Sunday, March 11, 2007

SXSW 2007: (Under 18s)

Internet safety and teen social behaviour based around social networking continues to be a hot topic. A recent SXSW 2007 panel presentation is especially timely with increased Australian media interest in Web2.0 tools, in particular You Tube and My Space, with local, high profile stories involving teenagers, bullying, errors of judgement and worse.

These stories present largely negative aspects of internet use and feed an ever increasing risk averse attitude banning school access to a range of Web2.0 sites. This has at least served to raise awareness about social networking services amongst less internet savvy parents and educators and presented opportunities for discussion and exploration of the issues.

Sean Ammirati provides a rundown on a panel presentation at the2007 SXSW interactive in Austin, Texas on the Read Write Web: SXSW: Under 18 Blogs, Wikis & Social Networks. This highlighted Danah Boyd's contextual information about the changing lives of young people in the digital age and the question, "What is the reality when it comes to dangers for young people online?"
She explained the background to the concept of 'Age Segregation' for teens, (14 - 17 years old) where 'society creates separate activities for teenagers...' and the only difference in the age of the internet and social networking tools is that 'in the last few years they have begun doing it online.' And in a big way!

Danah Boyd highlighted four points in her panel presentation that educators could make use of in those 'teachable moments' when discussing issues such as those raised in the media.
These are:
(1) Persistence - ... longevity of online comments (2) Searchability (3) Replicability - ... eg IM conversations in other places ... and (4) Invisible Audiences.
Those 'teachable moments' rely on teachers themselves being fully aware of the issues and grasping opportunities to increase the information literacies of young people growing up in an always on, connected world. Those opportunities are sorely restricted where extreme filtering prevents access for teachers and students.

As I write this, I have just seen that Graham Wegner, Teaching Generation Z, has added his views on 'online presence' and internet safety in an extensive post about Identity/you/me/them/us on his blog.
".... I reckon educators need to be having open, awareness raising conversations with their students and logically covering all of the bases that assist these kids to be safe, ethical and in control."
He has put out an open invitation to anyone interested in collaborating on development of support resources aimed at middle school. Count me in, Graham.

In an era when schools are expected to add road safety, education about drugs, health, fitness, nutrition and obesity, sex education, financial literacy and more to the curriculum, Graham's suggestions make sense for 21st century learning environments.


  1. Vonnie, when we have these conversations with students we need to be prefacing a lot of our sentences with "You have this choice" or "If you choose this..." rather than a bunch of "You should never" or "Don't ever do this." The power needs to reside with the student. Our job is inform, educate and help, not to preach, dictate or moralise. I would like to have been there to hear from Janet Hawtin on Friday at the TALO Swapmeet. I'm also wondering whether online identity is a theme that the Net2Blazers could pick up and use to move teachers towards Web 2.

  2. Hi Graham,
    When I refer to those "teachable moments" it's about taking opportunities that are relevant and contextual to the lives of students. Totally agree with your approach.
    The Net2Blazers could certainly use the online identity theme but as part of a multi-faceted approach to engaging teachers with Web2.0.