Fresh from the Chronicle of Higher Education's "Wired Campus" column comes the amazing discovery that college students DO NOT want to become friends with their professors on Facebook and they don't want to get "tweets" from their twittering profs.
When Professors Create Social Networks for Classes, Some Students See a 'Creepy Treehouse'Here's an (abridged) definition of "creepy treehouse" from Jared Stein, director of instructional-design services at Utah Valley University:
A growing number of professors are experimenting with Facebook, Twitter, and other social-networking tools for their courses, but some students greet an invitation to join professors’ personal networks with horror, seeing faculty members as intruders in their private online spaces. Recognizing that, some professors have coined the term “creepy treehouse” to describe technological innovations by faculty members that make students’ skin crawl.
- n. A place, physical or virtual (e.g. online), built by adults with the intention of luring in kids. Example: “Kids … can see a [creepy treehouse] a mile away and generally do a good job in avoiding them.”
- n. Any system or environment that repulses a target user due to it’s closeness to or representation of an oppressive or overbearing institution.
- n. A situation in which an authority figure or an institutional power forces those below him/her into social or quasi-social situations.
Having been a college professor, I can testify that the only group more likely to deceive themselves about being young and hip are people who work in ad agencies.
Maybe profs are hip and young compared to their chronological peers. Or maybe having a captive audience of 18-21 year-olds tends to give you the false impression that you're fascinating.
I created private usenet groups to catch the spillover from class discussions, particularly my graduate seminars, at Case Western Reserve Univ in the early '90s. I asked each student to post once during the month for the experience, even if it was just with a question or a "hello world, I got online" message; after that participation was voluntary.
It appears that you can make your students join your Facebook network, but you can't make them like it. You can only make them dislike you. A story in the Guardian called Students Tell Universities: Get out of MySpace! explains that:
E-learning gurus want to exploit their students' passion for the new generation of interactive online communication tools - collectively known as web 2.0 - to deliver academic content. Not content with podcasting mini-lectures to students' mobile phones and i-Pods, they are hijacking the internet telephone system, Skype, and invading FaceBook.Stein and his colleagues who study online learning suggest that college professors check out alternative social media systems designed specifically for educators. Those systems allow for the spontaneous and instantaneous communication Twitter etc. provides -- without bringing the stink of work into the playroom. Stein offers one solution proposed by Utah Valley Univ. student Tyrel Kelsey:
But a research exercise ... has just revealed, amazingly, that students want to be left alone. Their message to the trendy academics is: "Get out of MySpace!"
Students reject creepy treehouses for one reason: they are creepy. I think a better approach to education is the idea of a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) … which [students] can invite the professor into when they feel comfortable doing so.
Question: so what do you do with courses in which the media IS the message, as McLuhan so presciently said.
Increasingly the purpose of courses in journalism, media studies, and communications is to teach students the skills to use this technology, just at journalism students were once required to learn to read the shorthand of teletype or record and edit radio broadcasts on reel-to-reel tape.