I’m planning some of the changes I want to make this coming fall semester for my online teacher technology course. The curriculum concerns two viewpoints for my students, one as students of the course, but a second as teachers-to-be who will need to teach similar content to their future students. I make this dual nature of the course explicit, to view the course content from both roles and to understand both points of view where implementation is concerned. Digital Literacy is always at the top of the list, understanding the power of social networking both for personal learning as well as the effect it can have upon student lives. Due to a few incidents that occurred while playing a game called “Ingress”, I will focus a little more attention on the social networking part; particularly who we may or may not include in our personal learning networks.
If you haven’t heard, Ingress is a game developed by a subgroup of Google who refer to themselves as the Niantic Project. It has been compared to an online “capture the flag”. Unless you are geospoofing it requires that you be within 40 meters of “portals” that are owned by one of two factions; either the Resistance or the Enlightened. I have been a Resistance agent since December 2012 and due to the have-to-get-out-into-the-world nature of the game, I have met quite a few people from both factions. Communication is generally conducted using Google+ communities and Google+ chat. It is the chat feature I wish to address in this blog post and with my students next semester. It is sometimes easy to forget that screenshots can be made of a chat post, and that editing can occur with the purpose of causing misinformation. This was done by a few members of the opposite faction. Chat posts between members of opposing factions were altered by Enlightened agents and shown to other Resistance agents in order to spread dissension.
Fortunately this was just a game, but it did bring home how important it is to “think before you friend”. In 2011 Yuri Wright lost a football scholarship to Michigan after tweeting vulgarities to his 1500 followers. He protested that it was a “private” account, but with that many followers nothing can be private and retweeting is oh so easy. Most users of social networking sites feel the privacy settings will guarantee that what they post will be kept between them and their followers. Many have never used the screenshot feature, or fail to make the connection that anyone who reads their post can simply take a screenshot and post it elsewhere. My spiel will change from “post only that which your grandma can read” to “post only that which ANYONE can read”. Grandma may not mind that you think your boss is a poor excuse for a manager, but your boss will. And the person whose ideas you disagreed with may feel the need to share that thought outside of your nice privacy settings.
My students must consider this issue from both positions. Teachers need to be careful about what they post online. But most importantly, they need to help students who feel invincible understand the consequences and responsibilities that come with social networking.