An Overview of
Social Capital in Virtual Learning Communities and Distributed Communities of Practice
By B. Daniel, R. Schwier & G. McCalla
A worthwhile read that introduces you to the concept of social capital. Daniel, Schwier & McCalla (2003) explained the value of social capital in a straightforward way while highlighting the complex factors in play. Because of the multidimensional nature of social capital, there’s no standard way to measure it. The authors build on the earlier work of Nahapiet & Ghoshal (1998), which is succinctly pulled together in a thoroughly researched article overviewing the embededness of social capital in our learning communities. Daniel et. al. (2003) noted the positive benefits of social capital include:
increases people’s ability to solve problems
people cooperate and collaborate better
increased positive interactions within the community
increased positive social behaviour
it increases team success in both education and business
reduces financial risk
bridges cultural gaps through the creation of a shared identity
As with anything taken to the extreme social capital can isolate the group by inhibiting the addition of new members or creating a highly cohesive group that begins to deviate from the accepted norms of the larger culture.
While social capital belongs to the individual and can’t be traded, a person’s connections within the group can facilitate the exchange of information. Each interaction within the group or between groups has the opportunity to increase the knowledge of the group member. Increasing your social capital means following the expectations of the group and contributing to the overall goals of the team.
Daniel et. al. noted the significance of a shared language in generating a strong group identity. Even shared stories provide opportunities to shape the identity of the group and share rich sets of meaning (p. 6). The more interactions that take place with positive outcomes the more the trust grows between group members. Increased trust facilitates increased interactions.
Daniel Schwier and McCalla elaborated on the differences and similarities between virtual learning communities and distributed communities of practice noting the most important characteristic is meaningful collaborative learning. The stronger the social capital the more exchange of tacit and explicit knowledge. Individuals learn by sharing, reflecting and making connections to new information, which is enhanced by the sharing of tacit knowledge (p. 12).
We are all part of communities of practice and our willingness to exchange knowledge and learn from others is impacted by our involvement in the group. Positive social capital strengthens our trust in the group along with the effectiveness of our sharing interactions. How we are connected to others within a network impacts the knowledge that we have access to which in turn impacts our ability to learn. Depending on the culture created by group the social capital will either grow and foster more sharing based on the norms and expectations of the group or the effectiveness of the group will begin to decrease.
Whether you are in a classroom or working with a business team, you have to consciously create opportunities to grow social capital. You need clear norms and expectations so that all group members understand how to participate in order to support the team in reaching their goal. Social capital will influence the quality of the knowledge exchanged and the effectiveness of the team. When individuals feel comfortable enough to share their tacit knowledge, the entire group benefits from their experience.
An Overview of
Educational Technology: Effective Leadership and Current Initiatives
By Keith Courville
Courville examine the foundation for effective educational technology leadership through the lens of an ed tech leader within a school. He noted that tech leaders help modernize not only the physical technology found within the building but they model the progressive use of technology. Courville explained that effective leaders need technical, human and conceptual skills to support change within a building. Technology leadership is filled with continual change and as a tech leader you must understand the change process. Courville highlighted Fullan’s work on change leadership as a import piece of supporting organizational goals and pacing yourself in a continually evolving environment. Courville goes on to explain the importance of considering the key components of emotional leadership.
Although not directly mentioned, Courville alluded to social and intellectual capital. He mentioned the value of building relationships within the school as an integral part of sustaining school’s goals and using interactive tools to support teachers as they learn about technology. Because technology often paves the way for discussions of why we teach the way that we do, Courville explained the significance of investing in ways to support teachers as they reflect on their methodologies. He concluded:
Only by developing educational technology leaders who are well versed in leadership practice as well as strong advocates for technology integration, can our educational field hope to keep pace with the development of new technology, and use technology in an effective manner within our schools.
Leadership in the context of change is a challenge and only when you acknowledge the obstacles and importance of shaping the path will you sustain effective change.
Not only does he highlight the importance of tech leaders in education he raises an important point. Technology permeates almost every aspect of our daily lives and the majority of businesses also have a go to Tech Maven. Tech change isn’t specific to education it’s an integral part of business. Courville’s point is important for all of us. Not only do we need strong leaders, we need leaders that are able to help us clarify our goals and formulate a path that will navigate the ongoing technological changes in a healthy way that enhances our exchange of social and intellectual capital. It’s something that we need to plan for.
