Writing for the MySpace Generation

How has MySpace Changed How our Society and how Students View Their Writing?


MySpace is the second most popular web property in the world! Since appearing in January 2004, the site currently has 87 million accounts, and it's adding around 270,000 new users a //day//. Of those 87 million, about one-fourth are minors. In fact, the site grew 752% in one year, one of the largest - if not the largest - expansions on the Web in history. That might explain why Rupert Murdoch bought MySpace for $580 million a year ago. Murdoch's no dummy, and it seems like it was a pretty smart decision, since the site pulls in around $13 million each month from advertising sales.
  • 2nd Most popular web property in the world
  • currently over 100 million accounts, adding over 270,000 users per day
  • it grew 752% in one year.
  • Sold to Rupert Murdoch for $580 million
  • $13 million a month from advertising
(Granneman, Scott. "MySpace, a place without MyParents." Security Focus 30 06 2006: 2. Security Focus. 30 06 2006: April 30, 2006 <http://www.securityfocus.com/columnists/408>.)//
In addition to these stats, there are more disturbing statistics that the press lets us know about. It gave people, especially young people, a place to invent themselves and to connect to a larger audience of like-minded people their own age. It's like a mall, without walls.
Other sites doing similar things:


It's Not About Capturing, It's About Captivating

Connective Writing
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Examine this paragraph written by a middle school student:


HARLEM RENAISSANCE, MUSIC ERA, (1919-1937)was a period when African Amercian, writers came up with a abundant amount of poetry, drama, fiction, and essay's. It was an era were there was an explosion of jazz, blues, and sprituals. Jazz, is a type of music that was developed in the Harlem Renaissance. Most jazz at that time was in small marching bands, or solo pianist. Jazz emerged right out of New Oreans, thats concitered (The birh o f jazz). The most known musician in New Orleans is King Oliver. Another famous name in jazz history is Louis Armstrong. They were both very talented at what they did. They were both around the a time, known as the Swing era.A band that toped off in the Swing era was the Dixieland Band. They were the first all white dixie jazz band in the south.

Now look at the same paragraph here:

What is the difference?

Connective writing does not entail just the fact that the writer is connecting outside of the writing using hyperlinks, but also in that the writing is being connected to the community at large through a network, a network that will contribute to the writing through comments. Will Richardson points out above that it's a "negotiation" by the readers and the writer. It's not a one-way street. Our students of today are used to producing content for the web, used to connecting to their friends through online social networks

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Methods We'll Try



In the fall, a group of teachers began using Writingthecity.com to post their students writing online. Writingthecity is a program designed by Teaching Matters, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising the reading and writing skills of students in and around New York City. The site is hosted for free and teachers have the ability to post student work in a password protected environment. Writingthecity offers the following features:
  • the ability for teachers to decide whether or not a story is made public, or kept private, viewable by only page members
  • the ability for teachers to designate a story as a feature, whereby it has the potential to sit on the front page of Writingthecity, where it can be exposed to a greater reading audience.
  • Exposure, which leads to increased attention to the process of writing by the students.
If you don't have a handout from class handy, you may download these to help you set up your accounts and pages:

Google Docs and Spreadsheets

Google Documents and Spreadsheets is an online word processor and spreadsheet application that enables users to collaborate on documents in real-time. Here is a brief list of ideal uses in schools:
  • collaborative writing between students
  • in-class writing-in-the-round
  • lab groups wanting to put data tables in spreadsheets and share between lab groups
  • backing up key documents
  • ongoing projects between departments or teachers
Can we add more to this list?

Google Docs functions much the same way as Microsoft Word: you can even save files from Google Docs as Word documents. However, you will need to cut and paste to bring any text in to Google Docs from Word.

Google Spreadsheets is Google's version of Microsoft Excel. The biggest differentiating factor is that of collaboration (Google Spreadsheets has a chat feature so you can converse about the data you inputting and anything else you want). There is some formatting issue when moving between the two, but with a little tinkering, moving from one to the other is not much of a problem.

