Guest post by – Indulekha Nanayakkara
When I was invited to conduct a presentation on New Media for a group of students who are studying journalism at a local University, the University of Colombo, I was both flattered and overwhelmed at first.
Yes, it’s true that I’ve been reading a lot and working on social media for the past few years, taken every opportunity that came my way to get deeper into social media. However, the fact that I will be speaking to university students itself was in a way, overwhelming. I was expecting myself to be bombarded with questions after the presentation so I read up on extra areas as well.
At the beginning of the presentation I was curious to find out who was on what social networking sites. So I asked them to raise their hands. Facebook – almost everyone. Twitter – Just one girl and she said she wasn’t that active. Blogs – none.
To be honest, I was a little shocked to see the response with regard to Twitter and Blogging. The presentation being on the importance of blogging, in addition to social media; I had to change my stance a little bit and go slightly more basic.
The response was mixed. Some had a sparkle in their eyes, while others had a blank expression. The majority were curious I guess. The back story here is that, out of the whole group of about thirty or so students that were present at the conference, five of them had been to the U.S. earlier this year for a one-and-a-half month long program called “Global Perspectives on Democracy – New Media” along with some students from India and Bangladesh. This was conducted at the University of Virginia. So, it was the same five students who organized the conference I was speaking at – “Youth Leadership Conference on New Media 2010”.
After the conference however, about seven or eight students stayed back and just chit-chatted with me. I tried my best to make them see the importance of blogging as a tool in citizen journalism, as well as the importance of networking through Twitter. As I was leaving, I promised them that I would follow up and help them to start a blog and I think it was an important start.
From what I gathered from the students that I met that day, they are keen on writing. But they are not quite sure where and how to begin. They also had a vague idea of creating a blog that would act as a bulletin board for the students.
This got me thinking. If the situation in universities is such, what about schools? I know for a fact that at least in international schools, the children know their way around chatting and facebook usage. But what about serious networking? Would they think of chatting with their potential future university lecturers or senior colleagues? Would they like to read blogs of students of their age but from various global communities? Do they know that they can collaborate with their friends on class projects once they go home, in order to complete them? And do they also know that they can do research and not necessarily surfing the web just for fun!
Apart from all of this, the good news is, that the students are geared to do their own blog. Once it is live, I hope to share it with your here.