Participation is real

Many of us in public schools are very aware of the events of the last few days in Virginia, and I know there is already talk in the blogosphere and media about how students there used many web 2.0 tools to communicate both during and since the crisis.   My colleague, Joel, had an interesting followup on Monday night about that, which led me to create an account on Facebook to see what students were doing there.

The more I have looked there and at YouTube, I’ve marveled at how students and nonstudents alike have used these tools as well as blogs to communicate their feelings of support for Virginia Tech, as well as to express their dismay and opinions.

But the other important factor I think that we in schools should be aware of, beyond marveling about the tools students are already naturally employing to communicate, is that students across the  nation and world are able to participate in this experience in a much more personal way than they ever could before.

They can witness firsthand comments on Facebook, people searching for their loved ones a couple of days ago, videos that have been posted, blog comments, and can interact easily online with people who were there.

As one example, here is a YouTube video tribute that has had 1400 views.  If you look at the Most Viewed videos today on YouTube, 50% of them are about Virginia Tech.    The most viewed one has over 600,000 views.

I just bring this up as a note of concern for our high school students.  As educators we should be aware that our students may be interacting with these events in a much more personal way than in the past. 

Since some of these sites are blocked in some schools, school campuses may not be that aware of how involved their students are on those sites.   So I do think it’s helpful for us as educators to be conscious of the different levels of interaction available to our students when a crisis like this occurs, talk to students about “crisis overload,” and to take time to look at the content out there that they may be interacting with.

Update to this post:  The WashingtonPost has an excellent article following up on the outpouring on Facebook.

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