TLDE Reading Log #2

The latest batch of readings delved even deeper into technology in the classroom. An important topic that was constantly brought up in each of the documents was Twitter, as well as the identities of individuals that create different social media accounts and what they are trying to convey to the rest of the world. It’s no secret that Twitter is currently dominating the social media world. It’s changing the way people communicate as well as how people obtain news and other important sources of information. It’s even changing the face of education, with some teachers embracing the stranglehold that social media is beginning to have on society. In Suzie Boss’ article “Twittering, Not Frittering: Professional Development in 140 characters,” David Cosand, an elementary school teacher in Oregon, claims that Twitter is one of the best sources of real-time professional development. The term “microblogging” is an important concept to grasp because combines the features of blogging, text messaging and social networking. Twitter is an easy to use tool that is a quick way to network with colleagues, allowing them to share resources, learn from experts and react to events on the fly. Education chats have also become an important resource for teachers. These create communities that educators can partake in that allow them to gain valuable information. Topics such as general education chats, content-area chats, grade-level chats and organization-sponsored chats are changing the way educators obtain teaching lessons.

So how do educators streamline Twitter in to a pedagogical tool? Instructional Designer Rick Reo of George Mason University has created a “Twitter Adoption Matrix” to help speed along the process. By using this vertical/horizontal pedagogical device, Twitter can be used as an effective one-way communication tool for sharing new or broadcasting links, used in class as a two-way backchannel, or as a platform for reflective thinking, asking students at the end of class to sum up the most valuable lesson of the day. Other educators are taking advantage of Twitter in the classroom as well. In an article by Brian Croxall called “Reflections on Teaching with Social Media,” he believes that teaching humanities students to use different tools like Twitter teach them transferrable skills. It’s for thematic, practical and of course, pedagogical reasons. In three out of four classes he taught in a semester, he claimed that all the students conceded that Twitter became a useful tool for corresponding with one other about assignments or work. He was very pleased with the project and he would continue to make use of Twitter tools for in class sharing of information. He also mentions how he would incorporate using it during lessons he would be teaching; treating it as a presumed “live reaction.” Mark Sample agrees with this sentiment in “Twitter is a Snark Valve,” claiming that he encourages students to use Twitter during class, resulting in “snarky” comments from them. The tweets are unfiltered, creating back-of-the-classroom tittering that turns into backchannel Twittering.

This new wave of technology is not always the easiest to understand, nor has it been welcomed with open arms. Croxall used other programs in his classroom with mixed results. Google Wave, for instance, was difficult to implement due to many website errors where students weren’t receiving pertinent information. Zotero was revered by him, but his students had mixed reviews of its usefulness. When considering Twitter, some educators are turned off by the personal chatter; citing irrelevant personal information that people like to post. This can cloud up goals educators have when using Twitter, with some saying it’s simply one more distraction in a tech-saturated world. Something that we will be doing as a class this semester, the “Flipped Classroom,” is another technological way to educating students. This is basically the idea where students learn from videos and media sources from websites like YouTube. This sounds good and easy, but some say that this is simply an ideology, not a methodology, and a flipped classroom adds an extra hour of class for every hour of class a student has.

So it’s obvious that technology in the classroom is a mixed bag among educators. This is probably due to the clash of “old-school” vs. “new-school” educators. This is discussed in great length in the article by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown. According to them, we are entering a phenomenon call the “new culture of learning,” that addresses the issue of moving from the stable infrastructure of the twentieth century to the fluid infrastructure of the twenty-first century, where technology is constantly creating and responding to change. There are certain frameworks that we need to make sense of learning in a world of constant change. The first is a massive information network that provides almost unlimited access and resources to learn about anything. The second is a bounded and structured environment that allows for unlimited agency to build and experiment with things within those boundaries. What it boils down to is the combination of the two, as well as the interplay between them, that makes the new culture of learning so powerful. Take a farmer for example. He takes the nearly unlimited resources of sun, wind, earth, water and biology and consolidates them into the bounded and structured environment of a garden or farm. The new culture of learning is similar to this cultivation process, but we’re cultivating minds instead of plants. What is so great about the world we live in today is the endless amount of resources that we have at our fingertips to take education to a level that we have never seen before. The challenge we currently face is to streamline information and technology into a mainline of pedagogical power.

There is another problem that education, as well as the professional world is currently facing. What i’m talking about is the notion of “identity,” and this is talked in great detail in “Identity, why to teens seem strange online?” The article speaks of “collapsed contexts and invisible audiences” that are part of a teenagers everyday life, because just like journalists and politicians, teens imagine the audience they’re trying to reach, and how they don’t want to be misinterpreted or brought down a notch lower. Teens must grapple who can see their Facebook, Myspace or anything of the sort, who does see it and how those that see it will interpret it. For example, a teenager might say one thing online, but might represent something totally different in real life. Teenagers sometimes treat the internet as something they can hide behind and retain a sense of anonymity, but not realize that they can’t have their cake and eat it too. They also treat it as a fantasy world as well. Take “avatars” in a game for instance. An “avatar” is a character you can create for gaming purposes that can represent something that you are not. If you are fat and out of shape but wish to be skinny and lean, you might make your avatar skinny and lean.  A big problem all of this poses is how the professional world puts a lot of stock in your online activity. You might interview to get into a prestigious school or for an important job, and you better believe that the higher ups at these institutions will be searching your Facebook profile or your Twitter account. One thing that has a lot of gray area, however, is if what you represent online is who you really are. Some say representing yourself a certain way online, especially those in bad situations, can be a form of a “survival technique.” This is ultimately up to the institution that you are trying to associate yourself with, but it’s always important to maintain a sense of integrity. This includes not misrepresenting yourself to put yourself at a disadvantage.

In conclusion, the world is a rapidly changing pace. It’s best to accept all the technological changes that are happening with open arms and attempt to channel them into useful techniques for your classroom. At the same time, it’s also important to educate young students on the pitfalls of social media and how it could negatively affect their life, especially if they are trying to be one person in real life and someone totally different online.

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