There are a few points in danah boyd’s apophenia: The Economist Debate on Social
Networking” to which I would like to respond.
The first is this,” We need to recognize that not all learning is about book learning – brains mature through experience, including social experiences.” Experience is a wonderful teacher. In fact, everything that we do is an experience and so that is how we learn. The value of social experiences is sometimes overlooked and perhaps taken for granted because this type of learning seems to naturally occur. Some might even call this the “school of hard knocks”. Not always, but sometimes we do learn things the hard way, but if we are wise we use those experiences to improve ourselves and deepen our understanding of the human experience.
MySpace and Facebook are simply places for kids to gather and talk about their lives and the world as they see it. I read somewhere that these are the modern equivalent of the old soda shop or some other such place where kids gathered to socialize, which brings me to another point in boyd’s blog:
Yes, there are problems with technology and with technology in the classroom. Anyone critical of capitalism has a right to be critical of commercial social network sites and the economic processes that got us here. But don’t blame the SNSs – they didn’t create the obscenities of the market, but they are bound by them. Also, don’t forget that the current educational system was structured to meet the needs of the market, to create good consumers and good laborers. It ain’t pretty, and the privatization of education and educational testing is downright scary, but it’s a systems problem, not a technology problems.
These sites wouldn’t exist if someone wasn’t making money on them. One could argue that jobs are created through these enterprises, a factor that has a positive effect on our economy. I wonder if the fact that large numbers of products are touted, advertised and sold in an environment that is not familiar to the entire world (such as the local market) has something to do with the resistance to the idea that SNSs could increase students’ knowledge and contribute to their academic development. I mean, most of our classrooms don’t have advertisements plastering the walls. But, the Internet is not a traditional classroom. Add the computer and Internet hookup to the class and the world comes in, the good, the bad, and all the corporate features in between.
The final point in the blog to which I am responding is this:
There are innumerable inequalities in terms of educational technology access, just as there are huge inequalities in nearly every aspect of education. How many schools lack pencils, textbooks, teachers? Again, it’s terrible, but it’s not the technology’s fault. We all have a responsibility to rethink education and figure out how to equip all classrooms with the tools needed for giving students the best education possible, including teachers and technology. Don’t devalue technology simply because there are currently inequalities; no one would go around devaluing teachers using the same logic.
Education has never been equal for everyone. As educators, we should strive to do the best that we can with the materials that we have and fight to provide more for our students. This includes educators in all parts of the world. Whether we like it or not, technology will change and we will need to get with the program to keep up or our society will fall behind. I don’t think MySpace and Facebook are the end all in trying to reach students. I use my MySpace to have my students write to me in Spanish. As you might guess, not a large number of students write to me, but some do and it is fun. Fun being the optimal word here. I fear that if teachers try to use SNSs as an academic tool, kids will shut down and find another place to meet. If we are going to implement these programs, we need to remember the reason kids visited there in the first place and try not to destroy that.