According to the ABC News article from August 15th, “Weeding Out Roommates on Facebook,” online social networking is being used by new college freshmen in the United States (along with some parents) to learn about assigned roommates before anyone actually sets foot into their new dorm room. As you might expect, in some cases parents are surprised to find pictures of beer drinking and other behavior by “the new assigned roommate” that raise questions. According to the article:

Across the country college administrators said they are getting more pleas than ever from Facebook frazzled parents. “They call based on the information that they see on Facebook and they say that their son or their daughter can’t possibly live with that person,” said Deb DiCaprio, Marist College’s dean of students.

The transparency afforded by the online read/write web environment cuts many different ways. I think it is a very GOOD idea for parents as well as students to go online together and “check out” the online website profiles of friends, acquaintances, and in this case– potential college roommates. While viewing those sites, good questions to ask include:

  1. If you didn’t know this person any other way than what you can see online, what types of conclusions would you draw about this person?
  2. If you were an employer, would you want to hire this person based on what you see online about them? Why or why not?
  3. If you were a club sponsor or athletic coach, would you have any questions about this person based on what you can learn about them online?

That is a basic recommendation I share in workshops about Digital Dialog and safe digital social networking. As Steve Dembo encouraged in his recent post “Have you Googled yourself today?” EVERYONE needs to be monitoring the pulse of their web-based personna.

What do websites “out there” on the Internet say about you, your children, your students, and people you/they know? Sometimes surprises can be good, but in many cases, if we can avoid a surprise through some proactive conversations and explorations, that can be a good thing!

surprised jude

Thanks to Karen Montgomery for this article link.

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  • http://transparentlearning.blogspot.com/ Bethany Smith

    I work at a university with future teachers and it still amazes me how much information they are willing to put out there. There have been several instances in our state, as well as others, of new teachers (or even student teachers) having inappropriate content on their MySpace page. Many feel that this is personal, and should not have repercussions on their teaching career. I have given this talk to several seniors, and they truly have not thought of anyone but their friends going to their pages. It should be interesting to see this latest group of MySpacers enter the teaching world and what Social Networking tools they bring with them.

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    Bethany (and others): What do you think is the most effective way to help students “get it” or have a “a-ha” moment about what they are sharing online, and how they need to be careful what they share?

  • http://alicebarr.com Alice Barr

    Some great thoughts Wes. Thanks for starting this conversation. Something else students may find helpful is the Thoughts about Facebook from Cornell http://www.cit.cornell.edu/policy/memos/facebook.html I find it a great conversation starter when working with students on Digital Citizenship in our school. I will now add your questions to the conversation.

  • http://transparentlearning.blogspot.com/ Bethany Smith

    I think it is hard to get an a-ha moment without singling someone out. I’ve seen the best responses when I ask students to show me their page and they are embarrassed to do so. With student teachers I’ve seen them be totally surprised when their students start linking to them or making friends requests, but by then it is almost too late.

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