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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.

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Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former blogger

Comments (23) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Chris ONeal's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Theresa, that's a great idea. I think that's one of the most powerful uses of social networking - just keeping people connected around a common theme. Thanks for sharing.

Chris O'Neal

Jo Ann's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Using blogs or chat rooms to discuss literature is a great idea. Just think of how engaged the students would be in the discussion. Students who would normally not read or participate might do do the reading and particpate in class discussions.

We have the same issue at my school with the students accessing proxy servers. I did not know they existed or what they were until I noticed students on myspace knowing it is blocked.

Alisha's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree with the majority that some kind of social networking in school would be beneficial. I believe that if we can model an appropriate use of the internet to our students we would create a lot less problems in the future. We also would be able to expose more technology to our students in a positive way.

Natalia Giammarinaro's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hello my name is Natalia Giammarinaro and I am currently in my master's program through Walden University for Reading and Literacy. Part of my current assignment is to participate in an educational blog. I have heard all about blogging and that it is a very popular way to communicate with friends, family and collegaues. Since I currently do not have my own classroom and this is my first time participating in a blog I probably do not have a whole lot to add to anyone's postings. What I do hope to get out of this is a few tips for interviewing. I am very nervous about this process and what to expect. What types of questions should I expect to get at an interview? What are some do's and don't in interviewing? When they ask "tell me about yourself" what is the best way to answer that question? Should I provide personal information or keep it about my educational background?
I look forward to meeting others through this experience and hope that after some practice with this I can give some of my own insight on others postings.

Melissa Metzger's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Crystal~ I am slightly confused about your reply to Tammy. I do, understand what you were saying about using communication devices appropriatly. What my question for you is, did you get rid of your myspace because of your teaching position? If not, what was your reason for quitting to use it? I have a myspace page and it is set to private to no one can see anything posted on my page without my approval. Although there is nothing inapproprite by any means on my page, I don't want my students to have that type of available access to my personal life. They don't need to know what I do when I leave there, unless I choose to share that information with them in class. I currently teach second graders, so this isn't a huge problem at this stage, but I was suprised to hear that people aren't getting hired simply because they have a myspace page. That seems to be a fine line to tread, in my opinion. Educators are allowed to have a personal life. If one chooses not to have a page is differnt from not being allowed to have one. I for one, would be upset if I were told I had to get rid of it, because I do infact use it to keep in touch with friends across the country. Just curious I suppose about your posting that's all. Thanks for sharing! :)

Jo Ann's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

What chat service do the teachers use? Are their blog sites that can be used for this where only subscribers can participate to make it secure? I am trying to figure out how to make this work for discussing Romeo & Juliet.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Every interview is as different as every person! Hi, Natalia. Let me be honest with you-you should be honest in your interview an believe that you will get the job that you were meant to get-having said that know that you will interview many times and either decline the job or not be asked back for the job! Do dress like a professional and not like someone going to the gym or to Walmart. Bring your pictures of your teaching experiences. Tell good things about yourself and show that you are interested in growing or learning more in some areas. Ask a few questions yourself-they need a teacher-you don't really need their position-you may find a better one- but how will you know if you can't remember what the interview was like or you don't ask questions. I'd ask what is your teacher turnover? What type of inservices do you offer teachers? Do you have a school scrapbook or annual I could see? What grades do you have openings in-if you have read their postings ask which jobs you are being considered for-tell the grade you want to teach. I turned down several jobs because I wanted a specific grade and I wanted to teach with a group that worked well together. I don't like to work in the middle of conflict!

When I was asked to tell about myself I shared about where I attended college, where I student taught, where I lived, my philosophy in education and the grades I was interested in teaching. I told a little about church and marriage because I wanted to give a true picture of myself. I was ready to discuss the latest buzz words in education and a few principals asked me questions in which I threw those words in!
I hope this helps!

Summer's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think social networking is a great way for students to utilize their communication skills with their peers. I don't know how many students of high school age that I have seen that do not have the social skills to simply carry on a conversation with a classmate.

I know there are concerns with certain networking sites such as Myspace and Facebook. Ontop of the worry of a student chatting with a sex offender or stranger there is also the risk of a student bullying another student over the Internet. I do however, feel that establishing some type of blog, message board, or chat room that all the students in a classroom and the teacher could use in conjunction with the daily lesson plans would be an excellent opportunity for students to work on their social skills as well as technology skills. Technology is constantly evolving and online classrooms are becoming more of a reality than an idea of the future. I feel many students could benefit from this type of interaction.

antonio's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

social networking is great way to keep the slow students in community .

Nicole's picture

As an instructional designer in Corporate America I couldn't agree with the post more! As professional adults we utilize LinkedIn ( AKA Facebook for Professionals)to list our accomplishments and update our status on the latest project. We join LinkedIn groups to participate in discussions regarding the latest topic that deals with your field and industry. If you go on an interview you can even bring in a recommendation written by previous colleagues and bosses regarding your performance from your LinkedIn profile. To stay relevant in your job you must know how to manage knowledge from sites like this and utilize RSS feeds. Certain organizations have LCMS or other platforms where you are asked to share information on a platform regarding a project that affects your department. The struggle as an educator is allowing administrators or the naysayers to understand the importance of technology and how it will impact your students after they leave your hallways and classrooms. I really enjoyed reading this piece and enjoyed reading comments as well!

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