Creepy Treehouse educators?

WARNING : This blogpost is for social media geeks – that’s why it makes only a teensy bit of sense….;)

Basically, the gist is – students/learners – don’t go to your tutor/mentor’s creepy treehousebuild your own!

A Creepy Tree House is what a professor can create by requiring his students to interact with him on a medium other than the class room tools. Examples of this would be requiring students to follow him/her on peer networking sites such as Twitter or Face book.

For further info on the creepy tree house idea click here.

For a Guardian article on students telling universities to ‘get out of myspace’! Click here.

Enjoy your weekends!



  1. crap term, but very relevant for those working with young people and seeking to make use of online technology.

    I’ve thought for quite a while that theres a risk with various bodies stepping into facebook & social networks that some may feel this is intrusive. It depends on whether you seek the convenience of having everything come to you in one place, or whether you like to separate out your ‘work’ and ‘play’ spaces. At least with facebook you can choose what applications you use and the privacy options are reasonably ok.

    We’re in the process of building a site to help young people recognise their personal development during activities/projects etc. and one of the main conversations has been about the balance between ‘workers’ setting up projects and inviting young people, and allowing young people to determine their own ‘learning experiences’ and grant access to this to people they choose. Most recently its moved much more to the latter approach, but really this is no different than good practice in the offline world.

  2. Yes, the term is another bit of gobbledygook really -not v.helpful in some ways. However, the bigger issue is hugely important – its a creeping concern that the democratisation of voice provided by the web is being somehow squashed by the traditional power structures at play offline at a number of different levels. This educational example is just another instance of this tension in action…

    (Am picking up there on your point about the balance between ‘workers’ setting up projects and inviting young people, and allowing young people to determine their own ‘learning experiences’ and grant access to this to people they choose.)

  3. it is interesting. I suppose you could argue that at least online people are already empowered to make decisions about what they do/don’t sign up for and perhaps they’re able to protect themselves with anonymity more so than in the real world, but then I guess that depends on what pressure there is to sign up and what impacts there are for not doing so.

    I’m not so sure that the ‘traditional power structures’ thing can ever be so effective online though – presumably people simply won’t use them or in the case of some of the links in your article they’ll ridicule or question them in ways that are much more easily done in the online world.

    The idea of supporting people to create their own personal learning environments is very interesting to me and to our project at the mo and its definitely something I’d want to encourage, but I do also think there is a place for educators to try and provide spaces to pass on information and perhaps educate. Whatever systems are in place they have to work both ways – for the student and for the educator. Something about the web is that knowledge nowadays is very cheap – any idiot can find answers to questions, but helping people to use knowledge and apply it effectively is perhaps even more important now and especially with young people to support them to validate that easily obtained knowledge – for these things I think there still needs to be support from ‘wiser’ people, and so its equally important to consider how best to support educators to provide that support as it is for people to choose how they would best like to receive it.

  4. You make some really interesting points – the comment about knowledge being cheap particularly stands out for me.

    I do think instant access to facts and figures provided by the web has cheapened certain types of knowledge in some way. It is the understanding that marks out the ‘wise’ and ‘savvy’. We want young people to be wise, not just be able to perform a really good google search. Anyway… that’s by the by… ;)

    I think for me what it comes down to is participation and involvement – designing the learning process to some extent with the young people rather than imposing it entirely upon them.

  5. The direction the term “creepy treehouse” takes us is towards an analysis of the concept (and, here, the term) as a pejorative for implementations of technology that are artificial, abusive, stifling, and ultimately counterproductive to educational objectives–this was what I was hoping to define in my post, but I also know I tend to write so verbosely that sometimes I lose necessary simplicity, stretching it to other loosely related issues.

    Tyrel Kelsey, a student of mine, and others such as yourself perhaps, want to encourage students to build their “own treehouses”–i.e. positive and relevant social networks or PLEs–and while that’s a useful metaphor for it’s immediacy, I don’t know if it’s as apt as it could be.

    To some extent I agree with the have complaints that “creepy treehouse” is not a suitable term–it would be a social misfit in educational textbooks or peer-reviewed journals alongside other terms like “community of practice”, “cognitive apprenticeship”, or “parallel distributed processing”, etc. But “creepy treehouse” does an excellent job of communicating the repulsion felt by some students to these artificial learning environments with succinctness.

  6. Yes – as you say – the term ‘creepy treehouse’ not perfectly suitable for certain contexts, but it certainly does get across the skin-crawling inappropriateness of certain invitations to engage online!

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