1. Zoe Bettess

    As a teacher of one of the “stranger classes” that Kelli Holden has her students connect with, I, too, love the power of connecting with strangers. My students have had the chance to connect and learn with strangers like the Canadian Olympians who used our #olympianchat or authors who used our #ilovetoread tweets to share their favourite books. With our “stranger” connections our students can learn quicker as well as in more authentic ways!

  2. Troy J Fernley

    I married a “stranger”. I met my wife online before meeting her offline. I hope we did it right, but it’s been eight years and one child later and we’re still going strong – plan to be going strong for the duration.

    In all honesty, the stranger danger mentality is alive and well. There are reasons for it. It seems media outlets only report the horror stories associated with social media. How often do you hear coverage of amazing uses of social media as mentioned by Zoe Bettess? I’ve often thought I’d like to expose my students to different cultures and ways of thought using social online resources, but have never followed through given the perceived backlash I would get from parents and the admin.

    Maybe I’m projecting my own misgivings onto groups that don’t deserve it. As I grew up though, the danger was in meeting a stranger the first time in person. The “don’t talk to strangers” craze started before Internet. I’m guessing the paranoia was due to news stories of missing children, serial killers, muggings, etc. Again, all that negative coverage causes people to be over cautious – creating a culture of mistrust.

    If you think about it though, it’s much safer to meet someone online before meeting face to face. What better way to start to vet your friends? If you follow them online long enough before meeting, you can determine whether or not you want to meet in person. I’m reminded of an old Jimmy Stewart movie – Shop Around the Corner. The two people meet in the newspaper classifieds. A pen pal relationship is started up – they learn that their thoughts and temperaments match while writing (sometimes a much more intimate experience than face to face communication). All the while they are working together – fighting tooth and nail – not knowing that each other is the pen pal they adore. (Not sure how relevant the movie reference is, but if you can ever reference a Jimmy Stewart movie you best not miss the chance!)

    I guess that may be the positive side of meeting someone online as well as the negative. People are more willing to give information to someone online than they are face to face. there is a sense of security that one feels while sitting at home communicating with a stranger – who knows where. They feel safe, so are willing to put more out there.

    It comes down to safe practices doesn’t it? Many parents and educators feel the safest practice is to restrict online access to students. It may be safe, but it is also a denial of the rich resources available. It’s also not realistic – our world has changed since the advent of “stranger danger”. Students will communicate online with our without the blessings of adults. Why not give them our blessings, and the tools, information and education to do is safely?

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