I talked to 5th graders at my school every afternoon about Internet safety. I stressed the importance of keeping personal information private and only meeting and friending people that they know in the face-to-face world. All the students are younger than 13, but they all knew what I was talking about when we discussed social networking and FaceBook. I think it is crucial for these tweens to start thinking about the Internet as critical consumers. This the activity I use as a follow-up to our conversations.
I also started using Google+. (Add me to your circle.) I was in a Google+ Hangout with fellow grad students on Thursday night. It was actually quite amazing. No one had to setup a Web telecast, schedule a teleconference bridge or even pass out a password. We just clicked on a link to join a Google+ Hangout at a time we shared through our class discussion board. It is much easier than Elluminate and can include more people at once than FaceTime or Skype. You can even participate if you don’t have a webcam through the chat and audio link. I am not sure Google+ will attract as many users as FaceBook but the online conferencing ability holds HUGE potential for education.
On the way home from the store this afternoon I heard this story about Middle East peace and FaceBook. It seems that citizens in Israel and Iran are posting on FaceBook, trying to calm the hawkish rhetoric that some politicians are spreading. And some Iranians have responded with positive, peaceful posts of their own. I had just read an article this week about educating students on the potential uses of social networking tools to drive social change. Move over Farmville, the peace movement is coming to FaceBook!