So what’s my story? What did I learn? ECI 830 has provided many thought provoking opportunities for reflection on the Ed Tech world. Here’s my attempt to try and sum up my learning journey. Because Alec & Katia classes are different than my Blackboard based U of S Educational Technology and Design (ETAD) classes, I’ve included a short section at the start of the video that highlights how we learn in this class. It will be added to my ETAD Portfolio because after I’m brave enough to post my summary of learning and share my last debate reflection this will conclude class 9 of 10 on my ETAD journey. Next up is an independent study on Leadership – Is there a difference between our face to face and online worlds?
So here’s my video….
—The first part is more my style and then, like a fellow ECI 830 student mentioned, I stepped way outside my comfort zone and attempted to rewrite a song. (I should mention my husband plays in a band (guitar and vocals)… I don’t sing…in public…or very loud… so this is way outside my comfort zone – hopefully your ears are okay after;) It’s hiding at the end of the video.
–I’ve attempted to rewrite & perform the Johnny Cash version of I won’t Back Down – It’s now called, “I Will Step In.” Special thanks to my husband, David, for recording the guitar & background vocals and not laughing at me while I attempted to sing it:) He helped edit the musical track together for the song. (It was quite the process, first he recorded the guitar track, then I had to sing, then he added the harmonies… glad he’s a DJ, rockstar, shop teacher. And did I mention… he always sings the Johnny Cash songs that the band plays – he said it was important for me to sing my story.)
Our debates reminded me of the Story of Two Wolves shared by a Grandfather to his Grandson.
“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It’s a terrible fight and it’s between two wolves.”
“One is evil, he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt and ego.
“The other is good, he is joy, peace, love, hope, serentiy, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”
“This is the same fight going inside you – and inside every other person, too”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?
He replied simply, “The one you feed.”
There’s always two sides to the story, to the issue – careful which one you feed.
Thank-you for watching! I truly appreciated learning with everyone!! Truly one of the highlights of my Masters class journey. I can’t thank you enough for sharing your stories and different perspectives. It’s truly added to the richness of the class.
Wishing everyone a restful and re-energizing summer and smooth sailing your Masters’ journey.
No need to keep reading – this is just my reflection on how I came to learn what I did in ECI 830:) It’s a more detailed description of what I tried to put into video with a top 10 things I learned.
What’s my story?
The non-video version
Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase. – Martin Luther King Jr.
It started with a decision to apply to the ETAD program in April of 2014, a letter welcoming me to the program and the fun of trying to register and figure out classes. Class #1 started in September of 2014, the same day my daughter started Kindergarten. Coincidentally, the same summer the Color By Amber came to Canada and I started a home based business all while I worked as a Learning Consultant. Because when opportunity comes along you just have to go for it.
Change is an ever present force in our lives and you can either fight it or learn and grow . So why not step out of your comfort zone and see just want you can do.
Fast forward to the count down to my two remaining classes. I reached out to Alec Couros to see what might be available at the U of R and he suggested ECI 830 – Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology – one SUGA agreement and a “hey, so we just found out your are in our class from Katia and her I am. Working on finishing class #9. (Okay this post means the class is almost finished 🙂
The more learning I do the more I find we are all connected by the stories we tell and those that we share. ECI 830 enabled me to step out of my ETAD comfort zone and meet a whole new network of amazingly talented, reflective and creative teachers. So here’s the story of ECI 830….Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology… which is really a fancy way of saying in the world around us;)
Having just finished a full year of amazing Kitchen Parties with the legendary Rick Schwier, I was excited to join my fellow colleagues each Tuesday night at 7 for our Great Ed Tech Debates.
I use zoom with my business team so it was great to see it in action live with an entire class.
Instead of textbook we shared articles each week and instead of lectures we debated ed tech topics.
We shared evidence of our learning through blogs, which is something that I’ve always wanted to do but have just never had the time to do consistently.
We used WordPress to share our ideas and interact with each other.
