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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Teaching T(w)eens Part 3 - Social Networking

In the first part of this mini series of posts I explained an idea I had for the first lesson of a group of thirteen year old students: Part 1

This involved asking the learners to think about their interests and likes, what type of activities they would like to do in class and what they need to work on. They came up with lots of typical ideas such as listening to songs, watching videos, sports and so on, but I was surprised to see that a few of them were interested in history and one even mentioned politics! Not that I plan on discuccing politics with a group of 13 year olds - I would have no idea on how to go about that! However, their thoughts have given me something to consider while planning their lessons. We are using a course book, but I would like to supplement that with tasks and activities that really interest the learners. Something else I am going to try with them is peer teaching (see this post on the topic). This afternoon we will be looking at the overview to the next module of study, which lists all the activities they will do for the four main skills. I am going to ask them to tick the ones they like and to choose their favourite. Then I will form small groups of students with the same answer and tell them that they are going to be the teachers for that particular lesson, giving them time in future lessons to prepare adequately.

But this post isn't about learner participation or autonomy, it is about social networking. Now, I have had a Facebook account for around five years, which I use personally rather than professionally. I use Twitter to keep up with ELT news. However, I have never used either of these with my students (yet). To be honest, I would not share my personal Facebook with my students as it would be sharing too much of my personal and past life, although I may consider opening a new account for this purpose in the future. Anyway, the majority of my students don't actually use Facebook, but a Spanish social networking site calle Tuenti.

I have just opened a Tuenti account ofr the purpose of communicating outside the classroom with my students. Last year I tried to set up an Email in English scheme with a teenage FCE class. Most of them opened a Gmail account as specified, in order to be able to use the online chat, however none of them EVER replied to the emails I sent, I only chatted with one student ONCE who is the same student that sent me her homework via email ONCE. The problem? Teenagers don't seem to use email! And why should they? The only people they want to keep in touch with are their friends, all of whom are on Tuenti, which is a much more interesting place than boring email. You can read people's status, see their photos, send them short messages and so on.

So, after giving up last year on the whole email business, I have decided to use Tuenti. If I can manage to get them all to add me as a friend (I wonder if THEIR personal lives aren't too secret to share with their thirty-something English teacher), then hopefully I will be able to engage them in English communication outside of class time. I have set up a Page called Exam English for the FCE and CAE classes where we will all be able to share links to videos, photos, songs and websites. We will be able to write on each other's Wall (or whatever it is called in Tuenti) and basically socialize in English. This is what I'm hoping for anyway!

I am also considering trying this out with my group of tweens. Supposedly, in order to use Tuenti you must be 14 years of age, but I'm sure some of the kids will have got around this minor detail. This afternoon I will bring up the topic and see how many are interested in using social networks. If they do use Tuenti, I will set up another page for them. If not, I wonder if they would be interested in a blog?

Do you have experience using social networks or blogs with young teenagers?
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