A student asked me this question as soon as class was done today, and it threw me for a loop. Not because I was surprised at his question, but because it had taken most of the school year to go by before any student inquired about American social media. This same student, last semester, started to share about VPNs with me. Sooner rather than later, he acquired one (for quite a cheap price, I might add). Last year, I had several 6th graders who had VPNs and used them mainly, it seemed, to browse Instagram.
He then sought to know if I would connect with him if he were to add me as a friend. I explained the boundaries I consider vital between current students and teacher on American social media, how it could influence both sides, and how some distance is needed. What’s ironic is that I’m connected to almost every one of my students on Chinese social media such as WeChat or QQ. Chinese and American cultures and their rules vary while I’m still contemplating this aspect as well as how I can integrate the two.
This question then led my thoughts to split off with curiosity.
1) How free is the internet that my students access and use? How will it affect their lives and education in a Chinese society?
2) How long will Chinese internet, controlled by the Great Firewall, last against students? As a Chinese colleague told me recently, college students are some of the biggest threats to national security.
3) Do I connect with this student on Facebook? Or am I truly setting myself up if I do this? Mind you, the student showed me how he connects to his VPN and then can check Twitter. (Maybe I should show him the power of Twitter as a teacher with my PLN?)
What do you think?
(As for questions under 1 and 2, more of those thoughts shall be addressed when sharing my reflections on Zhao Yong’s book, Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon?)