You may remember what an impact Jermaine had on me at a birthday party I attended not long ago. Well, here I go again at another piñata-driven, little tike’s party (the life of a dad with little kids). This time I want to tell you about my fourth (or fifth or sixth or whatever) cousin Alanna. She’s just started grade 10, is as sharp as a tack, has Drake as her Twitter wallpaper, and is just about the coolest teenager you’ll ever meet.
Every time I see her, Alanna has grown taller and more mature. I also see her increasingly immersed in social media environments and, unfortunately, more and more disengaged with schooling. On this day, I noticed her planted in front of my cousin’s iMac for the majority of the party, browsing with three tabs open: Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. I just had to interview her.
What are the main social media sites that you use on a regular basis?
Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. I used to use Formspring but got tired of it.
Which of the three social media sites did you start on?
I started on Facebook, and then my friend introduced me to Twitter and Tumblr later on.
What’s your favourite thing to do on these sites?
I love posting pictures and looking at other people’s pictures.
What are the similarities and differences between these tools as you see it? Let’s start with Facebook and Twitter.
I just use Facebook to post and look at pictures, and to see what’s going on with my friends. I use Twitter to tweet about stuff that’s happening in my life. It’s kind of like making quotes.
Would you say that the people you interact with on Facebook are different to the ones you tweet with on Twitter?
Um, ya. I’ve never really thought about that before. Most people on Facebook are people I know, but, on Twitter, some are people I know and others are just random, like celebrities.
What’s your favourite thing to do on Twitter?
I like tweeting stuff that happens and turn them into, like, sayings.
Can you give me an example?
Well, say, right now at this party, if something funny happened, like Jackson threw a toy at you and it hit your head? I would tweet that.
(Laughs) So you’re sharing funny aspects of living life?
Ya. And boy problems and family problems.
OK, what about Tumblr?
I use Tumblr to share random pictures that I think are cool. Twitter is for typing interesting things, and Tumblr is for showing it in pictures. So, basically, Facebook is for relationships, Twitter is for life, and Tumblr is for pictures.
I heard you talking earlier about high school having a lot of drama. Which of the four sites has the most drama on it?
What kinds of things do you run into?
It usually starts with one person calling another something and goes on from there.
Are you anonymous or real on these sites?
Real. I use my real name and face.
OK now that we’ve talked about these tools in your personal life, can we talk a bit about school?
Do you use Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr at school?
I use Twitter on my cell phone.
Are you allowed to?
You have to sneak it in class.
Do you have any teachers that use this stuff in the classroom?
(Looks dumbfounded) No, they might show us a picture if it’s online or something.
What are your thoughts on school?
To be honest, I don’t really like it. They just pile stuff on. There’s too much … learning.
(Taken aback) I’m guessing you don’t hate all learning, right? Do you mean you don’t like the kind of learning that happens in school?
Ya. I like hands-on learning. Not just like ‘Here’s a question, answer it’ type stuff.
How would you feel if a teacher took something you love, like Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr and used it for learning in the classroom?
(Pauses, again looks like it was never presented as a possibility) What do you mean?
Imagine if there was something like a Facebook for school or Twitter for school?
I don’t know.
It never occurred to you that we could use these for learning in school?
OK, let’s switch to a common hot topic. Do you think kids should be allowed to use cell phones in schools?
I think they should let us because we can use them to connect and share and find information. Like, we’re using them anyway.
Thanks so much Alanna. I’d love to just ask you one more question. You were saying before that you weren’t happy with the type of learning happening in schools. If you were the boss of all the schools what would you change first?
Instead of making us use paper and pen for everything, I’d want them to use more technology and computers. I just wish they’d give us more freedom.