Oct 17 2011

Helping Students Negotiate Private and Public Boundaries Online

The following topic might work best as a general discussion: The digital native’s difficulty with negotiating personal and professional boundaries.

Online, one of the few ways to maintain the distinction between our professional and private lives is to keep the personal offline altogether. All the protections offered to us are illusory. Anyone who wants access to our private information can access it with little effort if we put it online. But keeping our private interests offline deprives us of a broad and engaging network of like-minded individuals. At the same time, using the internet as a venue for expressing views and habits not conducive to our professional existence—leisure activities, political views, religious views, etc.—could potentially compromise one’s professional career.

Students today are reacting to this phenomenon is many ways. Some students are resistant to using technology they deem “personal” in an academic capacity. Others use social networking sites to forge professional connections while simultaneously using the same sites to forge personal connections, sometimes with disastrous results. This lack of negotiating personal and professional boundaries could have damaging consequences for our students when pursuing their careers.
Questions that could be addressed:

1. How are your students responding to use of popular technology in the classroom?

2. What role do/should we play in teaching students about successfully balancing their identities in multiple social frames, especially as the internet erodes these boundaries?

3. How do we negotiate these boundaries in the internet age?

About the author


I'm currently finishing my PhD in Composition & TESOL. My dissertation topic relates to blogging and how it can lend itself to teaching students about identity construction. I'm also co-authoring a grant proposal for digital humanities which explores how we can negotiate the boundary between personal application and professional application of technology in the composition classroom.

Permanent link to this article: http://newengland2011.thatcamp.org/10/17/helping-students-negotiate-private-and-public-boundaries-online/

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