Yesterday's afternoon #edchat was focused on using social media in the classroom. I have been thinking about community building and social networking with my students a lot lately. As projects I work on mature, I often see that there are limitations to the way I have set them up. While this is not usually a problem since most of my lessons are not long term, the Comments4Kids project is a long term project. Originally it was just a way to drive traffic to student posts. After conversations and time to think I have really seen the limitation of project.
My problem with C4K and social media in general is that we (teachers) are creating connections that (for the most part) are artificial and just not very useful for our students. For example, most of the time the C4K is a one shot comment on a blog post. Yes, it is social but it is not very engaging for either party. In fact, the best use of the meme happens when teachers and classes develop long term relationships through it. Even then, the relationships are usually created by the teachers, not the students.
When I started to use Twitter as a way to connect and share with other educators it was a natural process that developed over time through our shared passion. It worked for me because it engaged me on that level. There was no mandate to use it, no artificial society created by others that I was forced to engage in.
Instead of focusing on creating these artificial societies, perhaps our time would be better spent introducing the tools we use to our students and allow them the time to start to develop their own societies based upon their passions and interests. What do you think?