Introducing iRemix: Social Networks in Schools

The first day of my fan fiction course is always reserved for introducing iRemix.  Social networks are part of the 21st century experience of being a fan, so it is a great opportunity to connect the platform with a theme from the class. To spark student engagement I will establish iRemix as a kind of “Facebook for school,” a space to make personal profiles, connect with other fans, and upload media. However, as many students are quick to note, there are differences between Facebook and iRemix. So I ask, in what ways can the social learning network iRemix be compared to popular social networks such as Facebook or MySpace?

DYN Fan Art

The use of social networks in school can be a foreign idea to students. Sites like Facebook and MySpace have yet to find a standard use in education. Chicago Public Schools, among many others, use firewalls to prevent students from using these networks. This may result in educators losing out on “teachable moments,” regarding online etiquette  and privacy. iRemix can help address these issues through both its similarities and differences to other social networks.

Profile creation is an obvious but important similarity. As I project the log-in process on a whiteboard, students follow along on their own machines. I show them how to edit their profile pages, in-between joining a group and uploading a picture. While we create profiles, I ask students what they think should and should not be included. Students often come up with answers such as phone numbers, addresses, etc. But I hope to dive further in and discuss occurrences of cyber-bullying, which is not always an easy task. Through real life examples I try to stress the ethical responsibilities that students have towards themselves and others when using iRemix. This helps our students work in creative and safe online communities.

DYN Photography

This is not to say that students’ conduct in iRemix should mirror that of Facebook. As a social learning network, what is considered appropriate and inappropriate behavior may change. While it can be risky, even unsafe, to connect with people you do not know on popular social networks, we at the Digital Youth Network encourage students to “friend” unknown peers from other schools in iRemix. We guide online interactions in hopes that our students will be able to connect with peers they otherwise would have never known.Perhaps they will learn about themselves and the larger Chicago community in the process. However, I always make sure to explain that this rule is not the same for other social networks.

I guess that while iRemix is like a “Facebook for school,” its uses and functions can vary significantly. However, I find iRemix useful for teaching about both the educational and the popular. So while iRemix can be a diverse and respectful online community, I always remember that it is one among many of our students’ social networks.

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