Making sound decisions about teaching and learning substantiated by the fact that you use data from assessments is only partially true if you do not also take into account the information you can gather from directly experiencing what your students are experiencing. Do you Twitter? Have you created your avatar in Second Life? Are you a member of an online social network like MySpace or Facebook ? If your answer to these or similar questions is a resounding NO, then you're missing out on an important source of information about 21st century administering, teaching and learning.
I have always been of the mind set that if you want to truly relate to kids, understand them and make good decisions about their learning, you have to directly involve yourself in the things that they are doing. To that end, I started out in my earlier administrative years as an avid arcade game player (PacMan) and then moved on to video game playing. For one thing, I wanted to understand the video game language but, more importantly, I wanted to understand the process of video game playing to determine 1) if/how this could be used in the instructional delivery of lessons and 2) what skills were needed to navigate through the video world.
More recently, I created an account in Second Life where I created my avatar. Of course, I made myself much younger, thinner, and blond! However, I had a difficult time maneuvering in this huge 3-D virtual world and found it to be overwhelming with the millions of residents moving around. I got very confused by the buy/sell/trade opportunities and just couldn't wrap my mind around the concept of living in a digital continent. On the other hand, there were similarities to video game playing in that the control of actions occurred by manipulating the mouse or hand control.
Being married for 43 years, I was very hesitant to join Match.com, the online dating service, so I asked my daughter if I could log in to her account. You can imagine what her answer was to that. The compromise was that she let me view her account while she stood over me watching. In both the Second Life and Match.com networks I learned that one can be anything or anyone they want to be. And in Match.com, my take away was that I am glad I'm not single!
I graduated to more sophisticated endeavors when I joined the world of online social networking and created a Facebook account. An estimated 300 sites make up the social network universe according to an article in Knowledge@Wharton.
MySpace, with 70 million visitors, has become the digital equivalent of hanging out at the mall for today's teens, who load the site with photos, news about music groups and detailed profiles of their likes and dislikes. Other social network sites include Facebook, geared to college students, LinkedIn, aimed at professionals, and Xanga, a blog-based community site. In all, an estimated 300 sites, including smaller ones such as StudyBreakers for high schoolers and Photobucket, a site for posting images, make up the social network universe.
So, how does all of this apply to making decisions about 21st century administering/teaching/learning? This is best summed up in a study conducted at the University of Minnesota
Educational Benefits Of Social Networking Sites Uncovered
"What we found was that students using social networking sites are actually practicing the kinds of 21st century skills we want them to develop to be successful today," said Christine Greenhow, a learning technologies researcher in the university's College of Education and Human Development and principal investigator of the study. "Students are developing a positive attitude towards using technology systems, editing and customizing content and thinking about online design and layout. They're also sharing creative original work like poetry and film and practicing safe and responsible use of information and technology. The Web sites offer tremendous educational potential."
Greenhow said that the study's results, while proving that social networking sites offer more than just social fulfillment or professional networking, also have implications for educators, who now have a vast opportunity to support what students are learning on the Web sites.
"Now that we know what skills students are learning and what experiences they're being exposed to, we can help foster and extend those skills," said Greenhow. "As educators, we always want to know where our students are coming from and what they're interested in so we can build on that in our teaching. By understanding how students may be positively using these networking technologies in their daily lives and where the as yet unrecognized educational opportunities are, we can help make schools even more relevant, connected and meaningful to kids." Greenhow suggests that educators can help students realize even more benefits from their social network site use by working to deepen students' still emerging ideas about what it means to be a good digital citizen and leader online.
As administrators and teachers, it is important to have a clear understanding of how students are engaged outside of school and in their use of the digital world. The only way to truly understand this is to experience it first hand. Regardless of your age, you're Never2old2learn.
Highly recommended reading:
- "Has social networking technology (blog-friendly phones, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) made us better or worse off as a society, either from an economic, psychological, or sociological perspective?" question posed to experts in a Freakonomics article by Steve Dubner in the New York Times
- The Benefits of Facebook "Friends:" Social Capital and College Students' Use of Online Social Network Sites, a research study conducted at the
- Social Networking Can Have Educational Benefits, Survey Finds, article in Education Week
--Marion Ginopolis - Cross posted on LeaderTalk Blog