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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Am I creating a "creepy treehouse"?

In addition to worrying that my students will be confused by all the technology and social media that I've incorporated into my classes, I've also been wondering about something that apparently is being called the "Creepy Treehouse" effect. This refers to students perceiving the use of certain social media tools as encroaching on their personal space. I don't think this necessarily applies to things like clickers, which students see as being pretty much entirely 'school-related', but it's definitely a concern for sites like Facebook, where students are using it already for socializing. In an informal survey of my students last spring, only a few had interacted with any of their courses through Facebook (including informal study groups or Blackboard's sync application). Furthermore, about half said that they would rather keep social networks separate from schoolwork. On the other hand, almost as many students said they wouldn't mind using Facebook for classes, which leads me to think that it could be OK as long as it was an optional thing and not a required thing.

Chris Lott also makes an important point about the distinction between social networks, where the primary purpose IS the social interaction, and social tools, where interactions have a separate purpose (such as bookmarks, blog posts, etc.). The former is much more likely to trigger the creepy factor than the latter. It also seems to me that if you're going to use social tools, your reasons for using them needs to be crystal clear to your students; that is, if students can see how these tools help achieve class objectives, I think they are less likely to see it as creepy. Given all this, I've basically decided that I won't be using Facebook or Twitter with my classes, and I'll be monitoring their reaction to IM'ing and blogging carefully...

2 comments:

  1. It's an interesting dilemma and one I'm still working out (http://professionalraconteur.blogspot.com/2008/08/students-as-facebook-friends-too-much.html).

    I do use facebook study groups as optional, an additional technology platform for students to use along with the more clunky BlackBoard site.

    Given that I teach communication and technology, I think it can be an effective teaching tool regarding the effects of technology on relationships. Could I use the example without actually becoming students' friends on facebook? Maybe. They might still get the point, but I don't know that I truly would have understood it had I not become friends with some of my (current and former) students.

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  2. Thanks for referencing Itunes U the other day. I looked it up, and had thought I had heard something about it, but didn't know exactly what it was. I'm hoping this will be my newest resource. There's so much information on here covering so many fields, and its all free. I don't have to pay for a class, or any other fees.

    Being able to hear lectures from MIT, Stanford, Duke, Yale, and others is amazing. Drawing on all of this knowledge makes my head explode. I cant decide where to start or go next. It could rival the time I spend on Wikipedia.

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