Social Networking with Year 7s

I have six year 7 classes that I see once a week in a timetabled lesson called ‘R & T’ (Research & Tech). It has been set up as a way to support technology and research in the classroom, and I will be interested to see how much effectively these students manage their time, their tech and their assignment work in senior years, compared with the senior students using my library currently. I believe these young students will be better prepared, have more independent research skills, and will manage their technology a lot better because of our ongoing support and intervention (O’Connell, 2008).

As well as helping them with technology and research, this semester, I am investing time into developing a more formal reading program that encourages reading using incentive and competition. All my students are boys, and they love food of any kind, and are also very competitive (Gustafson, C, 2008).

So each student has a Reading Bingo card (attached here, as a pdf) and the idea is that if they get a row stamped, all the way, vertically, horizontally or diagonally, they get a chocolate. Then the person with the most stamps at the end of the semester in each class will be declared bingo winner, and will receive an iTunes card (apparently books aren’t much incentive. sigh).

The most important part (aside from the reading, of course) is the opportunity for them to engage with and share their reading (Serafini & Youngs, 2013). As an experiment, I asked each class to use a different web 2.0 platform, mostly to test them out, and see which is the most successful with this age group, but also to ensure there was some accountability at their end to reflect upon their reading.


7A joined a private group in Goodreads that I set up. I created a couple of polls, asked them to ‘friend’ each other, and have the expectation that they will add their books to their shelves, write a short review, and commit to commenting on other’s reviews.

I set up 7B on a private blog group within our LMS (in this case, Blackboard) in which I have asked them discuss their reading habits, their proposed number of books they believe they can read by the end of semester one, and the book they are currently reading. Subsequent blog posts must continue along this same vein, and they are also encouraged to comment on other’s posts as well.

7C are collaborating on a joint private wikispaces website. They have each created their own page, and are allowed to add the reviews in any way they like.

7D joined Riffle Books, a social website for readers. They are following each other (& me), and are adding books to their shelves, as well as making lists of books, and following others who have similar reading tastes. This is a public site.

7E are part of a private Edmodo group. Again, it’s a place where they can post, and update their reading progress. The site allowed me to create a poll, and students can add images and comment on each other’s posts.

7F have been asked to create a blog through Edublogs. I have added the blogs to my own edublog. You could take a look at their efforts (which are pretty mediocre at the moment). Probably the best ones to look at would be: Jack Viner and Louis Chinasing.

Social networking with students has quite a different focus to social networking for students. When we ask our students to join a public group, for educational purposes, there is an opportunity to teach a range of digital citizenship lessons, and to require students to re-think and re-evaluate the way they use social networks. When we create places for students to find us when they want help means they are reaching for us in their time of need (Casey & Savastinuk, 2006) . The 4Cs are important in both contexts. But while it its relatively easy to push out content to students, it more difficult to get a high quality level of participation. In my experience anyway. Teenage boys are not inclined to write reviews or comment on blog posts, or help create a virtual buzz.

Anyway, I started this blog 10 days ago, and now when I check all the sites, I have to say, I am doing all the work. #depressing There is a lot of push for information professionals to build a strong web 2.0 presence (Valenza, 2014), however, how many of us (especially in boys’ schools) can actually point to a success story – that lasts longer than a couple of weeks, and involves more than just the extremely academic or highly motivated of students?

We persevere because we want to, because we know it’s the right thing to do, because we know if we are able to affect even a couple of young people’s attitudes and behaviour, it’s worth it, but sometimes I wonder if we might not be better directing our energies to pursuits that make more of  a difference to a larger proportion of our users.

(of course, the lack of participation might be just my situation)


O’Connell, J. (2008). School library 2.0 : new skills, new knowledge, new futures. In P. Godwin & J. Parker (Eds.), Information literacy meets library 2.0. London: Facet Publishing.

Gustafson, C. (2008). Reading Motivation Through Competition: Boys as Readers. Library Media Connection, 26(5), 16-17.

Serafini, F., & Youngs, S. (2013). Reading Workshop 2.0: Children’s Literature in the Digital Age. The Reading Teacher, 66(5), 401-404. doi: 10.1002/TRTR.01141

Valenza, J. K., Boyer, B. L., & Curtis, D. (2014). Social media curation. Library Technology Reports, 50, 1+.


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