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Stalkers and Strangers and Twitter, Oh My

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I got pretty excited this week when I surpassed 100 followers for my @kmanzo account on Twitter, and then again when the numbers started to ratchet up. But then my enthusiasm turned to wariness when a Twitter user named Stalker started following me. I chided myself for the skepticism when I realized Craig Stalker is a legitimate member with seemingly valid intentions. Even though he's not an educator, I found many of his posts informative, so I followed him back.

It was only when I started getting a swift stream of female followers with cute user IDs—each including their first names and a year—that I realized not all of the millions of Twitter users are tweeting for good. Sure enough, the girls were pitching some dating service and their profiles included links to provocative photos of themselves.

Why hadn't I even considered that this medium would be rife with potentially inappropriate contacts? Probably because I'm not in the classroom surrounded by children all day, tuned in to all the warnings about Internet safety. I began to wonder how educators are dealing with this problem in reading and posting to Twitter from their school accounts. Are teachers' computers screened for questionable Web content, and how do you get around the filtering tools when you have your students use Twitter and other social networking sites?

When I realized what was happening I just started automatically blocking followers with similar code names. Does this simple solution work in a school setting?

3 Comments

I am now using Twitter with my students in class everyday. And part of our basic class procedure is checking the validity of new contacts and blocking spammers.

Takes a minute or so every few days of class and at the same time gives the students a real-life education in dealing with the 21st century.

What age group do you work with Shelly? K12 covers a LOT of territory. What's OK for high school is scarey for younger kids.

@Fran Lo

I teach 9-12. We use Twitter as a lifeline on tests, as a sharing tool for collaborative assignments, as a way to assess group work, and as a forum in which to create shared bibliographies.

I'd think Twitter could be useful for 6-12. Though I wouldn't pretend to be a specialist working w/ younger kids. You might try it out and see what would work for you.

The security setup for Twitter is simple and effective. You choose who you follow and with a single click you block anyone you don't want following you. In a classroom setting, I just set up accounts so that only my students are following me and each other.

Every now and then we drop accounts and change names just to be on the safe side -- and with single click publishing, that really only takes a few seconds to do. And once you get the hang of it, it's really relatively confusion-free (which in my case is a good thing...).

Running live blogging sessions from a Twittered classroom all week. Tweet @TeachPaperless for more info.

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