As our Cyber Safety class approaches and in light of the recent Megan Meier cyber bullying suicide case, I'm reminded of the importance of ensuring digital immigrant parents and teachers are empowered with ways to become comfortable communicating with their digital natives kids who never knew a world without chatting, social networking, and texting. Currently most adults still have what Marc Prensky refers to as a DSL (digital as a second language) accent to some extent which educational technology expert Will Richardson brings to light when he speaks about this around the world.
The reality is that until recently I was among those whose hand didn’t go up. Like many other immigrants, I was being an irresponsible innovative educator because although I had joined Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn, they just weren’t a place for me. Despite my membership, I was not active. Mainly because it was not until recently that people in my physical network became active in those spaces in ways I would want to connect with them. However, I realized I had to start Educating More Innovatively and fortunately I also recently became aware of Classroom 2.0. This is social network that people in my physical world were also a part of and in ways I would want to connect with them. I connected and reconnected with people around the city and around the globe to get, give, and share useful advice, suggestions and ideas. When I became comfortable I started my own Social Network for Innovative Educators so I could connect in new ways with those I meet here and in my physical world. This network also provides a safe place for those just getting their feet wet in the whole social networking arena. In my informal conversations I've learned most have never been a member of a social network before (good profile question). I do my best to help guide them along the way (both inside and outside the network) with what I've learned so far. That’s a good thing because part of my job is to ensure that people know the importance of Social Networking For Innovative Educators and Parents.
It wasn't until last summer that my colleague The Techomnivore opened my eyes to the obvious importance of connecting and communicating with students in their environment when we were collaborating on the creation of the NYC DOE’s Family Guide to Internet Safety. I sent him the 2006 version of the guide which was devoid of this advice. He thankfully included information ensuring the guide contained information on communicating with students in their world. Whether it’s a school dance, a playground, the mall, or a park, or the internet, chatting, texting, or networking, students need us around their world as their chaperons, guides, and protectors to ensure they are safely, appropriately and acceptably engaging in activities.
As our upcoming Cyber Safety class approaches next Tuesday I realize the need to incorporate this message. Going forward, I will invite participants to read this post and others like it (please recommend more in the comments) and encourage them to join a social network where they will have an opportunity to become comfortable in the environment into which our digital natives kids were born. To help my fellow immigrants succeed in losing some of that DSL accent and become comfortable communicating with the natives I am sharing the plan that has worked for me.
My 30-Day Guide to Losing Your Digital Accent
Join a social network that you really are interested in.
Innovative Educators can start here.
Parents can look here.
Educators can look here.
Job seekers can look here.
Volleyball players can look here.
Hint: I don’t have a secret great list of every site for every interest. I just did a subject search at http://www.ning.com/. (Just one of many ways you can search. Another is to do a search for "your activity" and "social network.") Do it and join! It’s free.
Look around and see what’s going on. What might you be able to dig into? This is called lurking. There is a lot to discover. You can start by investigating interest groups to join. See who is friends with who. See if you know anyone. See who's friend you may want to be. Find out what people are discussing.
Start participating in the network. Make friends. Participate in conversations. Join a group. Update your profile. Work on “My Page.” Think about kids when you’re doing this and what you would teach them.
Take a deep breath and join MySpace, Facebook or whichever site you feel is applicable. Put what you learned from your network to work.
You’re ready. Really! Request friendship from your kids/students. Start talking to them in their space, but don’t be a space invader! Remember, it’s just like the mall, playground or social dance. You want them to know you’re there, and can pop up anytime, (and you know many of them secretly find comfort in that), but they don’t want their space to be invaded or to be embarrassed. Discuss your space, their space, your page, their page. Be their mom, dad, teacher. Guide. Facilitate. And, let them teach you too!
I asked social networking pro The Techomnivore if he would add anything to my plan. Here's what he shared.
My advice would be to tell them to join facebook and look for their special interest group within facebook so that they experience the synergy and purpose of social networking in its true form -- where there is people to connect to. AND they can find old friends, AND they become fluent in the network of their children, AND they can connect with special interest groups of ANY topic.
So what are you waiting for???? Go join the natives! I bet you’ll even discover that you enjoy exploring new territory and finding new friends.
Want to learn more?
Join the Classroom 2.0 discussion here.
Need help using social networks in an educational setting? Join Ning in Education.
Read more about Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants here.
Check out this presentation Embrace MySpace: Safe Uses of Social Networking with Students