In ETAD, we typically posted behind the blackboard walls in discussion forums so this provided a public forum for us to share our ideas.
I’ve never met these educators before but they are shaping my stories by choosing to share theirs.
Twitter gave us another chance to connect and share our ideas and grow our personal learning network.
Finding that online community that energizes and encourages you to grow is like finding a treasure. Together we shared not only our stories but our articles, blogs, podcasts and TED Talks all intended to help us better understand the Ed Tech issues all around us.
While the class talked about focusing on Ed Tech trends and issues, it’s really a course that any citizen would benefit from. Our topics don’t just affect our schools and our students, they affect our lives and our children….that’s who our students are. These issues affect all of us.
Alec and Katia carefully crafted the debate statements to get us to dig deeper and think more reflectively about how the issue affect us and our teaching.
Let’s break that down who’s affected….
You – students, parents, teachers, admin, division, community members…
your kids, your family, your friends
your social media connections…
The conversations that you have matter and whether you choose to step in or just listen impacts the ripple effect of your legacy.
Does technology enhance learning in the classroom?
Technology is all around us. It comes in many forms from the pencil with an eraser, scissors, to mobile devices, to the cell phone in your hand, to 3D printers. There will always be technology. It’s not inherently bad or good, it’s what you do with the technology you have that has the ability to enhance learning.
Should you teach anything that can be Googled?
Google is an integral part of our lives, if I said just Google it – you’d know what to do. Does our 24/7 access to information replace what we need to teach? It all depends how you teach; moreover, how you assess? If your students can just google the answer, what is it we are teaching them? Let’s remember that for information to become knowledge we have to think about it – Google doesn’t think about it it’s programmed to find connections– it’s up to us to use our brain to make sense of the world we encounter and as educators it is up to us to reflect on how we authentically assess students in a information based world.
What we choose to value in the learning process is going to echo forward for years to come.
Our class challenged the notion that memorization is bad, just think of all of the processes you’ve learned that have become automatic. It’s about what we choose to memorize and the purpose of investing in it. I’m more of a connectivist – yes there’s knowledge I need to hold in my own brain but there’s also an immense of amount of knowledge that I can connect to in my learning network (Google or the human kind).
Is technology making our kids unhealthy?
Is it making all of us unhealthy? Again it’s developing an awareness. Each week I find myself stepping back and looking at my world through a more reflective lens. Is my love of technology making me unhealthy? Or rather do I need to be more aware of the lifestyle choices that I am making? Tech is just a tool – before mobile devices, TVs were bad influences and before that books contained information that might just make us want to stay in one place until we finished the story.
As Audrey Watters pointed out, we always seem to have amnesia when it comes to new technology – as if we are the first ones to struggle with the challenges of tech. Are our problems must be more significant than those before us.
Isn’t it really about how we choose to use the tech? It’s how I choose to shape my life? You have to find the balance.
Is openness and sharing unfair to our kids?
Again it’s about the choices you make…. although I may be a bit biased. In a social media, knowledge based world where your life, as Alec pointed out, seems to be public by default and private by effort. I think we (educators and parents) have to teach our children how to become thoughtful, digital citizens that are aware of how their actions will impact their future. Every generation has things to learn and learning what and how to share may be one of the top five things to understand. Like the agree side explained, you are essentially creating a digital tattoo that will live years beyond you.
What do you want your legacy to be?
Is technology is a force for equity in society?
Let’s step back from technology – how do you create equity in your classroom?
Tech has the potentialto be a force for equity, but it depends on how you use the tools you choose to use, how you choose to use them and the prior knowledge that your students bring to the table.
Equity doesn’t just happen, people consistently choose to look, listen and reflect on the environment they are creating in their class. In a diverse world, it’s important for us to recognize that culture shapes the way our brains make sense of the world. So you are going to have to step out of your comfort zone and choose to value equity.
This is the week I learned about Storientation = sharing your story builds connections, listening to the stories of others develops trust and being aware of your organization’s story shapes the path you are on.
Like Malcom Gladwell shared in the “Tipping Point” and Chip and Dan Heath explained in “The Switch” – it’s the small consistent choices that we make that truly shape the path and move us toward our goals. Tech is only one piece of the puzzle.
