Sunday, November 20, 2011

Parent Technology Coffee - Social Networking

We had our second Parent Technology Coffee on Tuesday, November 15th with 8 people in attendance. The conversations were rich and focused on protecting home networks and understanding social media and social networking, the draws, the dangers, and the uses of both.

After introductions we summarized how Open DNS works to filter all devices on your home network. In a nutshell, devices on a network are pointed to the OPEN DNS server instead of your internet provider's server to translate and direct you to the webpage you are seeking. Open DNS has a blacklist of inappropriate sites and when a user points to one of these spots on the internet the site is blocked.
See the blog post "Filtering Your Home Network with Open DNS" to learn more about this free, easy alternative.

We watched two short video clips (embedded into the presentation,) explaining the differences between social media and social networking. The differences are subtle, but it's important to understand them when trying to wrap your head around why these topics are so popular. Social media are the tools we use for sharing and connecting with others while social networking is the tool we use to do the connecting. In the end, the real draw of social media/networking is the ease of which we communicate and share with friends and family and the ability to make new connections. Businesses have caught on and are capitalizing on social media to deliver messages and products, even creating social networks within their organization to connect people.

The embedded presentation provides factual information regarding social media/networking. Probably the largest "unknown" to many is the large social networking community centered around gaming consoles like XBox and Play Station 3, (PS3.) Statistics state that 97% of kids aged 12-18 play computer games. When we informally surveyed (a raise of hands) our MSSD kids regarding how many had gaming consoles in the home the percentage was equivalent. A very large percentage of the 97% are playing games with others via a social network. The need to educate our kids on social networking is of utmost importance so they can remain safe and create appropriate digital footprints.

A digital footprint is like an online reputation. Sites you join and information you post all make up a person's digital footprint. To monitor a digital footprint a user needs to do is google their name. The google results will begin to shape a user's online reputation by describing who they are affiliated with and what sorts of things they do and write. Making sure digital information conveys the information about yourself that is desired is key when navigating the social media/networking waters. Common Sense Media is a terrific website that provides resources for parents and educators related to these topics.

In school students are using social networking on their own. Half of students in grades 6 and 7 are using Facebook despite the account creation age requirement of 13. In 8th grade teachers are using Facebook to share student generated work and to provide thoughtful discussions around content related articles. Following of course material via Facebook is a way to keep current information flowing through a class as students check Facebook and will spend time on thoughtful commenting when in an environment they enjoy. Imagine if students started using social networking to share book reviews or to practice foreign language. The more positive opportunities for social networking we provide, the better they will become at maintaining a positive digital footprint.

If you haven't joined the Facebook groups and pages created by the Manitou Springs School District, do so. Staying in contact with other parents and schools are just the beginning of what social networking can do for us as a community.

MSHS Facebook
MSMS Facebook Group
MSES Facebook Page

The next parent coffee is scheduled for December 13th at 9:00 AM and then repeated again at 6:00 PM. The topic is Information Management and will focus on how we keep up with the information revolution. Bring your device, (laptop, iPad or smartphone,) and you can learn some tricks to managing all this information that seems available but difficult to locate.

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