Ewan McIntosh pointed out the dominance of Bebo in the UK, and also picked up on the warningsbeing handed out to American freshmen (new students?) with regards to social networking in schools/colleges. Out of curiousity, I decided to find out how easy or difficult it would be to access Bebo…
The first thing I had to do was create a Bebo account – this was ridiculously easy, and the only “check” was the sending of an email to verify my account (I used a disposable mailbox for the purpose as I don’t really want the pupils signing me up for the Times Ed Mailing List).
Next, I selected my school (Perth Academy) from the Schools tab, and suddenly found myself flung into a frighteningly different web experience… let’s put it this way, when David Warlick talks about the new literacy, I don’t really think this is what he meant!
I began by looking through the pupils listed for the school and within a relatively short space of time was able to get lots of personal info about the pupils: date of birth, personal email addresses, a mobie phone number, and enough information to work out where some of them live. Add to this the conversations and lifestyle information that is freely bandied about and one begins to sense the dangers that these sites could pose.
I am worried. We are letting children loose without any real guidance, and, of course, that is a large part of the attraction for kids. It is, after all, theirworld. I am a digital immigrant, they are the natives… but that doesn’t mean I should just ignore what they are doing. It’s not simply a moral dilemma… at the end of the day, they have every right to publish what they want on their webspace… it is more to do with whether we as educators want to let them loose without trying to explain the consequences of what they are publishing. The lessons of the American experience should be taken on board and discussed further with our pupils and children. As Aaron Laushway, associate dean of students at the University of Virginia, said: “I think [students] don’t realize that others have so much access”.
I’ll be returning to school next week, and I intend having an informal chat with some of the pupils I have previously taught and who are on bebo. I’d like to find out why they value bebo, and what they think is or is not acceptable to post… could be interesting!