Is Social Media ruining childhood?
Social media has changed childhood.
As educators and parents, we need to be aware of what we choose to share and the medium we choose to share it in. If you are choosing what you post on social media, you are branding yourself. Changing the identity of a brand isn’t easy so learning strategies to think through things before you post is an important strategy in continuing to build a digital footprint. You wouldn’t send your child to the park unsupervised to spend the day with strangers, so use your not so common, common sense.
Make the effort to be aware of the world you live in and make the best choices you can to help build resilient children that have a well developed tool box of strategies to not just cope but thrive in today’s social world.
Has public education sold it’s soul to corporate interests?
Of all the debates this this one opened my eyes… not that I was oblivious to education’s connections to business. It’s part of life. Schools will always need supplies, tools and tech from the non educational world, what tugged at my heart was …it’s not something I actively reflect on very often. I love google, office, windows, android, apple, share point…. I use the tech I have access to – to create the best learning opportunities I can for my students and staff. If it’s free, all the better… but how do my choices ripple out? When I choose to use Google Apps because it’s free for education do I ever stop to have the conversation with my students about why I chose this tool?
I’m reminded of a conversation I had with my Coordinator or Student Support Services. Attribution theory – as we reviewed IIPs she reminded me it’s great to explicitly teach students the strategies they need but we also need students to learn to think about why choosing that strategy in that context works. It’s important for them to attribute their success to choosing the tool or strategy appropriately.
After all if I tried to use one thing for everything, it just wouldn’t work, but if I step back and choose the tool or strategy that best fits the situational need, then I’m more likely to find success.
What have I learned on this journey?
If you are too comfortable with what you know maybe you haven’t thought about it enough
Learning is messy and that’s good.
It’s all about perspective. We each come to the table with different ideas and strengths and that’s the best part – it’s how we learn by sharing ideas and challenging each other to think outside our comfort zone
If you walk into a room and you think you are the smartest person you are in the wrong room! You become like those you interact with, so choose to surround yourself with people that are going to challenge you to grow outside your comfort zone in positive ways.
The more I learn the less I know & there’s always more to learn
There’s always two sides to every issue, every story has at least two sides. It’s important to respect and listen to the challenges and questions raised by those that lie outside your initial zone of comfort…. you always have to listen first.
Dean Benko explained that you have to find the balance – when you do you will find a state of flow.
It’s not about the technology its about what you do with what you have… then again in our last debate … does it matter the kind of tech you have?
Data and information are just that – knowledge is created by individual minds drawing on individual experience.. making value judgements based on their experiences….tech makes info and data easier to access, more visual and what seems at first easier to interpret… but that of course depends on who created the parameters of what to graph out? Just because it looks pretty doesn’t mean it’s any more valid – you have to think critically and look deeper.
Our ultimate goal is to encourage our students (our children) and those around us to become an engaged, multi-literate learners that care enough to think critically about the information, the environment and it’s sources that they encounter and choose to make a decisions based on their experiences. As Toffler says, the future belongs to the those who can learn, unlearn and relearn.
To reach the end is really to begin again and write the next chapter.
Hmmmm do we have a limitless desire for knowledge? Do we take for granted how easy it is for us to access information? To become knowledge – we still have to process it in our brains and make sense of it otherwise it’s just data. Is our economy today based on knowledge and who has it? Or rather who’s willing to share it? Seems I have lots of questions this week.
(Image from Pixabay – Geralt CC0 Public Domain)
So do we take a bus trip or boat trip this week? Or are we already on a high speed train with the details flying by so fast that we are distracted by the comforts of high speed travel? As with most ECI 830 debate topics, this one raised some very interesting points. How far down the track are we? Have we gone off the rails? Hang on this week’s reflection looks comfy but there’s a lot more happening outside the train than we may realize….
Perhaps it’s a CLEVR dash of StudentsAchieve, a cup of Maplewood, mixed with SKOPUS, delivered through Community Net with a side of SharePoint;)
What kind of vending machines are found in your building?
How do donations impact your school?
Do sponsor names cover your school uniforms?
