17 June 2006

MySpace and Information Literacy

Half an Hour: Adults and MySpace

I am regularly being asked "what shall do we do about MySpace?". Michael Downes writes an extensive reflection on emerging issues being raised by online forums such as MySpace. He raises many issues. , many of which are particularly relevant in relation to values education in our schools and our responsibility to help develop emotional intelligence and personal resilience in our students.

"The dirty little secret is that we as a society are all up in arms about MySpace not because it’s not safe but because it’s making visible the extent to which we are failing our kids."

He also touches on a completely different message of importance - information literacy in a digital environment.

"My own observation, though, is that people who spend more time online are more able to deal with these issues, that the people who accept things uncritically - especially when presented from an authoritative source - are those who are uneducated and those who are mostly offline.

In other words, what I am saying is that my own observation suggests that prolonged exposure to the internet makes someone more able to reason critically, not less. And in my more cynical days I suggest that it is this increased capacity to reason that is sparking concern among some adults."

These and other issues need to be discussed in depth, and an appropriate response developed by us and our schools if we are to meet our educational responsibilities in the new digital arena.


Mick Bezzina said...


I agree to some extent, but exposure on its own will not be enough. The development of any skill - including critical literacy - needs teaching (coaching?) with practice and feedback.

Judy O'Connell said...

I also agree that it is our role as teachers to guide, coach, mentor the emerging capacity to think. It is our responsibility to help kids learn to think ethically, effectivley, and with a vision for their own future.

Nicole Sprainger said...

It’s the age old story. Forbidden fruit is very attractive. It is unlikely we will be successful in getting our teenagers to abandon these exciting new communication tools. Students have direct access to them anywhere anytime via their mobiles! The key to responsible use of social networking tools such as My Space is education.

Parents and teachers need to be proactive. First and foremost we need to be more aware of the nature and potential of these powerful interactive communication tools. We need also to acknowledge it is unlikely we will be successful in getting teenagers to abandon these exciting new tools. Surely it is better to explore the capacities of these tools and to openly discuss with students the potential risks? Students need to learn how to develop their online persona and protect their real life identity when communicating online. This is a shared responsibility of teachers and parents and it is well supported by the materials provided free to all schools by the Australian Government. Look for the excellent CyberNetrix interactive learning program developed by NetAlert. It has a suite of materials for teachers, parents and students designed to help you teach Internet safety for Secondary Students.


Cyberquoll is the equivalent program for Primary Schools.

I agree with you Judy. Students are likely to be more self regulating and critical consumers of these new media if we act responsibly and openly communicate with them about the benefits as well as the risks.