Teenagers are known for rebelling and introducing new trends into society.  Whether it be through music, fashion or language teens have always set the culture or counter-culture of society.  The same can be said for their interactions in cyberspace whether it be MySpace, Facebook, Youtube or Fourspring, youth have always been the early adopters of new social media.  It is ‘cool’ to set the trend or break new ground but as soon as something becomes too popular or mainstream it is time to move away.  The first time an adult put on an Ed Hardy t-shirt it ceased to be cool.  So do teens appreciate teachers using ‘their’ social media for educational purposes?  Does it cease to become ‘cool’ at that point?

A common refrain from 21st Century Learning enthusiasts has been utilizing the skills and interests students already have with respect to technology.  Meeting students on their ground and using those sites and skills to educate and engage.  The assumption is that since students are already using Facebook that utilizing it as a teaching tool makes perfect sense.  The same can be said for students that vlog… asking them to create a video for Youtube should be an automatic win win.  But what about the idea of counter-culture?  When adults started to invade MySpace kids moved to Facebook.  When Facebook became popular they started using Fourspring.  Now there are sites like Omegle that students frequent because adults have not found out about it yet.  Twitter is a service utilized by adults far more than teens… even though it was the young pop culture stars of today (Ashton Kutcher and Justin Bieber to name a few) that made the site so popular.  It quickly became a political tool, utilized extremely well by President Obama, and the rest is history.

The data on this is very scarce as not much research has been done on the internet movement habits of teens in comparison to adults.  This is primarily from my own experience as a teacher trying to utilize sites and services that students ‘should’ be engaged in and being met with some resistance.  It’s almost like treading on their internet domain is the equivalent to listening to the same music or wearing the same clothes.  Is it safe to assume that students will simply welcome teachers in to their world?  I do see this as an issue for secondary (high school) students more so than intermediate.  A student drawing for pleasure may resent being asked to draw for an assignment so why would it be assumed that use of the internet would be any different?  I realize this is a simplistic representation of a more complex situation but it is worth considering before we forge new paths and put in place policy that neglects to take this phenomena into consideration.

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