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February 4, 2008 / Ben Chun

From the Mouths of 2.0

I got caught up in copyright questions in my last post, and forgot about the content of the documentary I was discussing: Frontline’s Growing Up Online. Today I showed the first segment to three freshman classes and had them respond on a Moodle discussion. It was amazing to watch the responses flood in. Here’s a sampling:

A life online for teanagers is a place where we can do whatever we wanted to do. Yes no one is in charge, that is why we use the internet. It is under our control so we don’t have to listen to anyone to tell us what to do or not to do.

There are the as-expected social uses:

I feel like i do not know what my freinds are doing unless i log onto myspace and read my messages from them or reply to their messages. When i do not have someones number i message them on myspace to tell them whatever it is i have to tell them.

And students are aware of parental oversight:

My parents know that I go on the computer at home at least every other day because I share computer with my sister and we take turns using it plus my computer is in the living room where my parents would know/see what I’m doing online. I think at least 42% of my life depends on my social life because I spend a lot of my time on MySpace, Facebook and AIM, talking to my friends and just chatting to catch up on things.

Love that precise measurement! Here’s some good advice:

I’d just tell my child the way he or she will get treated(including what others say about he or she) by other people is only by the way they carry themselves and also by what they put out about themselves to ccertain people. So no i dont think i’d cry or be mad about most of the stuff they do on the internet because what they dish out is what they’ll get in return…

This one was, to me, hilarious for the number the student chooses:

i think that kids should have the right to use myspace and chat and stuff. they should be able to use it and have the right. but i think they should limit themselves to the time spent on those sites. they should spend time with family also and not just socialize. it is cool to have personal time and talk to friends. but you have to know that there is also a limit. maybe you can go online only 3 hours a day. that will help.

Oh, 3 hours. OK. I can’t stop sharing these! I love it! They’re hitting a lot of the issues (and remember these are freshmen, and this is an in-class writing assignment, and this is not an English class) after watching 7 minutes of video. Here’s more, getting a little deeper:

i think that teenagers these days feel that because they have a bad relationship with their family at home and/or get no attention at home they need some way to get attention by the internet. also they like to think that “Oh, my parents aren’t watching me so i can do what ever i want to do…” it doesn’t matter if it is a random stranger but as long as they get the attention, then they are happy. i think that myspace and facebook and other websites like that make teens feel that it is a fantasy place where they can escape from reality where online they can be who ever they want to be.

There are some good family relationships too:

To me, my parents are concern about what i do online, but they trust me to be safe. I don’t talk to strangers online, I don’t add people on myspace that i do not know. I tell my parents that i do have a AIM screen name and that i do have a myspace. They know what i do because there is nothing to hide from them. If you don’t want your parents to know what you are doing online, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

This is a response from one student to another, in a different discussion:

Why can’t you believe that kids would lie to their parents ? You’ve never lied to your parents before? Kids want freedom, and the net is the place where you can do whatever you want.

Some took a larger view:

I dont really think we cant controll what people use the internet for or how many people use it. We are growing up with all this new technology and using the internet is one of the most popular for us since we can search up whatever we want and meet new people or talk with your friends. […] Most of us do live online but thats because of all the famous programs and sites we can go to that everyone uses and we just want to be a part of it. Our parents use the internet too and they ahve no reason to be mad at us using it all the time because they also know it is a useful and gobal activity. For right now parents do know whats going on and i think they think were just kids and its okay because everyone elso does it. There is no one in cortrol and i dont think there isnt going to be anyone since its so big.

And in case you think kids never listen to their parents (or suffer at their hands):

if you don’t go online while the rest of your friends do, you won’t know what theyre talking about and you’ll feel left out. But i think that parents should learn to trust their children because i think most teens know the difference between right and wrong and will control what they put online. I don’t have a myspace or a facebook because my parents think that i’ll be “kidnapped” or that something bad will happen to me.

Some good insight here into identity issues:

People always want to be on the computer because that’s where everybody is most of the time if they’re not hanging out with anybody. This is why it’s the currency of today for a lot of people. No one is in charge because online you have a whole other identity. You can create yourself to who you want to be in any way possible and people will just fall for the stuff you write, even if they are lies.

And why those identities matter:

People can be shy in person because other people intimidate them or people muggin’ and frontin’ all the time. So you kind of hold back. When on the internet those people who feels trap the “shy” people can let their feelings flow and do w/e they want to.

So, beyond all the endless talk about technology and schools and new forms of literacy, here we have a case where digital video, downloaded from the web, discussed on a blog, shown on an in-class LCD projector, and followed by an online classroom discussion all conspired to arrive in the place we should have started and known the whole time (apologies to Eliot): Asking students to write about their lives and their experiences and issues that affect them directly.



Leave a Comment
  1. ken / Feb 5 2008 9:43 am

    The insights and observations by your students teeter on predictable, but what is worth noting, highlighing, and underlining is the fact that they attempted to blend two adolescently incongruous components together:

    thoughts and composition

    Your suggestion that it’s all about getting them to write about their own lives is true, and, oh…true, but it offers up the tired, but no-quit debate of experience versus content.

    Write about life. Write about content.

    Your choice. Their choice. But combining the two is, as Hugh Jackman or Christian Bale would tell you, the prestige. In truth, it was Michael Caine.

  2. Andrew / Feb 5 2008 5:12 pm

    Excellent insight here!! How is your experience with Moodle in your classroom?

  3. Ben Chun / Feb 5 2008 6:01 pm

    Ken – Great call on that classic split. I haven’t seen “The Prestige” but I’ll let you in on my tricks: I love to ask questions about rights and about policy. This is a perfect bridge between their experience and meaningful content. Every student has an opinion about, say, mandatory dress codes. Or compulsory education. Or privacy rights in schools. Once they get their own opinions and perspectives out, there’s a perfect opportunity for discussion and connection between these individual views and the larger social context (that is, the society we live in and its rules and laws).

    Andrew – As far as Moodle goes, I’ve posted a little bit about technical pain and student engagement beyond the classroom. My overall take on the software is that it could certainly have a cleaner interface and be less confusing (and perhaps a little quicker), but that it generally seems to work. In another life, I’ll write a much better version of Moodle (but still using PHP and MySQL).


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