A few years ago, Sue Rooney, a teacher at Cleveland Hill High School shared her Facebook literature project with me. The resulting products were very similar to the example above, and I was really impressed by the fact that she was willing to offer up the use of this tool as an alternative to a pen and paper project, even though Facebook was (of course) blocked in her building. Kids were simply given the option to do the work at home. I believe that most of them did. Those who weren’t willing or able were provided a paper template to use. There were few distributed, if I remember correctly, and Sue found herself hauling few home to grade. She simply logged on and learned a lot from her students. Here is another example, shared by friend Jenn Borgioli, and another. And that’s not the only way to fold Facebook into your literature studies.
And Facebook isn’t the only game in town when it comes to using social networking tools as an alternative to traditional book-reporting. Think about the ways in which Twitter could be used (or it’s safer friend, Edmodo). Or instant messaging. I’ve found animoto-fueled blogposts and Glog-driven Ning entries. Don’t let the names perplex you. Dive in. Have fun. Engage your kids, and more importantly, allow them to learn the skills that they need to connect and collaborate in healthy and productive ways.
After all, if all we’re going to do is complain about the ways in which kids use or misuse technology…..if we aren’t willing to guide them in a better direction…..then we’re accomplishing little more than making noise. I know that there are “big, bad scary people on the internet.” I know that kids could be potentially “friended” by unsavory characters, exposed to questionable content, and lured off-site onto pages filled with dirty pictures built by dirty minds. This is absolutely true. Incidentally, I know very few adults and children who have encountered such people, but still–I know they are there. Given that reality, it’s OUR JOB to make sure that students are not only aware of these possibilities, but properly equipped to handle them. How can we be certain that anyone is teaching them this as they lounge around in places like Facebook and MySpace on their own time, behind closed doors? Which they are. Daily.
One other thing to consider? I’m fairly certain that there are big, bad scary people on the streets they take to school each day and in the libraries where they complete the pen and paper projects we assign them. Sadly, some of these folks are even in our schools. They are in the homes you send your students back to every night. Helping kids thrive in the world they’ve inherited is what we’re obligated to do. That can’t happen when we hide from our responsibilities or limit our students’ potential out of fear. I’m just sayin’. What do you say?