Facebook and schools have been at odds for years. Whether it’s teachers posting drunk photos or students bullying each other, privacy concerns or inappropriate content, Facebook and school boards regularly have issues. Some states like Missouri have even banned student teacher friendships over Facebook.
Diaspora began in 2010 as four students’ replacement for Facebook. The social networking site is still in alpha testing, but it has the potential to lock down on privacy even more than Google+ for tech-savvy users. It will have huge implications across the board, but it will likely effect education the most.
Diaspora could be the solution for teachers looking for a way to connect with their students without all of the privacy concerns and negative connotations associated with Facebook. It functions a lot like Google+, except that servers can be privately hosted.
A smart, tech-oriented teacher could host a server (cutely named a ‘pod’ by the Diaspora team) from their school computer and lock-down the code to make it invite-only. That way, parents that have concerns about their students’ information floating around online can be reassured that it’s only bobbing in one very small pool.
Like the circles of Google+, Diaspora uses aspects to allow you to sort people into groups. It would be incredibly easy for students working on a group project together to create an aspect and be able to communicate when they’re not at school. This would ultimately mean parents would have to do less driving back and forth to drop off their kids for group projects.
For older students, Diaspora means a way to communicate without sharing everything with the world. Students attending an online university can even turn in their work over Diaspora since the network allows you to retain rights to everything posted on it, whether it’s pictures or words. Posting paintings, photographs and even short stories on Facebook causes concern with students now, since they’re essentially losing their rights to their works by sharing it. Diaspora allows a bit more ease when sharing personal works of art.
Beyond that, Diaspora won’t control what applications go onto the site. It’s an open source project, and the founders intend to keep it that way. Educators can easily create test apps and release them the day of the exam, or they could create digital flash cards or even just host their slideshows on the server. Diaspora has the potential to become a huge, free interactive Dropbox with unlimited space and abilities.
Colleges and universities can host their own servers to ensure student privacy and recreate the glory days where Facebook was only for college students and you could only join a network you were actually a part of. It would help larger and online schools guard student privacy, since they would be able to know immediately if a student was attending their school instead of simply taking a leap of faith in assuming they didn’t just randomly add a college to their profile.
Because it’s open sourced, Diaspora is going to have the full tech support of the internet behind it. Sometimes getting support from Microsoft isn’t very easy. But try asking a question in a Linux forum, and you’ll have an answer in minutes. The difference is that people care about something they help create. Open source developing gives immediate buy-in to techies across the world who would be more than willing to help a teacher out when he or she needs tech support.
Though it’s still in alpha testing, Diaspora is available to join by visiting their site.
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