edudemic article this morning about the future of school social networks:
Now, a movement is afoot to create student-friendly social networking sites, which would be limited to education and bound to particular districts or schools. These sites would give students the chance to communicate with peers in person and via the computer, in a setting not unlike an online school. Yet the most desirable aspect of school-friendly social networks may be that they would allow students to work together in a productive manner, while providing adults with the peace of mind sites like Facebook simply cannot offer.
This is all well-intentioned but it likely won’t be successful in any meaningful way.
It reminds me of educational video games. Things that education executives draw up to try to marry technology with their version of learning. They don’t work. You can’t create a video game that kids will want to play by removing its soul.
Similarly, creating a school social network by allowing for social connections which parents, teachers, and administrators approve of misses the point. You’re leaving out the soul of a network. It’s this soul that makes Facebook and Twitter so appealing in the first place.
Growing up outside of a very small, rural town meant being extremely isolated in many ways. Had you told a junior high or high school version of myself that I could use something like Twitter, Facebook, or, hell, even my blog to connect through shared interests with people irrespective of place, age, or social status I would have been floored.
That’s the soul of these platforms. That’s what makes them revolutionary for schooling. If you think creating sanitized, school-friendly networks watched over by parents and administrators is going to create any meaningful learning opportunities then you’re totally missing the point.
Educate kids on proper usage. Teach them online safety. Show them the power of serendipitous connections to people a world away. But don’t, for their own sake, limit their potential because of fear.