Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Twitter and Teens

As I was refreshing my browser today to see the myriad of Twitter comments on the HarperCollins e-book issue, I started thinking again about my students and their general disregard of the microblogging tool. In my freshman Information Literacy & Technology course I cover digital footprint and review many of the social networking tools available. We cover how to use them effectively, how not get yourself in trouble and how people use them for communication and to reinforce social norms. My students had all heard of Twitter but most had not looked at a profile or understood what it was all about. I set up a page for the library (@GSLMC) after I realized that I was following some co-workers who had protected their tweets and I was essentially violating their privacy by showing their tweets to the students when using my page (@liberrygurl) for demonstrations. A handful of the teens had their own accounts, but they were few and far between. They thought it was interesting and the videos on the Common Craft site did a fantastic job of explaining how the process works. At the end of the lessons I gave a "quiz" where they had to tell me one Web 2.0 tool that they hadn't used before but thought was interesting, one that they didn't see the need for and what they learned about the importance of maintaining a good digital footprint. Most of my students put Twitter as an interesting, but unnecessary tool. Facebook essentially does the same thing. I wonder if we had spent more time with it that they would see the value in it. I use it for professional development, but they don't have to worry about that yet. Their world, at least at this point in their lives, doesn't extend much further than the county lines. My constant reminders to consider anything online international and permanent was surprising to some of them. Perhaps I should have spent more time and picked a current events trend and showed them another use for it. When I see workshops at conferences espousing how to use Twitter and Facebook in classrooms I wonder if I'm not seeing the big picture or if the presenters don't really understand how teens use these tools - or which tools they really use. Teens, mine at least, don't seem interested in Twitter and I really don't want the legal liability of having to report things I accidentally come across on their Facebook page while trying to incorporate it into a project. I can see value for using Twitter in the classroom, especially with current events, but it isn't a tool that teens are gravitating toward on their own.

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