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From MySpace to My Job: Online Interaction Prepares Students for Employment

Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former blogger
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Last year, I blogged a bit about social networking. I want to revisit the issue, since I continue to receive emails with questions about where to find safe alternatives to the mainstream sites, or teacher-oriented social networks, as well as invitations to come discuss the issue with school boards, and so on. I'll respond to some of that below.

First, a few updated statistics on the social-networking phenomenon. According to a recent Pew Internet study, about 55 percent of teens have online profiles on MySpace or Facebook, and that percentage continues to grow. Also according to Pew, "Two in five (42 percent) teens who use social-networking sites also say they blog. And, in keeping with the conversational nature of social media, social-networking teens are also interacting with others' blogs.

"Seven in ten (70 percent) social-networking teens report reading the blogs of others, and three in four (76 percent) social-networking teens have posted comments to a friend's blog on a social-networking site," the report added. So, why should educators care about social networking?

I visited a few high schools recently to chat informally with some teens. The handful I spoke with had nothing in their online presence I would consider inappropriate or alarming. I did find some music or video issues that either crossed the copyright line or teetered right on it, however, and we had some insightful discussions about that, of course.

There are also numerous reports around the world about some of the seedier, and sometimes dangerous, aspects of social networking. Although that issue does exist, I found a lot of original poetry and music and a wealth of creative writing and interacting. I also did a rundown of the skills I see in action on a site like Facebook, such as producing, collaborating, communicating, writing, creating, reading, decision making, social interacting, and countless technology skills.

Interestingly enough, a report entitled "Are They Really Ready to Work?" (released in October 2006 by the Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the Society for Human Resource Management) suggests that some of these skills are growing in importance in the workforce, including capabilities in critical thinking, information technology, collaboration, creativity, and innovation. In my opinion, the abilities required in social networking and those needed in the "real world" outside school aren't that different.

I know many educators who are working hard to key into these skills, but in the context of an educational atmosphere. To me, that's an ideal approach -- use social-networking technology skills while addressing content and curricular standards.

How do you feel about social networking? Do you think of it as a skill-building resource for teens growing up in a world in which collaboration is becoming increasingly important? Please share your thoughts.

Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former blogger

Comments (23)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Bryan Wilkins's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Properly used can be useful. However, the biggest problem is talking to a group of people face-to-face. Just old fashion human interaction. If they can do that, then they can do it online.

Crystal VanZile's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I know what you mean about the students finding new ways to get around the servers. It seems like there is always something new that students are doing to get get around their limitations.
As far as social networking in the curriculum, I think that it is a good idea to include appropriate situations. Teacher initiated chat rooms and blogs are good ways to encorporate the types of technology that students are used to using on their own time with the content that is being taught in the classroom.

Chris ONeal's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think we're at an incredibly exciting, yet unbelievably challenging time with technology and teens. The potential for powerful producing, publishing, collaborating, etc. is huge. But, there are certainly some serious considerations that we need to be aware of, and that we need to make sure the students are capable of handling.

I think keying into some of those skills - the writing, co-authoring, giving feedback, etc. gives us a way to let students use similar tools as those found in the outside world, but with some intellectual conversations wrapped around them that they might not be having otherwise!


Crystal VanZile's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree, some of the skills that we strive to reinforce are there with social sites such as mysapce or facebook. We just need to harness those ideas and concepts in a way that is appropriate in school and with students.

andrea's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Wow, I never looked at this situation in this manner before. Thank you for the insight.

Tammy Callis's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I love MySpace. I talk to my family, colleagues, and good friends daily!

I teach kindergarten and I would love for our school system to develop a social network for students and teachers. As educators, we are so pressed for time each day, do we really have the time to share their exciting news, heartbreaks and concerns. I have been in a few classrooms where students do not have time to ask questions.

I give my students a lot of opportunities to discuss each of these items in class. Many children do not know how to interact with one another. As teachers we model this. We could model it in a chatroom too!

I'd love to hear your opinion!


Crystal VanZile's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Tammy, I know what you mean about myspace. I used to use myspace. It was the only way that I kept in contact with some family and friends. Unfortunately, I have heard that many school districts will not interview candidates if they have myspaces. In a local school district, one teacher was almost let go upon the district finding out that she had a myspace. She agreed to delete her myspace in order to keep her job. I understand the districts concerns with all of the problems that are out there with people using it inappropriately. It is unfortunately though for those who use it to keep in touch with friends and loved ones.

I agree, if we want our students to appropriately communicate with one another, we need to model proper communication.

Theresa Knox's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I facilitate a seminar series for high school students willing to explore careers in geriatrics and gerontology. The Young Gerontologist Career Program was developed about 5 years ago. I would love to develop a my space for all the students who have completed the program as well as the students who are currently involved to talk about their ambitions and to ask them are they currently studying in the field. It would provide the additional mentoring and support the students need to succeed. They could speak with their peers as well as some of the guest speakers they met.

Kyle H's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that kids will always find a way to get around the servers, but the importance of the filters is still significant. Forums such as Myspace, although created with the best of intentions, I'm sure, have also created a place where people we must protect our children from also congregate. As educators, it is imperative that we keep our students safe. Last year Myspace, in a short time span, eliminated thousands of profiles of registered sex offenders. This fact is eye-opening. I would not knowingly let a sex offender walk around the school and interact with my students - why would I allow my students to interact with strangers in a forum that is, only just now, increasing and enforcing regulations on posts and participants?

Tammy Callis's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thank you for sharing your myspace knowledge. I had not heard that information about myspace. Do you just use a lot of emails to keep in contact with family and friends or have you found other ways? I use smilebox to share picture albums with family and friends. I am considering getting permission to use it for my classroom.

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