Moodify.Me

My student Josh is one of the the developers of a new social networking service called Moodify.me . As Josh describes it, “It’s a site similar to Twitter but is based around peoples’ moods.” It integrates well with Twitter and Facebook, enabling you to update your mood and send the update as a status update.

Josh is exceptionally gifted with web applications, coding, and computers in general. He has already had a great deal of success with his work, and I know he has a bright future. Please check out Moodify.me and feel free to friend me .

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Teachers and Facebook

Several colleagues at work and I had a discussion today about whether it is acceptable to be friends with students on Facebook. I held the minority opinion that it was fine, but my colleagues’ fear is that being friends with students will potentially expose teachers to illegal or just plain stupid behavior on the part of students. What is the legal responsibility of a teacher who sees a photo of a student drinking on Facebook? I think it’s a murky area that hasn’t been tested well, and until a precedent-setting case is tried, I’m not sure there’s a clear answer. I do think that each teacher needs to decide paramaters for Facebook use.

I personally do not request friendship from students. If they connect with me on Facebook, I want it to be their choice. I personally feel that requesting friendship from students could put them in an awkward position: might they feel compelled to accept because you’re their teacher? What if they really don’t want to open their Facebook lives to you? On the other hand, if a student requests friendship with me, I accept. I do not reject some students and accept others. I don’t think that’s fair. Until they graduate, any student on my friends list can only see a limited profile.

One positive aspect of using Facebook is that nothing else is as quick in terms of communicating with students. I have often asked students to get together on Facebook and study or to spread a message I want to make sure they get. Because I am not friends with students who don’t request it, I can’t use it as a reliable method to contact all of my students. I created a Facebook page, and they can become fans of that page without being my friend, but again, it’s not something I feel comfortable requiring.

I think teachers need to be intelligent and remember that anything that is posted on Facebook should be something the teacher is comfortable sharing in a major newspaper or a billboard over the major city interstate highway. If it’s not, then don’t post it. Teachers can and have been fired over injudicious Facebook postings. I do not write about anything I think my students, parents, co-workers, or administrators would find objectionable, nor do I post pictures of the same.

We do have some way to go in terms of educating our students to behave as if Facebook were public. I personally don’t look at their pictures or profiles, even if they have given me that access, but they should understand that other people will.

Instructions for limiting your Facebook profile (these instructions came directly from Facebook Help files):

  1. Login and click the “Create” link that appears beneath the filters on the left side of your home page or your Friends page. Or, click the “Create New List” button from the “All Friends” tab of the Friends page.
  2. Type the title of your list and hit enter. I use the title “Students.”
  3. Add friends to the list by typing their names into the “Add to List” field or selecting them from the list.
  4. Select “Save List” to store your changes.
  5. Mouse over “Settings” in the upper right hand corner.
  6. A drop-down menu will appear. Click on “Privacy Settings.
  7. Click on “Profile.”
  8. For each area of your profile that you want to limit, click the drop-down menu.
  9. Select “Edit Custom Settings,” which will open a field for Except these people.” Adding a friend or Friend List name here will hide the information in question from these people when they view your profile.
  10. Select your “Students” list if you want to prevent them from seeing that part of your profile.

I think this Facebook group has some smart guidelines.

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Some Thoughts on Twitter

I was cleaning house on Twitter today, and as I made some decisions, some thoughts occurred to me.

Reasons I might not follow back:

  • You follow so many people that you can’t possibly be keeping track of all your conversations unless all you do is read Twitter.
  • You don’t share valuable information or links.
  • You’re obviously scamming for followers and are hoping I automatically follow back, even if what you do and what I do are in completely different spheres.
  • Even if you’re not scamming for followers, you and I do completely different things—I primarily use Twitter to learn from colleagues and follow very few people who aren’t in education (most of those people are personal friends, some are celebrities).
  • You followed me at a really busy time for me, and I haven’t yet had a chance to check out what you have to say. Give me some time before you decide to unfollow me—unless, that is, you are following me only in the hope that I will follow you.
  • You have protected your updates, and I don’t know you, so I’m not sure whether or not your content will be valuable to me.
  • You’re a business, and I need to watch for a while to see if what you tweet is valuable to me.
  • I don’t recognize anyone in your replies or retweets, which tells me we’re not really tweeting in the same circles.

Reasons I might unfollow you:

  • You stop tweeting.
  • You tweet too often, especially about information I don’t find useful or valuable.
  • We never engage in conversation. I am not sure either of us is really listening to each other.
  • You are more often negative than positive. We all need to vent sometimes, but all the time is excessive for me.
  • You are rude or confrontational (not necessarily to me, either).

Reasons I might block you:

  • You’re on Twitter to advertise your webcam/dating/porn site.

Not good reasons to unfollow (in my opinion):

  • You don’t follow me back. If I find your content valuable, I follow you. Period. I’m not looking for a backscratch.
  • We sometimes disagree. If we always disagree, maybe, but some healthy difference is OK.
  • You don’t always reply to me or acknowledge retweets. I don’t always do either of those things.

Ergo, some reasons I might follow:

  • We have the same interests.
  • You provide valuable content.
  • You regularly converse with people I follow, so clearly we’re tweeting in the same circles.

I tend to give people a fair chance once I’ve followed them. I like to get to know who they are through their tweets. If I’m still not learning from you after a while, or if any of the other issues here apply, I might unfollow. Sometimes I think long and hard before I do it because a lot of people are sensitive about that kind of thing. The last thing I want to do is hurt anyone’s feelings. On the other hand, my time is valuable, and I need a return on its investment. I tend to think people are generally too hung up on followers, and not just on Twitter, but everywhere you see social media. You need to engage in social media because of what you get out of it.

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Book Glutton

Book Glutton might be my new favorite website (via Classical Bookworm).  Here’s a demonstration:

I can see all kinds of exciting potential for literature studies.  Literature circles would be great on Book Glutton!  I love the proximity chat and annotation features.  Caveats: the site is still in beta, and according to Sylvia (Classical Bookworm), only works in Firefox (though I admit I didn’t test the site in other browsers, nor could I find information on the site that states the site doesn’t work in other browsers — still, I thought it prudent to pass the warning along).

The first thing I wanted to do was dive in and form a reading group with my students.  Social reading networks.  I love Web 2.0.

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Students 2.0

I was thrilled today when my 9th grade students told me they created a study group on Facebook to keep up with work in my class and help each other as they study Romeo and Juliet. When they told me, they were almost sheepish, as if they were afraid they were doing something wrong. I told them it was an excellent use of Facebook, as far as I was concerned. I do wish the students would make use of the commenting aspect of the blog I’ve set up for study purposes, but I am glad they are making use of social networking in such a positive way.

I have asked them to memorize Mercutio’s “Queen Mab” speech, too. Unable to find a complete version of the speech online that they could hear, they created a YouTube video in which one the students reads the speech. Their thinking was that they could play the video and recite along with it. I decided it was an excellent idea. I recorded myself reading the speech in mp3 format so they can download it to their mp3 players and practice on the go. If you are curious, here it is, but don’t laugh at my voice:

Download link

I’m really excited to see my students refute the naysayers and use technology like Facebook and YouTube in such positive and helpful ways. The fact is that if we do teach students how to use these tools for such purposes, they will. I use YouTube in my classroom all the time. Facebook is blocked at school, and I understand why, but I am excited that they use the site at home for schoolwork in addition to socializing.

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