First let me say we had an amazing array of presenters this week including our very own ECI 830 colleagues Tyler and Justine paired against our guests – Dean Shareski and his team Kyle Schutt and David Fisher. Following the debate Audrey Watters of Hack Education shared her thoughts on the stories we tell ourselves about the connections between education and business. Perhaps things aren’t as clear cut as we might first think.
I’m a Google fan but Tuesday’s debate has me wondering just how much does Google know about me based on my let’s say variety of Google Accounts and extensive use of Google Apps? Is it wrong that Google is my preferred search engine? Has popular culture ingrained it in me? It all made me wonder just when did Google get “verbed?” Anderson explained that “Google” became a verb in 2006, a marketing dream, however, “for the companies themselves, though, being “verbed” has its dark side. A company that does not defend its trademark risks losing it when it becomes a common figure of speech” (para 1). The article is old so laws may have changed since then but it’s an interesting commentary that reaching common phrase status can also affect trademarks.
I find it interesting that we go to google for anonymity. Think of the questions that we would only ask Google…rather than our own Doctor, but ironically Google remembers more about what we are looking for than we do.
Just how deeply embedded into our lives and our classrooms are corporate influences? I’m not saying this is good or bad, I’m just asking you to consider for a moment just how much we are surrounded by brands.
Molnar (2001) examined the history of corporate marketing in US public education. He noted, “Unfortunately, to this point in America, policy makers have devoted much less time to thinking through the constraints that may be necessary on corporate involvement
in the schools than considering ways to expand school-business partnerships.” As Dean Shareski reminded us during the debate, it’s important for schools and divisions to consider how partnerships align with division and ministry initiatives. It’s important to be smart and ethical with whom you choose to create partnerships. He also reminded us that schools have always had a connection with the private sector… think about all of the supplies required to run a school. We are inextricably linked to corporations, but it’s important as Shareski mentioned to look at underlying values of the companies. Yes they all need to make money to survive? But I’d like to hope that some want to partner with schools because they believe they can make a difference for our students not just the bottom line.
Do any of your resources come from Pearson? Likely at some point you’ve crossed paths with this “multi-national conglomerate” (Singer, 2012, para 2). Until the debate, I didn’t realize just how intricately networked Pearson was in the world of education from the traditional textbook to delivering assessments to funding educational research. It’s just not something I reflect on daily, there are different aspects demanding my daily attention. I look for the resource that will best meet the need of my team…I’ve never really stopped to think about how often I prefer one company over another… or does Google do that for me?
Tyler and Justine shared this video which provides another interesting perspective,
In what the Saskatchewan Government proclaims to be transformational times in terms of education and health care in Saskatchewan, I wonder what the long and short term costs will be to our students. When divisions are required to make it work what is it that disappears. I’d like to hope it’s not the people providing the education. As Watters mentioned computers don’t care about us, they respond to code. What worries me is that educators are encouraged to be innovative and creative in response to decreased funding…what state of vulnerability does that leave schools in when corporations offer to invest in your school? It’s not that any one school or division would purposefully set out to lose control over the goals of education but what happens when it’s —find a partnership or decrease class offerings to students. Are the Faustian bargains mentioned in our debate statement closer than we care to think?
So let’s consider “How Corporations Are Helping To Solve The Education Crisis.” Schiller and Arena (2012) noted that 80% of jobs in the next decade will need science, technology and math and they cited a McKinsey study warning that two-thirds of those jobs don’t even exist yet (para. 3). Schiller and Arena explained that companies like Microsoft are taking corporate citizenship and social innovation to a new level to help decrease the opportunity divide. VP of Microsoft Worldwide Education, Anthony Salcito explained
“It’s not just about technology. It’s about bringing innovation to schools. How do you personalize the education experience? How do you incorporate new modes of classroom design and curriculum, or think about assessment differently? How do you change a kid’s vision of his future?…. We have to acknowledge that learning is shifting away from content memorization to a more relevant, personalized, skill-based foundation. We have to dig deeper, think harder and get more engaged to determine what change is needed and then push the pieces forward. We also have to bring a culture of sustainability to the process of transforming education.”
