Thursday, December 18, 2008

Undergrad Students and Technology - Part 3

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

In the Executive Summery of this ECAR report, the authors note, “social networking sites (SNSs) [are} a technology that students are enthusiastically adopting and that is already changing the social fabric of universities.” (p9) Does this make the SNS the latest iPod?

Being a devote Mac person, I use iPod and not the more general MP3 player. iPod has, much to Apple’s delight, become the “Kleenex” or “Xerox” of music players. So many people still make Xerox copies, even if they are using a Canon, Kyocera, or other type of machine – it is still a Xerox machine. To that same end, most people say iPod when meaning an MP3 player.

Back to my point, are SNSs the next iPod. How many instructors out their use podcasts in their classes? Ok, keep your hands up. Now, how many would like to use podcasts in their teaching? Ok, probably a pretty good amount. Why? Did someone one day wake up and say “hey, podcasts might be a great way to get information to the students so they can listen to it any place or any time!” Or is it more that students were carrying around the iPods already and someone got smart and said “Hey, they already have the tool, lets figure out how to leverage that. Lets give them content the can keep on their iPods.”

Students already carry around mobile devices with them. We can’t say “cell phone” any more because voice services are only a fraction of what some of these devices do. More and more we are seeing faculty adopt the transmission of whatever content (or process) they want to utilize for their courses to easy access on these mobile devices.

Montclair State University is a leader in this, receiving national awards for their groundbreaking participation in the RAVE Wireless program. This not only makes use of the tool the students are all carrying around but it was designed to also provide added security, especially important in a day when crisis can strike without warning.

Now, we are all noticing that students are making exceptional use of SNSs. [Palm to forehead] Of course, lets figure out how to make use of this as an educational tool. Caution! Danger Will Robinson. Students can access the content on the phone or iPod when THEY want to, so its access and availability at their own schedule and place. This might explain why they don’t want us as their “friends” in Facebook – since that gives us unfettered, or even partially fettered access to them, it gives the control to us, and not them.

The moral of this, I believe, set up systems that students can be a part of, without getting in their face (or Facebook), and you’re likely to get better buy in.

Do you agree? Are you on Facebook? (I am, feel free to find me , I’m the AJ Kelton at Montclair) Can you think of ways to use Facebook in class – if so, how? What other SNSs do you belong to? Would you want them to use them in a class you were teaching? How about one you were taking? Feel free to leave comments and we’ll pick this up again next time.

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