Teacher's unusual lesson on social networking

Some teachers take precautions to avoid their students on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. But not Jean-Marie Pascale-Parra.

For homework recently, she required her charges to “friend” her.

The unusual assignment was part of the Roosevelt Middle School teacher’s technology-focused industrial tech class, designed to teach students how to make the most of technology and the Internet while also staying safe.

“My goal is that they are going to be able to grow their technology understanding, that they will be able to work collaborative with other students [and] construct artifacts of their learning,” said Pascale-Parra, who recently completed a master’s degree program that focused on the integration of technology and education.

The concept for the class came together last spring after Glendale Unified received a $145,000 state grant to bolster its technical education programs at its middle schools, said Cuauhtemoc Avila, director of educational services with the district.

Officials at Roosevelt said they decided to invest their portion of the money in a technology course in order to arm their students with skills they will need in high school and college.

“We really wanted to put all the technology we are investing in in the kids’ hands so that they can take advantage of this awesome opportunity,” Roosevelt Vice-Principal Perla Chavez-Fritz said.

Pascale-Parra’s classroom, located in the school’s new two-story building, is now equipped with 40 laptop computers, 20 digital cameras, an interactive white board and a new printer.

Students created accounts on Gaggle, which functions similarly to Facebook and allows students to maintain profiles and communicate with their teacher and their peers.

“For some students, it was the first time they had had digital cameras in their hands,” Pascale-Parra said. “They learned how to take pictures with a digital camera, download the photo to a computer and then upload the photo to their profile … on their Gaggle account.”

They have also delved into multimedia journalism, she said.

“The students have all posted a blog, and have commented and responded to their classmates’ blogs,” Pascale-Parra said. “For most of them, it was the first time they had ever really heard or done a blog.”

Lessons include how to search the Internet for information, and how to determine which sources of information are trustworthy. Heavy emphasis is placed on safety and the appropriate use of technology.

The long-term goal is to integrate the use of technology into core studies, Pascale-Parra said.

“This is a skill that is not going away,” she said.

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