The other day, however, checking through student messages, as I routinely do to keep a watchful eye on what is going on, I found proof that the feature might serve a purpose after all. I had assumed that most young people swim in these social networks just like fish in water. Yet, I found this message written to a classmate:
Surprisingly to me, some of them find it hard to approach unknown students in the network. Maybe this is also reflected in the fact that the majority of messages so far have been exchanged between classmates from the same schools.
The benefit of the 'friends' feature is apparent in the following message. This student is using it as the icebreaker to get to know others from different countries.
I am now trying to find out from the students themselves how they feel about 'friends' in this project and some other aspects of the network through this discussion. I look forward to seeing if anyone is brave enough to give us any insights into this! It seems that all the students are still rather apprehensive about any initiatives set by teachers on the site. The playground mentality still largely pervades.