Plus ça change…

June 5, 2010 · Posted in social networking · Comment 

I probably shouldn’t have decided to read a few of my older blog posts. In a December 2008 post, I wrote this:

A little background information is in order here. I’m not a phone person. I prefer to communicate by e-mail or messaging. I don’t feel a need to always be in contact. In fact, I like having times during my day when no one can find me. I tried Twitter for a few months and came away thinking “so what?” I have a Facebook page, but I mainly use it to do something called “poking” which I really don’t fully understand.

Well, I’m still not a phone person, but the rest of that paragraph sounds like it’s describing someone else–a curmudgeonly Luddite not open to new ideas. The truth is that I did try Twitter when it first appeared and found it a fairly useless time-suck. I abandoned it before I understood its true potential as a professional development and communication tool. Since that time, I’ve become convinced that it’s the most important professional development tool that we have available to us. Much the same might be said of Facebook as a way to grow and explore professional communities (although poking still eludes me). These tools, along with LinkedIn, Diigo, Google Reader, and a few others have formed the nucleus of my PLN, and it’s difficult to imagine a professional life without them.

I bring this up because I still regularly encounter stiff faculty resistance to exploring social media solutions as professional and instructional tools, and for many of the same reasons I hinted at in 2008. Particular disdain seems to be focused on Twitter. How many times have you heard someone say “I don’t care what my friends had for breakfast” or “I don’t have time for meaningless chatter” in response to a question about Twitter? There is a deeper sense among many academics that Twitter will impact the ability of students to write essays, as if the fact that one engages in phone conversations somehow impacts one’s ability to give a speech.

Then there is the public nature of social media tools that causes so much unease among academics, particularly the notion that students might “friend” them or somehow discover that they have interests outside of the classroom. These are often cited as reasons that “I don’t do Facebook.”

Such resistance can be daunting for those of us involved in professional development or in instructional technology in general. Moving into social networking does involve some major restructuring of one’s thinking, but isn’t that the essence of teaching and learning–the flexible exchange of ideas in order to grow and develop? Why is it that educators are often the most dogmatically resistant to this kind of shift in thinking? More specifically, why is it that some educators offer such resistance, while others adapt and learn and incorporate new models into their practice? Are teacher preparation programs helping or hurting in this regard?

Lots of questions, but change is possible. I did.

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There is no “now” now.

October 29, 2009 · Posted in citizenship, culture, social networking · 8 Comments 

A few days ago I had a conversation with a colleague that went something like this:

C: I just want to do what I do now with technology. I don’t want to know about social networking. It’s too hard to keep track of everything.
Me: I…ummm…it’s…did you get the time for the next faculty meeting?

What I wanted to say, and what I’ve been thinking about for some time, is that there is no such thing as catching up. There’s no “now” with technology. If you’re not constantly moving forward, then by default you’re moving backward. Particularly with technology, moving backward is an express ticket to irrelevancy. I liken it to being the best typewriter repairperson in the world–you may be very good at your craft, but who cares?

Two years ago, we weren’t talking about Twitter, and not much about Facebook. In a bit less than four years, YouTube has gone from a cautious startup to serving over one billion videos a day. Fifteen years ago we were just starting to talk about the World Wide Web. The processing power used for the first moon landing is roughly equivalent to the processing power of a Furby, a toy that was interesting 5 or 6 years ago. As quickly as things seem to change, we’re probably still on the early curve of an exponential explosion of technologies that will vastly change the way we do just about everything.

But we seem to be stuck on viewing technology as an object and not as a process. Much of the daily work I used to have to perform on my laptop (which replaced my desktop when it became much more important to be able to carry my work with me) can now be performed on my iPhone. The vessel is irrelevant to me as long as I can do what I need to do. Technology isn’t my laptop, or my iPhone. It’s a process for communicating, collaborating, creating, producing, and (somewhat recursively) for keeping up with technology. For an educator, it’s simply a tool of the trade. If you don’t understand how to use it professionally and instructionally, you’ll soon be looking for an office next to the typewriter repair shop.