And that’s great as long as our partnership goals are to create positive learning environments where students are encouraged to become engaged, literate, critical thinkers. Will being surrounded by certain types of products unconsciously influence our choices? Just a question…or are we always influenced by the choices of our peers, colleagues and family members? Then again back to the importance of empowering students to become engage citizens who can think for themselves.
During the debate I asked where the bright spots are in educational partnerships. In “The Switch” Chip and Dan Heath encouraged us to look for the bright spots. “When it’s time to change, we must look for bright spots — the first signs that things are working, …. We need to ask ourselves a question that sounds simple but is, in fact, deeply unnatural: What’s working and how can we do more of it?” (2010, para. 12). Alec explained that it’s not easy to find balanced published research on this or perhaps more to the point there’s research; however, only the positive research gets published…I used to joke with my senior science students to keep asking questions, to be critical, to ask who funded the study…. to follow the money.
Just to clarify at this point… I’m a Google fan. I’ve been said to drive the Google Bus encouraging people to join. I like Google Apps for education and how it works in my own business. It’s convenient and it does what it needs to do for me and I will continue to use Google and Sharepoint and Microsoft… but I do wonder now more than ever…
[perhaps that’s a result of 22 months of Educational Technology and Design Masters program or the great conversations I’ve had the opportunity to have with professors and fellow students.]
I do wonder… what is it that I really need to worry about in terms of service, in where my info goes and who has it…. or how much have my current choices been influenced by my choice of educational institutions. We all make choices every day. We do the best we can with what we have and as long as each day we learn more and try to do better than the day before. We will learn from the journey we are on and maybe just maybe we can relax on that high speed training knowing what’s whizzing by outside and that in the end it will help get us to our destination and our next learning adventure.
We were fortunate to have Audrey Watters of Hack Education join us for our #ECI830 class and if you haven’t checked out her Hack Education blog it’s well worth your time. In fact, be sure to take a look at “Ed-Tech and the Commercialization of School” follow up post to our class conversation. Watters (2016) reminded us that testing is a part of the Ed-Tech and corporate interests web. Just think about the business of testing.
She also contended that we seem to develop
“an amnesia of sorts. We forget all history – all history of technology, all history of education. Everything is new. Every problem is new. Every product is new. We’re the first to experience the world this way; we’re the first to try to devise solutions.” (Hack Education, 2016)
Both Watters and Shareski pointed out that we’ve always had a relationship with the corporate sector. In fact it’s been a part of life for schools since we’ve needed things like pens, pencils, phones, chalkboards or books. In particular, I was intrigued by her references to the stories we tell ourselves. Stories resonate with me and it’s how we make sense of and remember the world… perhaps not always accurately as our stories are influenced by our own perspectives.
“the relationship between public schools and vendors has changed over time: what’s being sold, who’s doing the selling, and how all that influences what happens in the classroom and what happens in the stories society tells itself about education.” (Hack Education, 2016)
She cautioned us that schools have always been failing and business models and the faith that data will save us is not new. We just have more ways to collect data, process the data and to look at the data. There’s a innate discrepancy of being efficient and the messiness of learning. It’s an important reminder to all of us “Humans are not widgets. The cultivation of the mind cannot be mechanized. It should not be mechanized” (Watters, 2016)
I’m thankful to have crossed paths with Audrey Watters, hers is a blog I will continue to read as it provides a thoughtful lens with which to consider our world. I leave you with her closing lines:
“The money matters. But I’d contend that the narratives that powerful people tell about education and technology might matter even more.”(Hack Education, 2016)
It’s about the stories we share and we have, now more than ever before, a way to share our stories. And so I leave you with:
this is my story, but what’s yours?
Here are thoughts on this week’s blog from a few of my talented and thoughtful ECI 830 Colleagues:
Chalyn’s post – Selling Souls in the name of education made me wonder… how the future of sponsorship will play out. As we approach graduation, her post made me think about all of the Memorial Scholarships that we hand out at Grad – people have donated money with specific requirements for a lasting legacy. While others have reached a certain level of donation and have had an academic scholarship named after them – in this case our committee attaches the requirements not the group or individual that donated the money. I think it depends on why people or businesses do what they do… do I give money because I want something from it or because it will make life better for others? Then again the Scholarship Fund is separate from school – we are a non-profit that gives back….It’s really more complicated than we first imagine.
