Is Myspace really as bad as it seems?

We as educators, adults, and parents need to recognize Myspace.com for the paradigm shift in communication technology that it represents
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor

Well, yes and no. Yes, it has a terrible interface. Yes, it is so loaded with ads that you can barely navigate. Yes, there's a fair amount of questionable content scattered throughout. Yes, I am now the proud owner of lots of spam in my inbox now that I created a myspace account (for research purposes only!). And yes, I certainly block it at my school.

However, and this is a big however, we as educators, adults, and parents need to recognize Myspace.com for the paradigm shift in communication technology that it represents. Approximately 70% of my students have a Myspace and all report checking and/or updating it daily.  As I noted, I created my own Myspace to see what all of the excitement was about.  It was easy enough to set up, but the most notable aspect of the process was the immediacy with which students began contacting me, thrilled that I had created a Myspace.  Soon, my inbox was inundated with "friend requests," others wishing to be able to send me messages, subscribe to blogs, share bulletins, etc.

Although this was enough to drive me nuts because I actually have more to do than correspond via Myspace with my students, it was enough to provide considerable insight into the ways in which my students communicate.   Back in my day, we were content to talk on the phone.  Email has been relegated to stuffy business types.  The students with whom we interact every day certainly still talk on the phone (though as often as not, the phones are mobile), but rely heavily on instant messaging, Myspace, and other portals like My Yearbook to communicate.  The value of these particular sites is that it is just as easy to communicate with pictures and chat sessions as it is with email, messages, posts, and bulletins.

Homo Ipod is not content with verbal communication alone.  This generation has been raised with such a variety of multimedia that the integration of simple web development with everyday communication is second nature.  Not only do we need to recognize and embrace this, but we also need to help our students learn to use the myriad of Internet-based resources at their disposal.  To steal a line from Spiderman, "With great power comes great responsibility."

One of my colleages gave her students an assignment on human development last week.  On several occasions, she had to stop presentations on the topic midstream to ask students what they were talking about.  The answer (each time)?  "I don't know, I found it on Google." Her students had just cut and pasted text from the Net into PowerPoint shows.  The shows themselves were masterpieces of PowerPoint technowizardry with transitions and animation that would do the best advertising executive proud.  Although obviously adept at handling computer media, these students were clueless about the content of the media and unwilling to do real research on anything that Google couldn't drop in their laps.

If we can get our students to actually go beyond the first 3 links on Google or avoid the traps and dangers of Myspace and other such portals, we have a golden opportunity to tap into homo ipod's innate ability to navigate through a variety of technologies.  We can finally address in a real, concrete, and easy way all of the research of the past several years on learning and teaching styles.  We finally have the means with which we can address visual, auditory, and hands-on learners, can communicate asynchronously to ensure that students can access info when and if they need it, and can provide ready access to instructors. Yes, Myspace has its problems, but it provides a window into new, excting, and innovative ways we can (and need to) reach out to our students.

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