Source: Educator Magazine for Teachers
Don’t be surprised if one of your students suddenly approaches you to ask for a banana tree or invites you to join his mafia. And don’t go into panic if he invites you to be one of his fraternity brothers or if labels a random photo as you posts it on the internet for the whole wide world to see. No your students aren’t go bonkers. These are just some of the things they’ve been busy doing online thanks to the rise of social networking sites.
Social networking sites are websites that allow people to create online identity profiles and form virtual connections with peers, or even strangers from all over the globe. People from the same area or with the same interests can choose to form online groups where they can talk about their similarities and interests with just a simple click of the mouse.
The walls of the classroom as a boundary to amicable interactions are now being challenged by the accessibility and popularity of these websites. For many of your young students, establishing their identity and expanding their network of friends via the internet are now part and parcel of their personal development. Hence it is not all surprising for students to build and maintain their friendship in cyberspace.
Instead of considering it as something utterly silly and superficial, you need to equip yourselves with the tools necessary for understanding – and using- this very important facet of the youth’s behavior. And simply dismissing it as folly or banning it outright doesn’t score you any points when it comes to having a good relationship with your students.
The key therefore is understanding – getting to know what the fuss is all about and figuring out why these things are such a hit.
A good teacher has the capacity to relate to his or her students, both in their school life and personal life. Social networking sites are excellent ways of connecting with your students, seeing what really interests your students and how they behave outside the classroom.
The online behavior of students can tell you so much about them. The amount of their time spent online, the way they describe themselves in their profiles, the number of their friends, the nature of the applications they play, the quality of the photos they upload, the kind of music they listen to – all of these are manifestations of identity and preference that can help teachers understand their students better.
But of course, the adage “it takes one to know one” applies here. You wouldn’t be able to understand why students are so engrossed with taking care of their online pets or why they are so hooked on adding friends online if you yourself do not understand the significance of those activities.
No doubt, teachers should look at the phenomenon of social networking sites from an insider’s perspective. This way you can really get a feel of the social atmosphere in your class very much like a sociogram would. It’s also a way of genuinely showing them that you can relate to them and you are not some old-fashioned and ancient teacher!
Think of the undertaking not as an obligation but as a hobby that you can also enjoy. Who knows, maintaining your own virtual farm or uploading your own videos might just be a good way of treating yourself to an escapade to another world or to a community of friends- sans the expensive fare!