Dean’s post – Name Your Price – made me think about how sponsorship changes over time…what impact does that have as names come and go?
Luke shared “The important consideration becomes whether the corporate involvement in schools is actually providing enhanced learning for students.” Partnerships with corporations have the potential to connected talented industry leaders with students as part of the their educational journey. Is that good or bad? Does it come at a price?
Are you ready for this week’s bus trip? Debate number two of our ECI 830 class featured the controversial question,
Is Social Media ruining childhood?
Geralt at Pixabay CC0 Public Domain
Now here’s the power of a learning network and reflection… just when you think you know where you stand and that as a parent and an educator you are doing the best you can … you jump into a debate about social media.
Is it ruining childhood? That seems to be a pretty extreme statement at first.
Is social media childhood? It’s certainty part of it is…
I think we have to acknowledge as Rick Lavoie shared in a workshop I attended, that we need to recognize the childhood our students and children are experiencing is nothing like the childhood we experienced. He cautioned us to think about how we respond to students…
“I know what it’s like to be a kid”
Unsplash @ Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain
… he reminded us we don’t. Our environment has changed significantly. Now I realize that statement begins to date me a bit and that’s okay. For the majority of educators, I would venture a guess that we didn’t grow up with social media, mobile devices, the internet or computers.
In fact, I remember when our family got it’s first computer…. wait before that I remember the Commodore 64 computer that used to be wheeled around on a cart between the classrooms and when it was your turn you were allowed to play on it for a few minutes… concentration or maybe later on Oregon Trail. Our family computer featured a green monochrome monitor and a dot matrix printer that we could use to type up our school assignments. Then later in my high school years it was the cell phone… it came in a bag… it was only for emergencies or to take with you in the tractor so you could call home when you had finished cultivating the field and needed to be picked up. It cost a lot for the convenience of mobility. (Image from Cstibi @Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain)
Social media involved stopping at the local Turbo gas station to check in with your friends so you could figure out where everyone was on a Friday night. Photos generally only existed if people actually developed the film and there was a good chance the picture may not have turned out, the biggest risk there was in a small town … you had to drop off your film at a local store to be developed and someone’s Mom might work there.
Flash forward to today’s school… we appear to be more connected through all of our devices than ever before, but are we authentically connected? Perhaps today’s bus trip is more of a boat ride in the social media stream. Kudos to both teams for sharing thoughtful points on the impacts of social media. It’s really made me think about the impacts of social media not just on our children but on adults as well. After all, today’s adults are modelling the behavior for our children and buying them the devices.
As it seems each time we dig into a thoughtfully crafted ECI 830 debate statement, I find myself in the boat looking back and forth between the beautiful blue waters with the sunny shore in the distance and the dark grey waters of the open ocean where the waves exist but don’t always show themselves.
Now I’m a fan of the rock the boat theory. Yes sometimes when you work with people you have to go on a metaphorical boat trip (a real life rocking boat would stress me out way too much). Sometimes you have to ask questions or suggest strategies that may rock the boat a bit because the only way to see the other side is to catch a wave that scares you but let’s you see what’s out there.
I think the moral of this week’s debate is social media is not going away and we have to find a way to support our children and build their toolbox of strategies before they get to far out on the boat and drift away.
Bowden shared the story of Rebecca who explained that not only was she bullied at school, it followed her home because of social media. In our desire to be connected we continue to turn to the platform that helps us connect. The problem arises when the ratio of positive to negative interaction tips into a extreme range and our face to face and online life reinforce the same negative attention. It causes the mob mentality of a feeding frenzy. Now your boat is really more like a shark cage and you are holding dinner. No matter where you turn someone is rushing in to take a piece out of you. It’s exhausting and scary. Scary to think that even in the safety of our homes our children are still subject to attack.
In the Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell reflected on the broken windows effect. “If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge.” Gladwell explained in several examples how small changes in the environment can tip larger epidemics. If your boat trip drifts into some murkier waters and people treat each other negatively and that’s seen as okay, it certainly opens the flood gates for some larger predators to swim through. I would guess that he majority of online bystanders that join the bullying mob rationalize from the context that their behavior will help them fit in. The individuals themselves would likely be able to distinguish right from wrong quite distinctly. It’s the context that causes the individual to tip.
