Sunday, February 13, 2011

"New technologies result in ubiquitous connectivity and the pervasive proximity of unstructured relationships."

This is a quote from Curriculum 21, in which the author talks about "5 socio-technology trends" that are changing everything about how we learn and about how we teach.  I really enjoyed the ridiculous use of thesaurus in that particular sentence quoted in my title, but on top of that, the message is very real to me, and it should be to you students.  What she is saying is that all of this new technology (iPads, iPods, laptops, smart phones, etc.) gives us a stream of data and information that we are almost incapable of escaping.  Have you ever tried to go a day without your phone?  Or even a couple hours without your laptop open streaming a Netflix video?  It's frightening to think that we are crippled without the technology, and, in a way, crippled by the technology.  What I am trying to reference is the "unstructured relationships" that are becoming universal in their accessibility.  When I think about life before I had a cell phone, it reminds me of a time when I would have to memorize my friends phone numbers and I would call them to have them come over.

When I think about life before a cell phone with unlimited texting, I remember calling my friends just to say hi and to chat about nothing... I remember the sound of a human voice, too.  I am exaggerating to a point here, because we still have real human interactions every day.  But when you receive/send more than 1,000 text messages in a day, maybe it's time to take a step back and think about what you're missing.  Skype, iChat, AIM and other instant-messaging services have altered our interactions that much further.  It is useless for teachers and parents and others of the "landline generation" to resist this change.  But it is wholly possible for us to do something positive for the generation that must navigate, sometimes blindly.

I think that the one thing I'd like to talk about more specifically is the social network.  No, not the movie.  Social networks such as Myspace and Glogster are very new on the timeline of technology and human evolution.  The "iGeneration" has not lived in a time when Facebook and Twitter were not around.  It is very easy for the landline generation to put down these social networks, and to block them in schools across the country.  And yet, Facebook has some 200 million users across the world.  YouTube, another form of social networking, is blocked and banned in many schools too.  Why?

These social networks have so much potential in the community of learners, it is merely our responsibility as teachers to grasp it, understand it and use it to benefit our learners.  The possibilities are endless, and the amount of knowledge you can choose to share or not share is unlimited.  Facebook has over 24 million photos uploaded every day.  Who's to say that 30 of those photos couldn't be from a really great lab that we did about bacterial transformation?  Or that 10 of those photos are from a student who was assigned to take photos of science creeping into their every day life?

Status updates have evolved since 2003 when Facebook launched, but the idea is still the same: what's on your mind?  Is there any reason a child shouldn't be allowed to update their status to say "wow, just discovered that I have a Hitchhiker's thumb and can taste PTC paper.  What about you?"  Is there any reason that a teacher can't post the homework as a status update? "Biology, don't forget to do Chapter 6 vocabulary and study for the quiz on meiosis."  What about posting a status update for students to reply to with thoughtful conversation and insight?  "Class, please read the article linked here.  Respond to the article with your thoughts and additional research below.  Keep your response concise while bringing in new information for the group."

The possibilities are there.  We just need to open our minds to the idea that we can trust students with this responsibility.  We must allow them to work in the medium that they will have to use the rest of their lives.  Who better to guide them than a teacher?

Share your thoughts in the comment section below, I'd love to hear your opinion.


  1. I'm really torn as to whether or not we should embrace the new technology and fit it into our classrooms or stay focused on other aspects of education, strategies proven to work. What about old fashioned journals and science notebooks? There is a different kind of thought process involved in writing your ideas out by hand. There are definitely examples of useful social media in education, so I suppose used correctly it is not without merit. I just feel that social media inundates our children's lives, they can and will access it outside of school. I'd like to provide them with meaningful experiences separate from all of the technology in their lives that they might find useful and enjoyable. I guess I'm a hanging on to old school.

  2. Great post...can't wait to see some student responses.