Wired Pursuits

Posts Tagged ‘in the classroom

I’ve been mulling this around in my mind for a while and the more I think about it, the more I come to believe that all the anxiety and excitement centered around social media is about control – gaining it, and losing it.

Social media, user-generated content, and an expanding set of social tools have shifted control to consumers.

Today, consumers have a voice. And because of that voice, they have gained control. They are no longer satisfied with the information organizations push at them. Instead, they are talking with each other, becoming better-educated consumers, and often banning together to demand better service or products. We’ve heard stories where they promote brands and where they bring brands to their knees.

Consumers have more control. Businesses have less.

Businesses along with PR and marketing companies have less control.

Because consumers have more of a voice, hence more control, it is forever changing the way marketing and PR companies generate awareness, drive sales, and position companies. I’ve seen the reluctance and resistance to give up control first hand. PR companies want to control the message, releasing only what they want when and where they want. A model that, in the past, has been very successful. Marketing companies are reluctant to bring customers into the conversation – “what if they say something negative?” “How do we control the conversation?”

But social media allows consumers to impact and shift the PR message and customers are already talking about companies and their brands.

Control is shifting at schools and at home.

But this shift in control doesn’t seem to be limited to business. It’s happening within school and at home.

I’ve come across much debate about the negative effects the Internet, social networks, IM and other such online social channels are having on this younger generation. I’ve also run across much debate about the role of social media in the classroom.

Is this debate fueled by issues of control? Do parents feel they are losing control in terms of monitoring whom their children interact with? Do they feel a loss of control because they don’t understand how to navigate the new wired landscape (something their kids know more about than they do)?

Some educators feel they are losing control of their classrooms because of all the distractions social media brings. Are they losing the battle for their students’ attention?

As with consumers, students and children now have more of a voice. They can post their thoughts on professors, journal about their parents, and broadcast their opinions to more people than ever before on Facebook and MySpace. They are experiencing more control and having more of a voice than ever before. It that threatening to the older generation?

Is it about control or something else?

So what do you think? Is it all about control? Is social media shifting more traditional relationships and turning things on their heads? Are consumers and the Net Generation more vocal because of this newfound control?

Holy academic turmoil, Batman. What’s all this I’m hearing about the state of education today?

Some say students don’t care.

Professors, researchers, parents, and even the kids themselves say students today just don’t care. They’re not interested in education. They would rather be Facebooking, IMing, or otherwise engaged even during class.

Check out this video made by students at Kansas State University. It’s not a pretty picture.

Some say higher ed refuses to change.

There’s another vocal group that say it’s not the students but the teachers who are the problem. Don Tapscott talks about this in his book Grown up Digital. Academic Commons also explores the issue in a series they published earlier this year.

They suggest that today’s teachers are stuck in the old “I know more than you, so I’ll talk at you for an hour, and you listen” approach to teaching. They refuse to cater to their students’ latest whims (i.e., social media). Teaching isn’t about entertaining but learning.

It’s starting to freak me out a bit.

I’m going back to get my PhD for many reasons, but one of the biggest is because I love teaching and I want to get back into the classroom. I imagined myself teaching at a university, engaging students in great discussions, opening them up to new ways of thinking, and having them do the same for me. (Insert heart warming, inspirational music here.)

But there appears to be a lot of negative energy out there especially in regards to today’s youth, their commitment to education, and the future of education as we know it.

Is this really the right time to go back to school and start a new teaching career?

Not knowing the answer is what makes it fun.

To me that’s what is so amazing and interesting about where we are today – we don’t know the answer. We get to experiment and play with new ideas. Some will work, others will fail. That’s the fun part. So, for me, this is exactly the time to get back into the educational system.

I want to be one of the ones that get to experiment. That get to try new things both as a student and as a teacher.

Come to think of it, that’s what excited me 11 years ago when I started designing web sites for businesses.  We had no idea what we were doing. There weren’t any accepted right and wrong ways of doing it. That’s what made it so exciting. We were breaking new ground.

Pockets of hope.

What’s interesting is if you read deeper and avoid the “sky is falling because social media has ruined the world” types, you see many examples of teachers and students who are revolutionizing learning.

There are many professors out there actively experimenting with new media in a sincere effort to connect with their students. There are universities that embrace new media and actively look for the best ways to leverage it.

I choose to listen and follow those forging a new path. Those excited about the potential of new technologies, and who fundamentally believe students do want to learn.

It’s an amazing time where students can learn form teachers, teachers from students, and teachers from teachers. I believe that social media is revolutionizing our world – business, personal, and education – and those who embrace the change and share their stories will help the rest of us get smarter about what makes sense and what doesn’t.

As an educator, I’ve always looked for new and interesting ways to engage my students (that desire also followed me into the corporate world when I started speaking and presenting to clients).

As a future college professor, and hopefully a soon to be teaching assistant, I’m collecting examples of how professors are using technology to connect with students where they live (i.e., online) and to create more dynamic learning environments.

Here are some resources I’ve come across related to using technology in the classroom.

  • Academic Commons attempted to “understand better the changing nature of learning in new media environments and the potential of new media environments to make learning–and faculty insights into teaching–visible and usable.”
  • Visible Knowledge Project, “a five-year project looking at the impact of technology on learning, primarily in the humanities, through the lens of the scholarship of teaching and learning.”  The studies were conducted from 2000 to 2005, and a lot has changed since then, so it will be interesting to see if findings still ring true.
  • Classroom experiment conducted by Dr. Wesch at Kansas State University. “Instead of the standard syllabus that requires everybody to read a few articles to discuss, we decided instead to organize ourselves into a Smart Mob that would try to read a good hunk of the literature on a single topic in one go.”

I hope that all educators continually mix up what they do in the classroom, looking to find the right mix of technology and face-to-face with the hopes of creating a more dynamic, and yes, fun, way to learn.

If you know of others experimenting with technology in the classroom, let me know.

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