Both Docs and Spreadsheets offer the option to publish your work as a web page viewable by anyone. This offers the ability for students to publish their work to a very large audience and you could link to it from your Schoolwires page.

Let's follow along with this activity to see the power of Google Docs and Spreadsheets in action, and here are some helpful hints to use while you work.

Blogging in the classroom

Can we teach someone to cook without being a cook ourselves? How will we know the best and newest techniques in flambe-ing, if we don't practicedining_orange_flambe.png ourselves? I think the same holds true for anything: it is difficult to teach someone without being a practitioner of what you are teaching; there is less authenticity in that.

So, (and you can probably see where I am going with this) how do we teach writing to students without first being writers ourselves? How do we aske them to put their writing out there for others to see without doing the same ourselves? If we are modeling what it means to be fearless in our writing, they have a better chance at replicating that boldness. How do we do that? Blog.

What is a blog, anyway? According to Wikipedia, "A blog (short for web log) is a user-generated website where entries are made in journal style and displayed in a reverse chronological order." This sells them short slightly. Here are some great aspects of blogging:
  • the ability to get feedback from others who read your blog is invaluable towards developing as a writer
  • most blogs allow users to insert rich content like embedded videos, graphics, and widgets (small tools that sit on the blog itself)
  • an archived record of your professional development or development as a writer

How are teachers using blogs in the classroom?

  • *use blogs for real-world writing experiences
  • *prolong discussions outside the classroom or for question and answer
  • *easily include discussions with authors or guest speakers
  • *quickly give feedback to students, and students to each other (no stacks of paper)
  • *track student writing development
  • *encouraging students to help each other with their writing
  • *create a classroom newsletter by using a multi-user blog for the different topics. I.E. classroom trips, sports, upcoming trips …
  • *create a school website with sections that can be easily updated
  • *students using peer networks to develop their own knowledge
  • *update new information such as homework and assignments

Teacher Samples:

Clarence Fisher's Class Blogs- teacher of computer applications in a middle school and his student blogs.
Darren Kuropatwa- Math blogs
6th Grade's Most Awesome Writing- a group of sixth graders who are, in their own words, blogging to make their writing better.
Teaching Hacks- this is more of a resources site, but if you scroll down to the middle of the page, the author, Quentin D'Souza details how to use blogs for all subject areas. This is a great way to see how this might work for you.areallydifferentplace.jpg

One blog that serves as a great model is Nancy Bosch's class blog. It is called A Really Different Place, and serves as her teaching blog, as well as the hub of her student blogs. She can blog about topics that interest her and her students as well as allow her students to comment. Plus, her students land here before they get to their blog, therefore giving them some food for thought.

areallydifferentplace2.jpgOn her blog, she keeps the students as her "blog roll" which is a list of blogs that she reads. Doing this gives each student direct access to read and comment on other student blogs.

Writing while aware of your student audience this way adds dimensions and meanings to the students work.

We will be using 21Classes to show you how you can set up your blog. First, make sure that you have received my email asking you to register. If you haven't, you can register directly at the site. While there, I would like you to do three things. First, go to the class home site and leave a comment on my brief blog post. Second, I would like you to go to your "student" blog and create a post. To do this from the home site, click on "administration" to go directly to your dashboard. When you get there, click on "new post" and enter a quick message into your editor and hit save. Lastly, I would like you to insert a video from YouTube into a blog post. To accomplish this, follow these directions:
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The only difference between embedding a video onto a wiki v. onto a 21Classes blog, is that instead of placing the code into the TV box,tvicon.jpguse the media icon in 21Classesembedicon.jpg.
Download and print this guide to set up your class account.

Blogs that I like to read

Granneman, Scott. "MySpace, a place without MyParents." Security Focus 30 06 2006: 2. Security Focus. 30 06 2006: April 30, 2006 <http://www.securityfocus.com/columnists/408>.
D'Souza, Quentin. Weblogs in Education. February 20, 2007 Teaching Hacks.com. May 1, 2007 <http://www.teachinghacks.com/wiki/index.php?title=Weblogs_in_Education>.//