Subject: [Webpals] cyberjournals
This has been one of those revelatory days: I understand how powerful this cyber approach can be. I have just read most of the cyberjournal entries my students wrote for February. Their suggested topic was to write about their web pals and how that has been an interesting or valuable experience.
I had imagined it would be fun for my ninth graders to meet someone online and that they maybe would learn something about themselves. I had no idea how much, how fast.
What I learned is that my students, in general, crave the attention of adults more than I knew. I learned that they want to do well for their web pals, even to work harder than I expect them to. I learned that they appreciate the comments made about their writing and their web pages. I also learned that my students will be sad when this experiment is over.
It's amazing, maybe predestined (though I don't really believe in that), how well the pairs of web pals ended up. So many of my students report common interests. It's uncanny, as if there were a matchmaking effort. What this tells me is that what my students publish on their web pages really does reveal things about them and others can know them by what they publish.
I am worried that the adults in the experiment will not take the correspondence to heart in the same way their freshmen web pals have. And yet, this is the perfect opportunity for SXU students to get to know the heart and mind of a typical teenager.
This experiment has been a resounding success so far, and this is without a lot of discussion about writing. And yet, I feel it is critical that the momentum go that way. The SXU students learning to be teachers, no matter the subject matter, have a unique opportunity to interact with a student about writing. The experience can teach them something about themselves as well as about students and writing.
I urge the SXU students to be careful: don't make promises to correspond after the experiment is over, don't get too personal, and don't be too harsh. I have the feeling that some of my students have become too attached to their new friends, almost like we all do when we have a crush on someone. It's not that these freshmen are fragile, but they are children, they are inexperienced, and they will trust with all their heart until they are hurt. I don't mean to imply that anyone at SXU intends to hurt; from what I can tell, the emails have been completely appropriate, friendly, and caring. It's just that from what some of my students have said, they may think this temporary relationship could develop into something long lasting.
Overall, I am sincerely and happily impressed with this email experiment so far.
To see what I mean, please read the SFHS cyberjournals, not just of your web pal, but of as many as you can. It will be interesting and engaging.