I am completely convinced, that just like anything else in our lives, used properly, social networking can be the absolute best thing for our students. Let me illustrate:

A wonderful honor student I know...okay, my daughter is going to college next year. Throughout high school, she has been going on the internet to visit her friends websites. Early in high school it was Xanga sites. Later, they used myspace, and most recently facebook has taken over. My daughter dutifully visited her friends' sites daily, which then took her to a wider group of people. Lots of people she "met" she liked, but many she did not. She was keenly aware of how kids, other than her own friends were involved with drugs, drinking, and sex because she read all about it on their "spaces". Although she had a close knit group of friends who always had fun but also managed to stay safe and make good decisions, she also knew what was going on outside her peer group. Thankfully, she kept me informed of the trend of the kids in our community to post pictures, video, and information on the web. I really think she made me a better teacher because of her willingness to share and talk about this whole aspect of our culture with her father and I.

I always strongly encouraged her to start a space. Her friends teased her all the time, calling her a "blog stalker", just looking but never posting. For four years, all she did was look, even when the kids went to facebook and she had to borrow her brother's login information to visit her friends' spaces.

With only a few short months before she starts college, she finally made the plunge! Finally, a facebook account of her own, she is now posting pictures of parties (hopefully with no visible signs of drinking, drugs, or sex), prom, and graduation. I don't know for sure, but I'm sure she's making a few comments as well. The best part however is that she is now part of an enormous network of students who are attending the same college next year. This network is up to over 1000 kids, about half the graduating class of 2011 and school hasn't event started yet! My extremely shy daughter who has trouble meeting people because she doesn't like to talk to "strangers" now has hundreds and hundreds of friends! They talk about what classes they are taking, about trying out for band (like my daughter will do), what computers to buy, what brand of clothes kids are wearing ("Mom, I need to buy a new North Face!"), and all the other stuff that concerns kids that are leaving home for the first time in the next few months. How cool is that?!!! My daughter will move in to a community where she already feels at home. She will recognize familiar faces, find her "friends" to meet in person perhaps, and know that she will fit in.

Facebook has changed my life! I am taking my baby to college in a couple of months. I will probably cry, but one thing is for sure, I will leave her there with a lot less doubt and nervousness. I know that my daughter will find "her people" and will grow and flourish. Without the opportunity to meet up in a social networking site, my daughter, and therefore me would have been so more apprehensive about leaving her familiar surroundings and her high school friends, none of which are attending the same college she is. She'll know people, or at least have the right clothes. Who knew a mom could be so sentimental about a cultural phenomenon?

Now if I could just convince my non-techy-parent friends, that the internet is the best thing ever!

Views: 41

Comment by Sylvia Martinez on June 14, 2007 at 12:51pm
My daughter just came home after her first year at college and had a very similar experience last year. She even found someone who lived in the exact same room she had the year before and got the low down on everything that was important to her.

This of course happened organically on Facebook, while the site the college set up and begged them to use sat empty.

I think there's a lesson there for educators, authentic use of any tool depends on ownership.
Comment by Meg Ormiston on June 14, 2007 at 3:44pm
What a wonderful story! Interesting to think of facebook as a gift to overcome being shy, and not going along with the crowd. Thank you for sharing the GOOD side of social networking!


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