Engaging students constructively using Social Computing

Social_media_bandwagon As promised in the previous post I would like to share the results from the discussions among the participants in the pre-conference workshop ‘How 2 B a Disruptive Leader (in Technology)’.

Two topics were discussed in the group I moderated: 1) reflective skills & 2) criteria for the use of social media in (formal) education. Below a short recap of the results of the valuable group discussion.

Insights on Reflective Skills

  • Help students develop their own skills in information selection (scrutiny), make them aware of the limitations of the first hit google generates.
  • Create awareness of the context in which information is obtained, i.e. a google search only covers 40% of the total web as google indexes roughly that part of the web. This is not a problems as long as students realize that this is the case.
  • Einstein said: ‘Information does not equal knowledge’, learning is not about memorizing information, why would you if it’s all on-line? It’s about learning what to trust, how to verify what you’ve been told. It is not so much what you know but who you know and who knows what.
  • Learning who to trust is building your electronic ‘village’, where the village stands for the trusted community which people still require to feel comfortable, if not physically then virtually.

This discussion builds on the notion that students are only digital natives in the sense that they quickly learn how to operate web 2.0 applications. This doesn’t mean that with that they have also mastered the reflective skills to compare different sources and draw their own conclusions.

Criteria for the successful use of social media in (formal) education

  • There needs to be a strong relation with and support of the ciriculum and the courses it contains. No ‘funny stuff’, leave that to MTV, facebook or myspace.
  • The freedom for students to reach their learning goal(s) in their own way (working together).
  • Have students figure out along the way how to get to the learning goal and required results. Don’t predefine the path along which the results should be accomplished.
  • Facilitate the nurturing role of a teacher during the learning process.
  • Acknowledge acomplishment during the learning process. Draw inspiration from the way we cheer our youngest children when they take one step and fall over while learning how to walk.

These insights recognize that students won’t accept a blunt invasion into their peergroup discussions on the social networks that they share with their fellow students. The strengths of social media can be used in education but need to directly address the purpose of school: a good education, a diploma and with that the chance to find rewarding work earning a decent living.

I thouroughly enjoyed these discussions with professionals from ‘real life’ education. Their insights in the day to day realities of education today helped ground the discussion and made it that much more practical. Thank you to all participants, it was a privilege meeting you.

Mike (March/2010)