Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Social networking the dark horse, Day #8--Positive Digital Footprints

In Missouri and in many other states, social networking is the evil step sister, the topic few want to battle. Instead, most try to completely block it rather than to find ways to effectively integrate it. Unfortunately, social networking leaves digital footprints and must, therefore, be dealt with. When it is integrated in an appropriate manner, it can leave a positive digital legacy.

Maintaining blogs, portfolios, and professional learning networks are all part of building a positive digital footprint, but social networking, perhaps, leaves the largest mark. According to a MSNBC article, 85% of users across the globe, who are connected online, send and receive emails; 62% do so through social media. In places like Russia, Indonesia, South Africa, and Argentina, 75-80% use social networking. In the United States, 60% of online users are on social networking sites. Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks cannot be ignored. Leslie Horn of PC Mag, notes that "A new report from comScore revealed that over the last year, Facebook’s audience doubled to just north of 57 million users. Twitter saw its mobile audience grow 75 percent to 13.4 million people. LinkedIn has the smallest mobile audience of the three, but it still experienced a boom in the past 12 months, expanding by 69 percent to 5.4 million users. comsScore said in August 2011, 72.2 million Americans accessed social sites and blogs from their mobile phones, a 37 percent increase from a year ago." And, the most popular activity to engage in is reading posts about...you and others.

What you place on your social network is now subject to review by your boss, the police, news media, your parents, and many, many more. There is no need to go into the wealth of cases where employees have been fired over what they put on their Facebook page or blunders made on Twitter that put people under criticism. However, there is a common thread in such incidents: inappropriate use. What we do not read about are the positive uses of social media. It should be the goal of educators to make these positive uses the most noted and the most common. It should not be the goal of educators to turn a cold shoulder to social networking. What we can do is educate students and others on positive uses and take a stand to make social networking reach the goals it set out to: connect the globe through common bonds.

Below are some great examples of using social networking for a positive means:

Here are some educator-friendly social networking sites to use with your class (model effective uses in a safe environment:

The focus recently has been on the negative uses of social media. Yes, they do exist. But, do we complain about the negative uses or strive to make it better? I argue for the latter. Social networking is defining generations of people and that is out of our control. However, we can control how they are defined and the course that social media takes. 

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