danah boyd delivered a talk for Microsoft recently with the title “Social Media is Here to Stay,” and I’d classify it as must reading for educators wanting to get nudged a little further down the path to rethinking classrooms. I just love the matter of fact way she describes what has happened in terms of kids’ uses of social media and what it all means for us. The whole thing is definitely worth the 10-15 minutes or so that it takes to read it, but let me cut to the chase with this snip:

Specific genres of social media may come and go, but these underlying properties are here to stay. We won’t turn the clock back on these. Social network sites may end up being a fad from the first decade of the 21st century, but new forms of technology will continue to leverage social network as we go forward. If we get away from thinking about the specific technologies and focus on the properties and dynamics, we can see how change is unfolding before our eyes. One of the key challenges is learning how to adapt to an environment in which these properties and dynamics play a key role. This is a systems problem. We are all implicated in it – as developers and policy makers, as parents and friends, as individuals and as citizens. Social media is here to stay. Now we just have to evolve with it.

A couple of things strike me here, not the least of which is the de-emphasis on the tools and a focus instead on the “properties and dynamics” or the “network effects” that they bring about. I think it’s safe to say that we have made huge inroads in getting people to use the tools. Last week at NCTIES about half of a roomful of people raised their hands when I asked how many of them taught at schools where kids are blogging somewhere in the curriculum. (It turned out it wasn’t happening with a lot of regularity, but still…) Where we still have a long way to go, however, is in truly understanding that stuff danah is talking about. And that’s the important part, because that’s what should be driving our decision making and pedagogy around using these technologies in the classroom. But as I’ve said many times before, that’s the hard part, because it really does involve some buy in on the part of teachers in terms of changing their own practice.

But there is another telling passage in this piece that really got my brain thinking. When talking about how kids don’t really use Twitter very much because it’s so much more of a public space, danah writes

Teens are much more motivated to talk only with their friends and they learned a harsh lesson with social network sites. Even if they are just trying to talk to their friends, those who hold power over them are going to access everything they wrote if it’s in public. While the ethos among teens is “public by default, private when necessary,” many are learning that it’s just not worth it to have a worrying mother obsess over every mood you seek to convey. This dynamic showcases how social factors are key to the adoption of new forms of social media.

It’s funny (not) how when I read that “those who hold power over them” part I immediately thought of schools and the aversion we have to kids creating in public, social spaces. Kids are being driven to become more private in a world where transparency and openness create huge learning opportunities for those that know what to do with them.

Make sure to read the five properties of social media and the three social dynamics that danah says have been “reconfigured” by social media. And then think about the idea that

All of this means that we’re forced to contend with a society in which things are being truly reconfigured. So what does this mean? As we are already starting to see, this creates all new questions about context and privacy, about our relationship to space and to the people around us.

Those are the questions that we have to be examining deeply for ourselves as educators. And right now, those are the questions that few schools really want to have any serious discussions about in terms of the implications on school culture and curriculum. As systems, we’re not even close to getting on the reconfiguration road.

Well, most of us aren’t, at least: