Got Social?

Undergrad Students and Technology – Part 2

Continuing commentary and opinions on content of The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2008.

As I mentioned yesterday, in the Fall of 2007 I was teaching an introduction to college writing course, its MSU’s equivalent of first year English. The plan was to use several different social technologies in the class as part of the emphasis on the class theme, which was images of the self, perception, and identity. One of those social networking sites (SNSs) was Facebook (FB). The idea was to use FB groups to work and communicate some things but to also use it as a medium to investigate our selves (who we friend, what other groups we belong to, etc..).

The response was a pretty typical bell curve in that a few students were happy to see us using FB, the majority fell someplace between “ok, yeah, sure, whatever” and “I’m not so sure about this but you’re requiring it so I’ll do it”. A small, but very vocal, percentage, outright refused to open up their FB accounts to me as a “friend”. I told them they could do a limited view, still no deal. These few eventually obliged or opened an account under a different email and only use that account for this class. The last small, but again, very vocal percentage simply refused to use FB. They wanted no part of it, they didn’t use it, they didn’t like it, they didn’t approve of it, and they didn’t want to have any additional information about themselves out on the Web, especially on FB. All relented in the end, but it did take some coaxing.

This supports the point originally made in the last posting that students, most of them at least, will be happy to belong to a class group, or an university group, but they don’t want their teacher on their friends list. More and more, around our campus, I’ve seen student organizations saying “find us on Facebook” instead of listing a web site. FB IS their web site. No hosting cost, no HTML coding or uploading pages and links.

Educators ignore the power of social networks at their own peril. Saying that the anything “social” has no place in the educational process is doing two things that are, in my opinion, quite dangerous. First, it is ignoring the way students today communicate with each other and an essential way they process information. Second, it is suggesting that education, and learning, should NOT be a social activity and I believe there is great benefit to the social nature of learning.

I’m not suggesting we give up other avenues in favor of this, just that this gets added as an arrow in a quiver that can always use more arrows.

Perhaps, in the next entry, I’ll actually get back to the contents of the ECAR report. : -)

PodCampNYC 2.0

Today I had the pleasure to present with Peggy Sheehy (SL: Maggie Marat), who works as a librarian/media specialist at the Suffern Middle School in Ramapo, NY. The Ramapo Islands (originally 3 sims but now up to 6) were the first school-owned sims on the Teen Grid.

I was fortunate enough to spend a day at the Suffern Middle School observing how the students were using Teen Second Life in their classes. I left there very impressed after watching four different classes. It was at that point Peggy and I decided we wanted to do something collaborative.

When the call for PodCampNYC 2.0 came out, Peggy asked if I wanted to do a joint presentation. The title developed was “Second Life: Shift Learning” and would focus on how learning was shifting for both grade school and at the college level.

So, bright and early this morning Peggy drove down to pick me up and we left for Brooklyn, to Polytechnic University, where the Unconference was being held. We got there plenty early, which was fine since we needed to put the finishing touches on our presentation slide show. Both of us are Mac users so it was great to use Keynote and make the presentation really sharp. It’s over 30mb, which is the max for Slideshare, but I’m going to try and cut it down so we can post it. I’ll probably reduce the size of some of the graphics.

The day started with a nice opening from the organizers. We then proceed to our first session but the presenter never showed up, so we picked up and joined “Teachers Teaching Teachers”. It was a great session and I’m glad I got to catch it. The next session we wanted to see was in the same location. It was a presentation by Tabitha from Global Kids on some of the machinima their students are doing. It was very interesting and great to see that someone is engaging young people to think and act on global social issues.

During this session we met some folks from Rutgers and we all hit the Cafeteria for lunch. I know, I know…but the food was surprising good and not stupidly expensive.

I was a bit concerned that our presentation followed lunch – that is a slot that many people miss, come in late, or sleep through due to a food coma. Although it is true that a number of people came late, we had a great group. Attendance was not our problem.

The presentation was being made in a classroom and it was clearly not set up for this type of activity normally. No big deal, ya work with what you get when you go to a conference. After hooking the computer to the projector, the projector promptly died. First the bulb went and then the thing would not turn on at all.

This was a huge challenge for us but it didn’t stop us. Peg passed around the presentation on a flash drive to folks with laptops. Those without we invited to move closer to my computer. Peg has a 12” screen but mine is 15”, so we used my computer. It worked, well, and everyone seemed really engaged.

My big gripe about this was that nobody came by at the beginning of the session to see if things we okay and when the tech guys came by at the end to get the projector from the room (we were still presenting, I’ll explain that in a second), I told them the projector wasn’t working and this tech started arguing with me. Forget the fact that I know how to use a projector, or that Peg is a media specialist, or that the room was full of tech types (this is a tech conference), clearly we were wrong and didn’t know what we were doing. This is an example of why some tech types get a reputation for being rude. Fortunately, this seems to be more the exception these days, and I’m sure this guy is highly qualified, but he lacks the skills to effectively interact with people.

Anyway, there was nothing scheduled in the room after our presentation so we just kept going. We told people they could leave if they needed, wanting to get to other presentations, but that we were just going to keep going. We stayed for more than an hour overtime and there were still people there. In fact, three people actually walked out of the room with us! Needless to say, the attendees were engaged and interested.

We attended one more session after that and then decided to brave the rush hour traffic to get home, which was really not that bad.

Overall it was a great experience. Peggy is a talented and gifted individual who has more energy than most people I know combined: I’ll present with her again anytime, anywhere. What they are doing up at Ramapo is nothing short of incredible.

Today’s Presenation

Today I did a presentation titled “Second Life: Blending the real and virtual worlds for a hybrid learning experience”.

The slide show can be found here

Part one is a basic overview, part two talks about my specific class, and part three is a mini-tour in pictures. I also went in-world for a real-time demonstration. There were faculty members there from Anthropology, English, ESL, History, Linguistics, Sociology, as well as a few visitors from around campus.

There are some ideas rolling around my head about what makes the “recipe” for a good hybrid model. When I do post it will be based, in part, on some of what is in the slide show.

Fell free to post any comments or questions you might have about the slide show or hybrid learning models.