While it’s important to think before you post, just how much are we consciously branding our online persona into the life we think we should have versus the one we actually live. It’s really about the balance. “This presents an unprecedented paradox. With all the powerful social technologies at our fingertips, we are more connected – and potentially more disconnected – than ever before” (Tardanico, 2012)
So just how do you increase the know, like and trust factor of online interactions when it’s a visual yet text based interaction? It’s a conversation I’ve had with Carla Gradin, body language trainer, wardrobe stylist and creator of the Killer Confidence Course. How you take pictures and frame the video matters. Body language truly does impact how we interact with others. In fact, it affects your primal brain causing you to respond in ways you don’t even consciously think about.
Feel like you’re in a rubber dingy floating out to see as it’s getting dark? Don’t fear, social media can also have a deeply positive effect on your emotional state. The UCLA Center Mental Health in Schools noted 6 explicit benefits of social networking for peer relationships including building a sense of community for those more isolated, creating closer bonds and building positive relationships. Caroline Knorr explained social media can help provide genuine support, enable them to express themselves, while offering a sense of belonging (5 Reasons You Don’t Need to Worry About Kids and Social Media, 2015)
So perhaps we’re not alone in the boat, maybe we are part of a flotilla which is part of a larger fleet. For as many sharks and predators that swim in the ocean there are billions of plankton that form the foundation of the food web. Perhaps we are surrounded by the good we just have to be in the right context to see it?
As Jan Rezab explained Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are just platforms. It’s the people that make the difference and what a difference one person can make in our connected world. Rezab shared the Arab springs example, along with how the Turkish government blocked Twitter and Facebook. To that he added how in Turkey, more people posted to Twitter when it was banned than ever before. He reminded us how now more than ever individuals have a voice that can be heard and how together we can impact change at a government or organizational level.
The power of amplification.
What social media really did was give us the power to connect with others on a larger scale. Think about events organized on Facebook and the ripple effect it has on the number of people involved.
Rezab asked instead of retweeting the famous Oscar Selfie,
Screenshot from Twitter
why not retweet things that can change our world. As Bowden quoted, “We need to realize young people are on social media and that’s here to stay,” Russell says. “Now, it’s about giving them the skills to manage their online lives and the resilience to bounce back.”
And to that I would add it’s not just about giving our children the skills and tools to be resilient online it’s about helping us as parents learn how to help our children. So when the boat trip gets a little rough, our children know that we are here to help. And when the time comes for them to leave the safe harbor and sail out into the ocean, we know they are prepared with the most resilient tool box possible and maybe a phone to call home.
Here’s a quick video that we shared with our students during our Social Media Cafes that really sums up the impact of cyberbullying.
This week Erin wrote, “Children who engage with social media are both consumers and producers of content. They have the power to create and share words, and we know how powerful words can be. We live in a world where everyone can create and consume media, do our students fully understand the power of our words in the absence of non-verbal communication. Words on their own are subject to many more misinterpretations that words said by an individual. Now this is just my observation, but words are the first choice of our very young internet users. Video is. Students know how to voice search before they can read. Content comes in many forms.
Heather examined the topic through our nostalgic reflective eyes and questions just how true is our recollection of our childhood? I wonder how true out memories are… just how does our story affect how we remember the stories of our lives. She also noted that we often hear more bad than good these days. As now the news comes to us non stop. In the past, you had to actually turn on the TV and watch the 6 o’clock news or stay up late enough to catch the nightly new with Lloyd Robertson or dare I say Knowlton Nash…
“Is the box really just a box now, because there is no one left to play with it as we all sit on our devices trolling social media?” Lisa raises a very interesting point in her reflection on Social Media and Childhood.
Danielle does an excellent job of summarizing key things that we can all do to make a difference in our children’s social media experience. Stand up and step into the conversation, the only people that can make the difference are the ones that engage in the conversation.
Kyle wrote – Social Meida Acceptance Necessary for Parents – it’s happening whether you like it or not and stepping into the conversation matters.