While delivering a presentation to a group of teachers about online collaboration, someone said, “For students, reputation is the currency of social media, not marks.”
This observation redefines a student’s relationship with school work whenever social media is added to the equation. Which then begs the questions:
If we are creating inauthentic reasons for these students to use social media, are we using or abusing the currency of social media?
How do we help students accumulate this type of currency, save it, spend it wisely? Can we make them effective currency-managers in their future?
When asked to get a blog started, a student asked me, “Can I just use my blog or should I start another one?” (She didn’t say another with indignation) which confused me, I had just assumed students would not want to mix their ‘personal’ blog with the one that they’d be using for school. I replied, “You choose, either way works.” (My reply sounds so disinterested and disengaged, but it was more interested and trying to give her control.) She ended up deciding to use her previously started blog. And she posted an entry to her readers (however many that was) stating something like, “Sorry folks, for the next few months some of my posts will be school work. My teacher is having us write blogs. Sorry if they are dorky and nothing related to my real life.” She used different language but this was essentially her thoughts on blogging, in class.
At first I was a little put off thinking, “Me, dorky?” But that passed. Most of the blogging that students are asked to do is self-directed, but that didn’t matter.
Instead, I saw that she wanted to separate the authentic blog she was creating with that of school. She wanted to separate her reputation currency with the school work she’s “have” to post. And there lies the conflict.
On one hand, blogging (or Twitter or Facebook or other social media) is an opportunity for students to engage with an authentic audience, however, it costs them something when the direction of the blog is directed, in any way. So, by using social media we are caught in the crux of having them create something school-specific (inauthentic) with having them spend some of their social currency for our purposes (authentic).
A student of mine tweeted a 140-character review of a book she just finished. I asked each student to keep us posted with the books they had read and finished. I didn’t say there were marks involved, but she tweeted knowing that we were attempting to build personal learning networks/community (with classmates, etc). The first time she tweeted, she wrote the name of the author in the tweet. I mentioned that she should tweet with the author’s Twitter handle. Sure enough, when my student re-tweeted the review (positive) with the author’s Twitter handle, she got a response.
From the author.
This led to an interesting conversation about the book over Twitter with my student and the author. Authentic. Engagement. Appropriate.
Watching this on Twitter, I saw a student accumulating the currency of legitimacy in reputation. She recognized it. It was “for” school, but it carried weight beyond school.
Ultimately, the next step of this discussion in my head is to process through the second question. If the currency of the future (this seems a little ominous, but it isn’t meant to) is reputation, how do we help students build a healthy, strong reputation, know how to use it to its greatest affect and build the future they envision with it?
How do we help students find/harness/use all the ways we can accumulate this currency?
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