Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Undergrad Students and Technology - Part 1

I wish I had a dollar for every time I said I needed to make blogging part of my regular routine. And I have tried, a number of times. So this time I’m not going to say that. What I am going to say is that I need to get a number of things in my life into a regular routine.

I recently attended a meeting and in preparation for that we were asked to read “The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2008.” This is not something that I would have had access to if it weren’t provided to me for this meeting. MSU does not have a subscription to ECAR. When my own Research Bulletin appeared in ECAR in August of 2007 I suggested MSU might want to subscribe but I think there is just not funding for this, or nobody wants to pony up.

So, in reading this I found myself underlining a LOT of things. My plan is to take 15 minutes or so out of my day and read through the report, posting into the blog what I underlined and why. I hope this can be a conversation, so feel free to post your thoughts about my thoughts in the COMMENTS sections (below). At the very least, I hope this gives you something to think about.

The reason we were asked to review this had to do with an entire section on social networking sites, or SNSs. In the forward, on page 5, Ron Yanosky proclaims SNSs a “quintessential new [form] that define a generation.” I found this to be a bold statement right up front, but I don’t disagree. In fact, I hope to make this very issue part of my ongoing research.

The survey that this report is based on found that 85% of the respondents use SNSs and that number jumped to “95% of those 18-19 years old” (p5). The n on this is 27,317 students from a variety of different institutions, both in size and focus, and only those who the schools identified as freshman or seniors. The n is the response number and not those who received the email invite.

Another surprise is that their findings indicate that “students are neither obsessed with [SNSs} nor careless in the way they share information about themselves.” (p5) I found this most interesting given the number of young people who foolishly post pictures of themselves on sites like Facebook that they will certainly later come to regret anyone else having seen, like a potential employer. Forget that some are posting pictures of themselves doing things that are illegal.

In written comments that were provided, “some students vociferously objects in their written comments to any institutional intrusion into SNSs.” (p6) To that same extent, I’ve found many students like to see groups and organizations from the school in Facebook. So they want us in their they just don’t want us to “friend” them.

Last year I required Facebook for the class that I was teaching and I got a very interesting response from the students. More on this next blog.

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