Thursday, October 8th, 2009
Learning in networks involves each participate becoming a source of material/content or review of the material presented in order to ensure the best product is provided. In contrast to this is the classroom. I am approaching this from the perspective of a 6th grade middle school teacher where generating this type of interaction with students is quite a process. In a traditional classroom teachers are bound to the textbook or course materials bought by the school system and feel an obligation to use the workbooks and consumables. Some just find it more efficient. I have had the opportunity to experience the excessive waste traditional schools generate when they continue the antiquated notion that textbooks hold the answers. I had 120 seventh grade students during one of my teaching assignments and was provided 2 new textbooks per student. One textbook for them to take home and another textbook for the classroom. I inquired as to the cost of one set of books and was blown away by the 80 to 130 dollar response for something that will be replaced four years later. I then went to the head custodian and inquired as to how many boxes of unopened or unused textbooks he either threw away or had to send back once a new textbook was adopted. Again the answer confounded me. The custodian told me a story about having to send back 12 unopened boxes containing an average of 10-15 textbooks. Such a waste when the money spent could have been put into technologies and online resources for open education content and connecting networks.
Networks seem to be more interconnected with participants playing a variety of rolls, as a classroom seems more static and roll defined. Professionals bring a level of expertise and interest to the networks and are eager to provide feedback to the community. Middle school students are a bit more hesitant to participate and be active participants in their classroom. Tons of encouragement and modeling this higher level of content interest help to create an inviting environment however it can only go so far in a traditional setting at this point. Students are so molded into procedures and routines that when presented with a more open learning experience they use technology in the only way they have experience, for play and social connections. Our priority should be to establish a new set of guidelines, which allow students to utilize social media in an educational application. The students will then become the designers of their experience in their pursuit of knowledge.
I also believe that transparent learning throughout the professional social media sites will further the placement of curriculum and guidelines to help ease the furthering of 2.0 educations. Active participation in review of current trends and cognitive research studies can guide this progression and the communication amongst a larger researched based network self generates guidelines based on required needs and functions in interactions much like real world social interactions.
Thursday, October 1st, 2009
Cultural anthropologist Danah Boyd’s presentation on teenagers living and learning with social media completely captured my attention. As She begins discussing the implications of social media as it relates to teenagers and their social constructs She delves into some preconceived notions of a changing youth culture. She goes on to reframe the change of youth culture as no actual change at all. The same social forces drove teenagers in past generations just as those forces do today. Teenagers still want to hang out with their friends, gossip, flirt and participate in youthful activities just like past generations. It is actually the larger social context that has changed around teenagers and they are only responding in attempts to meets their social desires. In today’s society more and more parents are restricting their kids face to face hang out time, which leaves teens no other option but to utilize the technology surrounding them. Social sites are a lot like the soda shops and roller skating rinks of the past as parents are now scared to let their kids go to the present day equivalents of these social hangouts.
A lot of the friends teens have in their real world are the same individuals they are friends with on their social sites. They are continuing their friendships and chit chat conversations via the virtual existence they create online. Their online interactions work to generate the same social dramas that exist within their real world experiences. Comments on sites are a way to gain acceptance within their real world friend circles and everyday generic conversations are a means of social grooming as this interaction is the building blocks of adult relationships. However some of the interchanges between teens are in the form of bullying which is quite often based on underlying social structures and the dynamics of social class, which is embedded within the users of social media sites. As teachers we must be careful not to reinforce those inappropriate interactions through improper use of social media in our classes. It must be our goal to show how the system works and use it to further inquiry through the development of critical thinking skills. Most adults believe since kids know how to use the technology that grants them access to their online friends that they can also apply those skills for the acquisition of knowledge and make meaningful connections. Some teens may translate their search and capture skills to academic studies but for most it is a means of extending their social life.
As teachers we must be aware of the perceptions each generation carries with their social connections. Teachers should not be intimidated by technology nor should they feel inferior to digital natives, as this is harmful. We must further our role as facilitator in the technology world and model proper use of these technologies. How to execute this I leave for your thoughts.
Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009
During the presentation this past June by Clay Shirky He discussed the transformed media landscape and how the delivery of the message has changed. He begins by illustrating how in the past it was one message pushed through multiple media i.e.) TV, radio, etc…He continues by sharing stories about how the transformation of social media has given power to the people and how we are no longer passive in our everyday interactions and are active participants. Clay provides a couple of examples of how people use social media to bring about social change. I found the example of the earthquake in China quite interesting. People within the experience were faster at getting the information out than the government agencies that are responsible to monitor geological events. It all happened so fast the government was unable to filter the outpouring of information and as a result twitter had to be shut down. We saw the same government reaction after the elections in Iran as outraged people took to twitter to let their voice be heard. News stations like CNN were somewhat lost without the direct feed resulting in a slow down in the news and the shut down of the social media sites actually became more of the news piece. People capturing events like these and the subsequent discussions about freedom of speech and expression helped to, if even a little add to the global social voice emerging along with this new media delivery style. Even the mainstream media has caught onto the change in perception as evident in the latest cell phone ad where a lost dog is found, seemingly within minutes, and returned before the owner can get home from hanging up their “old school” lost dog signs. Embedded within the cell phone screen shots are the social media sites that are taking away from traditional media delivery styles. I believe this commercial is aimed at subtly influencing the next generation 2.0ers identity and creating a perceived need for the technologies being sold.
