Discussion 8

Picture of Christina Faerber
How is social media changing the way that students and teachers create information and knowledge?
by cf – Wednesday, 31 October 2012, 12:44 AM

       I have to admit that the most exciting and yet daunting aspect of social media is the fact that the manner in which students and teachers create information and knowledge is a nod and return to some semblance folk culture.  As discussed by Professor Henry Jenkins, the rise of social media has triggered a shift closer and comparable to folk culture, where individuals created to share and pass on; focusing on the social mode of production, rather than the profits. I think these are key factors to contemplate when considering how social media is changing the way information and knowledge is created. It seems that, rather than it simply being a “fad”, the social media vehicle is tapping into something more innate (i.e. likely people’s desire for sharing, interacting, relationships etc. – as emphasized by our guest speaker Dr. Phil McRae). Therefore, unlike other technological innovations that have at times had fairly little impact on education, social media cannot be as easily dismissed.

According to Stephen Downes,  “the emergence of Web 2.0 is not a technological revolution or a technology; it is a social revolution and an attitude. This inevitably encompasses changes in the conceptions of learning and expertise. Therefore it cannot be ignored by education professionals.” (The World Has Changed, 2010).  I would like to echo this observation and highlight that social media has stimulated an attitude shift and hence, a change in approach to creating information and knowledge. As various studies have established, teachers today often face the challenge of preparing students for things yet unknown. While this has always somewhat been true in the sense that the future cannot ever be fully anticipated, the rapid changes that have transpired in this era, make it ever so much more difficult to predict what is relevant a year from today, let alone half a decade. What might have been considered to be an up-and-coming career choice at the beginning of one’s high school or university journey, could basically be inessential by the time one graduates.  The challenge for teachers, as well as students, therefore, is to be innovators in the way they create information and knowledge.

Social media is a crucial part of the innovation process, as it fosters what Professor Jenkins refers to a participatory culture, which mirrors attributes of the aforementioned folk culture.  The trick for teachers is to hone this culture and expand the realm from strictly social to encompass and address other areas, such as civic responsibility. The ability to siphon relevant and important information from the mass of knowledge that exists is also a skill that is increasingly required. While previously, the challenge of getting sufficient resources and knowledge to students might have been an obstacle, social media has almost created an inverse problem, where there is an overwhelming amount of information being thrown at you (whether via texts, tweets, postings, comments etc.). As a result, the need for teachers to be ‘illuminators’ has become quite imperative, when facing the complex and vast web of social media. While I personally do not view social media as the be-all and end-all, its impact is undeniable and hence, demands that teachers, as well as students, nurture the participatory culture into other avenues, particularly by being illuminators and innovators.

Downes, S. (2005). E-Learning 2.0. In eLearn Magazine, Oct. 16, 2005. Retrieved October 31, 2012, from  http://www.downes.ca/post/31741

Draft: The World Has Changed – What About the Teacher? (2010). Retrieved October 31, 2012, from http://www.academia.edu/360724/The_World_Has_Changed_-_What_About_the_Teacher

Media Scholar Henry Jenkins on Participatory Culture and Civic Engagement. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgZ4ph3dSmY&feature=youtube_gdata_player

The Social Media Revolution 2012. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0eUeL3n7fDs&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Re: How is social media changing the way that students and teachers create information and knowledge?
by— Wednesday, 31 October 2012, 05:05 PM

Hey Christina,

I agree with you in that teachers must be innovators in creating information & knowledge. We must sift and sort through everything that comes our way to deem what is most appropriate and applicable for us to use in the classroom. We must decide what is best for our students.

Picture of Christina Faerber
Re: How is social media changing the way that students and teachers create information and knowledge?
by cf – Sunday, 4 November 2012, 10:44 PM

Thanks Jen. I have to admit that the responsibility to ‘sift and sort’, while absolutely necessary, is very daunting to me. I have come to the conclusion, therefore, that as important as it is to provide our students with what we deem is ‘best’, it is also equally (or perhaps more so) imperative to teach students how to weed through the information themselves.  After all, I am continually surprised at how many teens, who I tend to always assume are extremely Internet savvy, are very poor at certain basic Internet tasks, such as formulating effective search queries and determining which sources are largely more reliable than others.  For example, while some students may be able to find the trailer for ‘The Hobbit’ within a few seconds, they may not be as successful in finding academic literature pertaining to it.  Although this is obviously not the case for all students, I think it is essential, especially as teachers, to be mindful of the fact that students may be at different levels. Hence, I think it is critical, when creating or sharing information and knowledge, to incorporate the students in the process and not just present them with the end product. While the logistics in doing so will likely vary from case to case, I am hoping that it will ultimately result in the ‘best’ for the students in question.

Re: How is social media changing the way that students and teachers create information and knowledge?
by — Saturday, 3 November 2012, 11:58 AM

Christina- your idea about teachers becoming innovators and illuminators is great! I agree with you, there is so much information in the world now that we can never hope to know it all or for our students to. I think that your ideas link in really well with the theory of connectivism. When I first heard of this theory I was a little wary, however, I know realize that people, especially our students, need to know how to make connections and how to find the information they need, as they will never be able to memorize everything. It is our role to help with that, including how to find meaningful and relevant information in social media. Social media is a great tool not only for making relationships, but learning about the world around you and, as you mentioned, sharing knowledge akin to a folk culture. Hence, we need to teach our students how to navigate the seemingly endless amount of info.

Picture of Christina Faerber
Re: How is social media changing the way that students and teachers create information and knowledge?
by cf- Sunday, 4 November 2012, 11:16 PM

Thanks for the feedback J. I too am very partial to Professor Jenkins’ folk culture reference. I find that social media has the tendency to come across a little bit technical and cold, in comparison to relationships and interactions in the proverbial ‘real world’, but by viewing it as a tangent of folk culture, it has become more vibrant to me.  Somehow, the visual image of each piece of shared information being like a swatch of fabric that becomes a portion of a large virtual ‘quilt’ is far more appealing than thinking of it as a complex web of information. I think, therefore, that I would approach Connectivism with my students in this manner and encourage them to contribute to existing virtual ‘quilts’ or start one of their own. I would also stress that just as when making a real quilt, one would have to be equally as selective in choosing the right ‘fabric’ for one’s virtual ‘quilt’. Some pieces (i.e. facts, knowledge etc.) may just not be suitable for the ‘quilt’ in question, while others may need to be tailored (i.e. summarized, expanded upon, supplemented etc.) to fit.  The key will be to teach students how to determine what to use when, and how.  I think that is definitely where our role as innovators and illuminators will come into play, hopefully resulting in an eclectic and edifying quilt collection of all shapes, colours and sizes.


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