Friday, May 16, 2008

Why Every Parent and Teacher Should Learn MySpace and Facebook and A 30-Day Guide To Losing Your Digital as a Second Language (DSL) Accent

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. Richardson explains, “Often in my presentations I ask how many folks are teaching MySpace or Facebook in their schools. Not teaching with MySpace, but teaching the literacies of networking through the lens of a SNS. Rarely do more than a few hands go up.”

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 (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.

Week One:

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.

Week Two:

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.

Week Three:

Take a deep breath and join MySpace, Facebook or whichever site you feel is applicable. Put what you learned from your network to work.

Week Four

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?

Read Social Networking for Innovative Educators and How I Use Social Networking to Keep My Students Engaged All Summer Long

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.

Read ‘07 The Year of the Network, ‘08 The ‘Live Web’.

Check out this presentation Embrace MySpace: Safe Uses of Social Networking with Students


  1. What a thoughtful, informative and excellent approach to keeping parents and educators informed and connected to the interests and happenings of students! Way to go Lisa!!! (What a thorough and informative blog overall Wow!

  2. Hey Lisa,
    Here is the link about Facebook from the blog I accessed during the Google Apps class. I need to look at it on an unblocked computer then we can compare notes.

  3. This is a great idea, Lisa. I'll be following with great interest.

    I am working in an area that relates to online safety and this is a topic of increasing debate and significance.

  4. Hi, I am interested in this concept in terms of the changing face learning ond instruction, but I am not intersted in empty banter and chater. Serious communication on math and science topics is difficult to sustain. Few sudents are motivated now as few were ever motivated in math and science. More comunication has not changed that issue. Larry

  5. Bless you! It is wonderful for me to hear someone else telling people the same thing I have. We have to be in kids spaces. If we as responsible concerned adults aren't in those spaces then only the predators are. We can be a voice of moderation and reason in some of these environments that until know have been the equivalent of leaving the kids to party without chaperones.

    My only hesitation is actually friending students. I would use a Facebook FanPage in the classroom to communicate and connect. One reason is there are some districts and states with policies against teacher using social media to connect with students. Also, I suggest waiting until students are out of my class (or school) before I will friend them. A friend of mine, Patrick Black, coined the term right relationships. I really like that term. There are relationships between adults and young people online. They are not all sinister.

  6. Excellent post. I remember a staff member sharing Prensky's article on Digital Natives/Immigrants. This was maybe 5 years ago.

    I really didn't get the full picture until several years after that when I attended a GT conference and someone gave a talk on how she used wikis to connect GT kids from all over the world.

    I just finished a post on my blog that discusses the crucible that occurs when there is a strong balance of native teachers and immigrant teachers:

    I agree with several posts that are reserved in friending students. However, it is important to teach internet etiquette. I heard an analogy about teaching kids to swim. The water is dangerous until you teach students how to be safe in the water. Therefore, it is just as important to teach students how to be safe on-line.

    Great post!