How does this apply to education? I recall a teaching assignment where my assignment was set up on A/B days where I would see three classes on an A day and the other three classes on the B day. All classes were 7th grade science and I had to repeat the lesson six times over. At the time it seemed like a good deal as all I had to do was prep for one lesson and present it six times. The same message delivered to everyone. One aspect of this scenario that stood out was how the dynamics of each class changed the dialogue. I even tried to lead some classes in similar discussions based on questions the other classes responded to. This never worked. No matter how many times I tried it was never the same conversation even thought the information was presented exactly the same way. After several failed attempts I just let go and let the natural progression of the class dynamics guide the discussions. What a cathartic moment. I was able to let go of a preconceived notion that educational knowledge needed to be presented in a consistent and routine manner and allowed for the open dialogue and pursuit of knowledge as guided by the students level of interest.
http://derekbruff.com/teachingwithcrs/?p=268 (TED Talk)
Monday, September 14th, 2009
I just finished watching the lecture from Michael Wesch on the influence and the cultural changes brought on by new forms of media. As a child I was very into watching television as I can recall the transformation from knob turning television through wired remotes to the HD tivo delivered delivery system of today. I can recall being heavily influenced by sitcoms especially American television series. I didn’t realize at the time how much of what I watched, listened to and wore was so dependent on social ques from the media. Immaturity played a role as I was searching for my identity in an overwhelmingly full world. Or so I thought until the internet emerged.
For the most part the internet has been a place where I checked emails and kept current on my hobbies with little to no social interaction via myspace, facebook or any other social media site. I honestly was a bit scared to put myself out on the web. To be traceable, trackable, and for others to know what I was doing at any given time was an invasion of my privacy and allowed too much of my identity to be known. I have a huge privacy issue with social sites. Needless to say the majority of my worries have been proven through the media coverage of teachers posts on social sites being called out of line on personal behaviors and some even losing their jobs. This is not to say I am into illicit behavior which I need to hide from society but I was naive to the dualistic nature that these site could be used for promotional benefit. Although I am not talking about the shallow self promoting manner which so many people choose to use this media for.
When applied in an educational context social media can be utilized to generate communities of learners, as is currently taking place around the world. I find myself pushing to expand my vocabulary and striving to speak clearly and professionally, especially when I know it is going to be posted for anyone to view. Whether I accomplish this is for the bloggers of the world to chime in on. One of the topics Micheal discussed during his lecture was the use of social media and how making connections with others can generate communities but with those connections comes constraints. The more we publish aspects of our lives the more pressure we feel to compromise to social values or perceived norms. Also this type of interaction breeds a level of reflected self awareness that makes us question the validity of our ideas. A complex social interaction based on time delayed responses has had a profound effect on my personal and professional identity and an effect of reflection which I think has served me well as I believe we are ever changing social creatures trying to make our mark on the world. However, I am still working on furthering my philosophy in this area so more to come…
Friday, September 11th, 2009
Elluminate is a really cool interactive long distance classroom format. This is the second online class I have had the opportunity to participate in discussions using Elluminate. I find the layout and ease of navigation throughout the window is fairly straight forward. One of the most useful tools is the live view option that allows the moderator to show step by step actions and as well as manipulate the screen and provide an interactive presentation. This form of long distance classroom interaction allows all parties to be involved in the discussion through various forums within the site itself. At no point did I feel disconnected or removed from the discussions due to the use of this technology. Unfortunately during the first synchronous session I was unable to fully interact (video and audio) with the learning community due to technical problems but I am very excited for this Tuesdays session as the bugs have been worked out.
The assessments for the course lend themselves to the personal interaction and comfort level of individual students. There are of course varying levels of comfort with new technologies particularly when the technology is going to be used in the classroom where, fingers crossed, it does not fail. The challenge with all technologies is to finding what really works for the individual educator. A lot of teachers have lesson plan books and curricular units they have been polishing and revamping to make sure they stay current. Unless teachers see a benefit in taking on the enormous task of digitizing all the paper pencil work they have put in the resistence of new technologies can be tough to over come. I am interested in exploring further how we can bridge the gap between paper pencil lesson plans and how to best transfer information to digital media. Ease of use of a program that allows teachers to transfer their information is crucial. There has to be a benefit of ease or teachers will be reluctant to take the journey.