Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Undergrad Students and Technology - Part 2

Continuing commentary and opinions on content of The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2008.

As I mentioned yesterday, in the Fall of 2007 I was teaching an introduction to college writing course, its MSU’s equivalent of first year English. The plan was to use several different social technologies in the class as part of the emphasis on the class theme, which was images of the self, perception, and identity. One of those social networking sites (SNSs) was Facebook (FB). The idea was to use FB groups to work and communicate some things but to also use it as a medium to investigate our selves (who we friend, what other groups we belong to, etc..).

The response was a pretty typical bell curve in that a few students were happy to see us using FB, the majority fell someplace between “ok, yeah, sure, whatever” and “I’m not so sure about this but you’re requiring it so I’ll do it”. A small, but very vocal, percentage, outright refused to open up their FB accounts to me as a “friend”. I told them they could do a limited view, still no deal. These few eventually obliged or opened an account under a different email and only use that account for this class. The last small, but again, very vocal percentage simply refused to use FB. They wanted no part of it, they didn’t use it, they didn’t like it, they didn’t approve of it, and they didn’t want to have any additional information about themselves out on the Web, especially on FB. All relented in the end, but it did take some coaxing.

This supports the point originally made in the last posting that students, most of them at least, will be happy to belong to a class group, or an university group, but they don’t want their teacher on their friends list. More and more, around our campus, I’ve seen student organizations saying “find us on Facebook” instead of listing a web site. FB IS their web site. No hosting cost, no HTML coding or uploading pages and links.

Educators ignore the power of social networks at their own peril. Saying that the anything “social” has no place in the educational process is doing two things that are, in my opinion, quite dangerous. First, it is ignoring the way students today communicate with each other and an essential way they process information. Second, it is suggesting that education, and learning, should NOT be a social activity and I believe there is great benefit to the social nature of learning.

I’m not suggesting we give up other avenues in favor of this, just that this gets added as an arrow in a quiver that can always use more arrows.

Perhaps, in the next entry, I’ll actually get back to the contents of the ECAR report. : -)

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