Intro to Networked Collaboration

Education and the Virtual Classroom

About social networking in the educational context, using a blogs, chat room or even a virtual environment like Second Life can enhance the learning experience. Not everyone communicates well verbally or are excellent writers. The limitations of the traditional classroom is the cookie cutter approach to teaching, teach everyone the same way and you hope to reach the majority of the students. But what happens to those that don’t learn in the traditional manner.  The visual learner or tactile learners?  In a virtual space an instructor could use photographs, have puzzles for students to work on. Even host a round table to go into some questions you couldn’t answer in class. These methods can be used in a traditional classroom but the school day is only so long. An online classroom also lets a teacher experiment with allowing students to communicate without the invisible barriers that are erected in the real classroom:  gender, ethnicity, race, accent when speaking, appearance.
The student who is silent because of fears of looking stupid now has another venue to express his thoughts and opinions.  What makes the internet the great equalizer is that one can be anonymous and at the same time have an identity, even if it’s manufactured.  And from what I remember of high school, most students were playing roles anyway.
In the “Educators Flock to Blogging”* reading one person who commented said “My handwriting sucks. (Blogging) should’ve been invented long ago.” Of course this doesn’t mean we stop teaching good penmanship, but the legibility of his writing should not be an obstacle to a student’s being able to communicate.

The greatest limitation to the brave new world of network classrooms are the availability of computers to inner city students. I know kids who are still limited to using public libraries or school labs to do their computing.  According to a survey** by the Center for Digital Education where the “rankings reflect the vision, policies, programs and strategies that states have deployed around online learning in an effort to transform their academic environment to meet the needs of students” New York State came in 48th.  That’s at the bottom of the list for one of the richest states in the USA (per capita income)***. My nephew just started in a NYC middle school with limited computing resources.  By the time he gets to high school I worry if he’ll be able to compete.  He has the advantage of a wired tech-savvy aunt but what about those without the resources?

*Educators Flock to Blogging;
**Online Learning Policy and Practice Survey: A Survey of the States; Center for Digital Eduation, 2008 ( Registration required to download PDF
*** According to the 2000 U.S Census quoted in Wikipedia:

November 12, 2008 Posted by | education | , , | 2 Comments

Erin’s First Week Assignment

Henry Jenkins says that convergence culture is where old and new media collide. Converging media is all around us, and has been all around us for some time. In the 1870s, telegraph technology collided with Bell’s new technology to create a new media; the telephone. Highway billboards have become large TV screens in increasing numbers, tapes have given way to digital music technology in the form of CDs and mp3s, VHS media has met its digital future in the DVD and Blu-ray disc, direct marketing has progressed from catalog mailings to telemarketing to email marketing to text message advertising, TV viewers are spending more and more time watching YouTube videos, and digital written communication is moving away from email towards online communities like MySpace and Facebook. These examples illustrate progressions from one media type to another, but perhaps convergence culture signifies something more. Convergence culture implies a situation where the collision of old and new media produces a noticeable cultural shift. One could argue that all of the above have created cultural shifts, and yet Jenkins says, “YouTube is the fullest embodiment of convergence culture”. Perhaps he is alluding to the participatory nature of YouTube (he goes on to speak about “participatory culture”). YouTube is a prime example of participatory culture. It is only successful when users participate, i.e. upload their own media content and view the content of others.

Each new wave of media that rolls into our culture corresponds to a different point in my life. Email became mainstream as I was graduating from high school. The internet became highly accessible during my freshman year in college. I saw a mobile phone for the first time during my junior year, and I bought my first cell phone three years later when I moved to Manhattan. I now rely heavily on email, Facebook, and texting. I see the genius behind i-mode’s targeting of Japan’s child/adolescent market. These technologies hit me when I was in my late teens and early twenties, and as much as I do use email, Facebook, and texting, I can imagine them being even more ingrained in my life had I been exposed to them as a child.

I find that Facebook has changed the way I interact with specific groups of people. It’s incredibly easy to let all my Vermont friends know when I’m driving up to visit my parents. When my dog had kennel cough (highly contagious!) I alerted all my dog park friends at the touch of a button. If I’m singing in something or going to see a show, I can invite my music and theatre friends through Facebook. Casting directors are beginning to form groups on Facebook to make it easier for actors and singers to submit themselves for projects. Lastly (and somewhat to my embarrassment), my roommates and I regularly leave notes for each other on Facebook instead of walking out to the kitchen and writing on the dry-erase board on the fridge! Food is optional; Facebook is not.

September 7, 2008 Posted by | collaboration, convergence, culture, social networking | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Week Assignment

“What are some of the social networks you use and why do you use them?”

“How have technologies like sms/text messaging, youtube, and myspace changed the way that we interact?”

The social networking age has dropped on me like a pile of bricks recently; within the last two years I am sms-ing at breakneck speed, facebooking everyday, a myspace page i never look at, you-tubing more than watching TV and the ever-present, nerve-wrecking expectation that I should already be blogging about my band, or have an itunes page, or at least a video on you-tube nags at my conscience constantly. You see I’m trying to lead a band of 20-somethings, who already know about most of this but aren’t willing to do the PR, and at 35 I’m still kinda impressed with the notion of a cell phone. It is overwhelming and intimidating to me, yet the possibilities of marketing to so many without the need for money or connections is exhilerating. I am intrigued.

I am also living in Norway and have needed to stay in touch with family and friends in the US while having to create a social network here in Trondheim quickly and efficiently. I couldn’t have accomplished these tasks with speed and efficiency if I had moved in 2000 (at least I couldn’t), yet today I have been able to use e-mail chatting and Skype to speak with family across an ocean without any delays or cost. And I have been able to meet and stay in touch with over 80 people in Trondheim, Norway by utilizing Facebook.  It is exciting to be living in what Henry Jenkin’s describes as a “Renaissance culture”. And I think our interactions with each other and expectations of one another have been radically transformed by our recent ability to inform one another about every aspect of our lives in real-time.

“I have developed these concepts of media and cultural convergence to describe the present moment as a kind of Renaissance culture, one being transformed — for both better and worse — as the social, cultural, political, and legal institutions respond to the destabilization created by media change” (Jenkins, Henry. “Media Convergence.”)

September 6, 2008 Posted by | social networking | , , , | 7 Comments