MySpace has been in the news again, this time because of the role it played in organizing the recent protests across the country (but primarily in California and Arizona) against the immigration bill. The first thing that jumps out to me, at least is that MySpace is now officially a “social networking site,” not just a blog site. Thank goodness we’ve figured that out.

But what happenend this week is Smart Mobs in living color. Look at the lead in the Arizona Republic:

There’s no doubt that the high school student protests that emptied several schools, blocked traffic and packed the state capital lawn were real.

It’s the way they were organized that was virtual.

Although the student demonstrations Monday and Tuesday paled in comparison with Friday’s 20,000-strong march, the city’s biggest, they likely marked the first appearance of a new generation of activists savvy about using electronic gadgets, text messaging and the Internet to organize.

And read this account by a Social Studies teacher in California:

Asked how the students organized so quickly, Ray Siqueiros, a Sunnyside social studies teacher, said, “It’s called technology. It’s called text messaging. It’s called myspace.com.” Students at Cholla and Pueblo coordinated their march within a matter of minutes during lunch by calling and text messaging each other on their cell phones, they said.

Now, I have to tell you, I have a hard time picturing a bunch of grownups doing quick, mass mobilization this way. Seriously. We’re so e-mail. And I’m pretty much done with that whole natives and immigrants meme because there’s nothing stopping any of us from becoming fluent in this language except our own unwillingness to learn it (and, ok, maybe some time issues…where do kids get the time for this anyway?) We can debate whether or not the kids should have done what they did (read the comments to this Danah Boyd post; in fact, read the whole thing) but we might want to recognize it for what it is: a powerful example of the connectedness that technology can create.

And almost as important here, to me at least, are the reactions from some of the school administrators and law makers. From the Republic:

Sunnyside Principal Raúl Nido said he wanted to work with the students, not contain them.
“If you know what the cause is and you’re passionate about it, then tell me why,” Nido said. “If you don’t know what you’re doing then you’re being led. This is a very hot issue.”
Students said they were appreciative.
“I expected them to try and stop us, but instead they’re encouraging us,” said Alex Gonzalez, 17, a junior and Sunnyside student body vice president. “They understand where we’re coming from.”

And from Arizona Central:

“I commend these students because this is a lesson in modern civics education that we can all learn from,” said Rep. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix. “Their voices are being heard, and they’re doing it on their terms. This is very exciting.”

We really can all learn from this, not become it, necessarily, but understand it. We might want to think about how to put their engagement and connections in these communities to positive use in our classrooms instead of simply trying to surpress their importance. Just think of the possibilities…