At our school we have been using twitter as a means of connection with students. Part of the idea is to develop the community outside the confines of the "four walls" of the school. Students can share what's going on in the community. Photos and scores from soccer games, interesting moments in Biology class, grad or student council spirit events and so on. I see some students engaging the medium so successfully. They are interacting with each other, teachers and the community in a way that demonstrates school spirit and pride. They are dialoguing with teachers and peers, sharing great moments and demonstrating why they are proud to be stars. There are tweets I see that force me to pause in awe of what amazing leaders and positive students are in this school. They are taking ownership of their learning and their high school in ways that can only be for the better.
And then there are students who aren't. It seems that twitter has become their own personal venting ground. They can be mean - to teachers, to others. They over share private information. They swear, and scream and vent. They dwell on everything they dislike and "hate." Of course, they are teenagers. This isn't abnormal. But is twitter the place to do it?
We have encouraged students to engage a medium with such power. But that power can sway both ways. As I've said above, I have seen it used so well by so many amazing students who are learning and growing and taking charge of becoming positive citizens (and positive digital citizens). But on the other side, there are those who aren't. Have we taken the time to "teach" students how to use it responsibly? And should we? If students want to post things that are negative, and angry, and have the potential to hurt others, whose responsibility is that to address? Is it freedom of speech? Is it for parents to deal with?
In a thought provoking tweet from @Ms_Horner, she asks "Regarding public/private lives for teachers and students on Twitter: should teachers follow students?" She follows it up by asking where the line is between on campus and off campus behaviour. And when it comes to twitter - where is that line? I don't follow many students. I never really thought it was necessary. I do follow a few though. Students who work with me on the yearbook (in which we use twitter to communicate regularly), student leaders and coaches and those whose twitter focus is the school and the goings on in the school (which is helpful for a yearbook teacher). It's a new era of student communication - and the answers aren't clear. If we are wanting to teach students and mentor students in how to engage the twitter medium effectively and appropriately, should we also be engaging with them on it (and modelling this behaviour)? Or should we be avoiding both? Or something in between? What do you think?