What Would a Social Media Middle School Elective Look Like?

“Web” by Kurtxio. Uploaded 1/9/2008. CC License

I spent sometime this evening reviewing some bookmarks I had not had the chance to fully explore and came across a link to the wiki of @TeachPaperless for his Johns Hopkins University Social Media graduate course. I poured over the syllabus and assignments listed, hoping to gain more insight on what @TeachPaperless (real name Shelly Blake-Plock) identified as the most critical pieces of social networking for educators and in general.  The semester starts with a focus on developing a PLN, first of those within the classroom, then beyond. Topics then move to blogging, Google for Educators, Google Scholar, wikis, social bookmarks, Second-Life and a variety of other web tools I am less familiar with such as Animoto and XtraNormal.

Reviewing the syllabus got me thinking. What would the similarities/differences be between a graduate level social media course and a middle school level elective on the same topic? With thirteen and fourteen being the prime age for students to enter the social networks of Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter, what would be the fundamental need to know conversations and learning that would have to take place for students to buy-in and to have meaningful conversations?

My first inclination is to start with a focus on personal data. Google profiles, social network profiles. The main idea would be to “own your online identity” but also avoid publishing so much information that it would compromise safety (I’m thinking more about identity theft here over shadow stalkers, a threat that has been established as very low over cyberspace but still catches headlines.)

After that my direction wavers. It is easier to start with students thinking about PLNs in spaces like Twitter and Facebook, but maybe treading deeper into blogging (everything from writing skills to linking and elements of style) would allow students to flesh out their ideas more on such forums later in the course. Then there is the whole social bookmarking and Second-Life. Its tough to personally envision how wide and deep to cast the net.

I’m hoping to receive some feedback on this from my PLN. Where or what would you focus your attention toward? What are the key elements that flow through all we do with our social networks that our children must begin to understand in order to master their own social (and learning!) networks in the future?

About MrMusselman

@BurlMAschools Science Specialist and @CambridgeCollg Science Methods instructor. @NSTA Professional Development facilitator and author of "Think Like a Scientist: Investigating Weather and Climate" NSTA Kids ebook.
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