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The School at Columbia University in New York City has created its own private social network to teach middle-school students digital citizenship in a safe environment. The Social Network, as it is called, includes a site for videos and a site for photos, with each being archived at the end of each school year. “Drama happens. But my goal is: If you’re going to make a mistake, make it here, before it’s public and permanent,” the school’s technology integrator, Karen Blumberg, said.

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  • http://cyndidannerkuhn.info Cyndi Danner-Kuhn

    You make some excellent points!!

  • http://www.technologywithintention.com/ Jac

    I’ve used a walled-garden for 4 years now at a small school in the Northwest and learned 2 things:

    1) Critical mass is essential for a social network – the value of an account increases as the subscriber base gets larger. Facebook is attractive to 13-year-olds because it connects them with a larger audience than their school does. As a result, after initial excitement about a school-centric social network, content creation dies down as students turn to larger networks.

    2) While there are many valuable conversations to be had around successes and mis-steps in a social network, training students to be conscious and thoughtful users is inherently training them to be users, period. Schools may inadvertently suggest that social network use is fundamentally essential or good, which is subjective. It is worth carving out time to discuss what value students find in the experience and unintended consequences of participation.