Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hand Held Learning Conference Day 2 Part 3

Danah Boyd spoke next and she is certainly as Graham described, that is an authority on Social Networking. Later she mentioned that she had read over 20.000 profiles and I guess this gives her the authority to speak so eloquently and knowledgably on the Facebook generation.

She has also advised Yahoo and Google on online activities


Two positions continue to dominate technology:

  • It is the devil incarnate – it is evil and therefore to be avoided

  • It is the panacea for education and it will allow us to do immeasurably more than we imagined in the classroom and beyond.



But Danah suggests that the reality is far more nuanced than this- how do we get to a place where learning 2.0 is used in our classroom?

She gives us a further question:
Why should we use this stuff if many of us didn’t actually grow up with it?

Education is first and foremost about teaching young people to think.

The reason that we taught Maths and Literature in the past is not that we were teaching them for their sake, but we were using these as a way to teach children o think.

Putting technology into classrooms will not equate to really amazing outcomes, it will just be another brick, or to put it another way another part of the fabric of the building.

So it is either good or bad then- well in order to avoid these ‘binaries’ as Danah calls them we need to look at the way technology is rupturing our culture.

We need to learn about these technologies that children are using and consider:
How are they using them?
How are they being used in ways we would not expect?

Social Networking sites
Facebook and MySpace etc
These places are where young people go to interact with their friends, people they met at summer camp, all their church friends etc
The point is they don’t go there to meet up with new people or to be found by other.
There are 3 core structures to a Social Networking site:


Profile- online we are just an IP address that is of course until we create ourselves online- avatar and renewed identitys are an extension of teenage bedroom culture
I like this comparison and it is a helpful image- particulary when I think back to how I adorned my room with band posters, photos and gadgets, we now do the same online. Except the audience is much wider!
Public Articulation of Friends –

Here there are 3 clusters of friends:

  • Those who have 30-40 friends
  • Those who have a coupla 100 – so this would be everyone from school, summer camp, church etc.
  • Then the collectors- those that like to have hundreds of friends- these are either spammers or young boys who like to show that they have a lot of hot chicks in their friends list.


In this articulation of friends, the young person is imagining who their perceived audience might be.


Also important to say that friending is awkward. Danah talked about how we would never approach people in life and ask ‘are you my friend? – accept or ignore?’
I can relate to this as I don’t always welcome the friend requests from people I don’t remember or have only a professional relationship with.


The Wall or testimonials or comments – this is also done via IM / MSN. I’d agree with Danah that when you look at this stuff it looks very empty and often consists of – hiya – howya doing?- nothing – or as I watched my friends daughters MSN – wassup – lol- are you there?- chicken nuggets forever- lol- etc for two weeks


We are not really meant to get this as text, it is a form of social grooming between young people and a way of saying are you my friend- yes- I am your friend- Yes I am your friend etc. This answered a question I have pondered for a long time- what is the point of year5/6/7 MSN questions. I am beginning to understand this now.


Teenagers are using these spaces to hang out, why then are they not going out as we did when we were kids?- When questioned teens in US say that the reason they go online is that they are not allowed to go out . This is backed up by recent research in the UK about the distance kids are allowed to roam. Fear of abduction, fuelled by moral panics has got us to the state of anxiety we live in today. I remember seeing this research wonderfully visualized on Child of our time, which mapped the distances from home that children were allowed to travel, do you think I can find this video or the original search online- of course not!! Kids are also far more scheduled than we were, they have a wealth of clubs to attend- which equals the outside world, they are not allowed to make mistakes or explore, so of course we have driven them online to find their space.
We are not quite sure we like our kids on these sites, there are control issues and they also inhabit a world we as adults don’t often understand.There are properties of these sites, which if we understand, we can then use them in the classroom.


Persistence- what you put online stays online- wheras we grew up in an ephemeral world- children now have a digital footprint of everything they have posted online- as Dinah pointed out she has been blogging since 18 and therefore what she posted @ 18 is probably a little embarrassing.


Replicability – You can copy and paste and make public what had been private – you can also be a copy cat I guess


Scalability – You have the potential to reach a very large audience- though most blogs are read by an average of only 6 people- there are mistakes like Star Wars boy, the point is you can never predict how big something might become online.


Searchability – what you write can be found and commented upon and sometimes those comments are not always very nice


Public= Private – many young people think of the home as public while the online world is private as this is an escape from home – how do you train a generation to deal with this blurring of worlds?


If we want to learn to use these technologies in classroom we have to beaware of the dynamics of online realatiosnships, and freidnship dynamics. The friendship dynamic in Facebook would not work in the classroom as it would rupture social norms. Iam not sure I’d want to use Facebook in the classroom anyway, Danah suggested that Ning would be far more appropriate for classroom use.


Maybe I missed the point here, but we did not really learn about how we could use these technologies in the classroom, other than a reference to using the Ning Platform. Though what I have is more thorough knowledge of how and why children use online spaces.
My computer crashed at this point, which was just when Danah was talking about the moral panic around online predators. I’ll need to watch it all through again then, see below.


1 comment:

John Sutton said...

Great post, Anthony. I do think Ning has real potential for teaching children about social networking. I've got my own Ning network for blogging teachers: http://creativeict.ning.com The problem is, and we've all heard it before, Ning is almost alway univerally blocked by the filters despite there being loads of excellent educational communities on there.