Today, I would like to welcome Kevin Hodgson. Kevin teaches sixth grade in Southampton, Massachusetts at the William E. Norris Elementary School, where his students use technology for publishing and creation throughout the year (http://epencil.edublogs.org/ ). He is also the technology liaison with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project (http://www.umass.edu/wmwp/) and a co-editor of the book collection Teaching the New Writing: Technology, Change and Assessment in the 21st Century Classroom ( http://store.tcpress.com/ 0807749648.shtml ) that examines the role of technology in the writing classroom in the age of standardized testing and assessment. In his spare time, Kevin blogs at Kevin‘s Meandering Mind (http://dogtrax.edublogs.org/ ) and dabbles in the world of classroom-based humor through his Boolean Squared webcomic (www.booleansquared.com).
By Kevin Hodgson
The convergence of a couple of events recently had me thinking about Facebook and why I, of all people, have purposely avoided it. There is the movie, of course, and all of the reporting and reviews of the flick and Facebook that has graced the cover of almost every single magazine that entered my home in late September into early October. Then, I was presenting a technology workshop with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project and one of the participants asked me about Facebook and technology, and could she connect me with on Facebook to learn more about technology. I paused and then told her that she wouldn’t find me there. Next, our elementary school set up a Facebook page to relay regular information about what goes on in our building to parents and community members. I’ve avoided those discussions mostly, since I can be of no help, even though I am part of our building’s tech team. And finally, I had a student of mine talking about her Facebook site to some friends during snack, and I listened in on how she uses her last name. She’s only a sixth grader (meaning: age, 11). I gently scolded her, and she looked kind of distant when I reminded her of our classroom discussions around privacy issues when using online sites.
All of these events make me slightly uncomfortable because it brings to the surface the fact that I don’t use Facebook. At all. Ever. Sure, I get friend requests pretty regularly from, well, some friends, which I dutifully ignore (sorry, if you are one of those friends. I still like you. Just not on Facebook). If you know anything about me, you know I try just about every technological tool that comes my way — partially for the exploration itself but also because I am looking through the lens of my classroom and teaching, and wondering if a particular application makes sense as a venue for learning for my students. My list of technology use is pretty long and varied.
Video sharing? Check.
The list can go on and on, but you won’t find Facebook anywhere on that list (MySpace would have been on there a few years ago for my band/music sites, but no one still uses MySpace since Rupert Murdock took over, do they?). Trust me, this aversion to Facebook is not due to complete ignorance (maybe a little, but not complete). I realize the power of the connections there. I understand the draw to build a network along weak ties. I realize how sharing and writing and learning is all part of the experience. I get it. I do.
But, I have my reasons.
● While I think Mark Zuckerberg has built an amazing thing that is transforming society, I can’t help but escape the fact that, really, he is it in the for the money and glory, and not to help me (you, us) out. I don’t need to see the fictionalized movie to know this. Just look at how the company (it’s a business) is leveraging privacy issues in order to learn more about who we are, so they can target us with advertising. And people let them. I’m not willing to be part of Zuckerberg’s minions. Sorry. My eyeballs are my own.
● I’m not all that interested in old friends whose time with me has passed on by. There’s a reason why we are not friends anymore. This is a personal issue, I realize, but it’s a strong one for me. My past has passed.
● I have no desire to be receiving requests for friendship from my students nor from their families, either. I do carve out a significant professional space in my life for that, and that space is where I want it. It’s not that I would be writing anything or posting anything provocative or anything that would get me into trouble, but still … I want separation from my teaching life and my writing life and my personal life. Facebook has a way of mixing those all up in a blender in which you lose privacy.
● I am already immersed in many other networks of teachers, and I don’t feel the need for yet another.
Still, my arguments nag at me.
I know that Facebook has created “the moment” that so many of us have been waiting for when it comes to comfort levels with technology, particularly when it comes to our teaching colleagues. They finally “get it” when we talk about the power of communities and networking. So, sometimes, I feel as if I am missing the train by not jumping aboard. What conversations am I the outsider on because I am not on Facebook? And how can I adapt and be adept at the world of technologies if I am a conscientious objector without even a toe in the door to the technology phenomenon of the moment?
I don’t have an answer for those questions and I don’t expect Mark Zuckerberg to help me out, either. He’s not a friend.