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Social Media & Its Implications for Education

Social Media & Its Implications for Education

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Published by Kate Carruthers
further notes on a presentation given to the teachers of Western Sydney TAFE Colleges in late 2009
further notes on a presentation given to the teachers of Western Sydney TAFE Colleges in late 2009

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Published by: Kate Carruthers on Dec 19, 2009
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Social Media & its Implications for Education
2009
1
© Copyright Kate Carruthers 2009www.katecarruthers.com 
There are three areas that are relevant to both our society in general and to us aseducators in particular. They are: (1) the overall landscape in which we are operating;(2) the social implications of the changes being driven by technology and how we areusing it; and (3) the changing models that are beginning to impact on educationalpractice.
Landscape
Before we leap into a look at the landscape it is important to clarify some things aboutweb 2.0 and some key trends that are impacting on the landscape. Key points aboutweb 2.0 are that:1.
 
It is not new technology – the technology stack is decades old in many cases2.
 
It is new ways of using older technology – we are putting the technologytogether differently enabled by reasonable broadband access3.
 
It is not using the old mindset where technology was the province of gurus –now any script kiddie can make things happen with technology4.
 
It is democratizing technology – this is breaking down the old cabals of experts5.
 
It is applying new business models – we are seeing this with companies likeGoogle and Facebook In terms of the broader landscape I have identified five macro trends that are shapingboth computing and our world at present:
 
Next Generation Internet – semantics, contextual, geo-aware
 
New interfaces – gesture, haptic, auditory, human-computer, voice userinterfaces
 
Hardware - Virtualization , cloud computing enabled by solid state drives,blade technology
 
Social computing - It’s here and it will continue to grow
 
Ubiquitous computing - Wearable, networks, convergenceOf these I will concentrate on social computing and the next generation internet asthey are driving a lot of change that is impacting on the education sector.But probably the biggest change over the past thirty years is the rate of change. Onceit was completely acceptable to wait a week for a letter to arrive, to ponder one’sresponse for a few days and then write and dispatch a letter by post. Then the faxmachine changed all of that. Now we receive emails immediately followed by a phonecall asking why we have not yet responded.The pace of change is increasing and has increased substantially over the past 30years. Look at the mobile phone as an example of this. From the time the telephonewas invented until the mid-1980s it remained recognisably the same device. Now, to aperson who last saw a telephone in 1980, the iPhone or SmartPhone would not evenseem to be in the same family of devices. And, indeed they are not. The modernmobile phone is really converged computing, telecommunications and entertainmentdevice. They even have more memory than my first server.The next thing to consider is the revolution of the internet. Originally conceived as abulwark against nuclear war and as a way for academic researchers to communicate it
 
Social Media & its Implications for Education
2009
2
© Copyright Kate Carruthers 2009www.katecarruthers.com 
has reshaped the world. Now many people use the internet every day as an integralpart of their lives – for sending email, chatting online, shopping, entertainment andbusiness.Along with this growth in the pragmatic use of the internet, social networks are alsobecoming mainstream; with Pew Research from 2009 showing 46% of US adults haveused a social network at least once, and 27% used one yesterday.This area of social computing has been the real area of growth and the data clearlyshows how social computing is changing how ordinary people share, communicateand interact.Some examples of these changes include:
 
In the past email and search engine internet traffic exceeded that of socialnetworks. However, in December 2009 search traffic and social network traffic approached parity in Australia for the first time.
 
Also previously in late 2007, social network traffic surpassed that from emailin the UK for the first time.
 
And adult website traffic was also overtaken by social networking traffic forthe first time in late 2008.The important thing to note here is that the behaviours of searching, sending emails orchecking out p~rn did not change. What changed is the location in which it happens.Thus if you are in Facebook and so are all of your friends it simply does not makesense to leave the application to use another email client.There has also been development of niche networks for different interest groups. Forbusiness there are LinkedIn and Plaxo (amongst many others) and Facebook iswinning the war as the de facto social network for everyone else.Another interesting characteristic of this landscape is that ordinary people are creatingand participating online in ways that were once unthinkable. Without specialisedtechnical assistance people are creating videos to share on YouTube or Viddler; theyare creating blogs on Wordpress, Blogger or Typepad; they are sharing photos onFacebook or Flickr. Remixing music or visual materials is rife –questions of provenance and copyright remain unanswered. Video downloads, online shopping,banking and travel arrangements are becoming the norm.Against this backdrop various researchers have mapped the generations:
 
GI Generation aged 73+
 
Silent Generation aged 64-72
 
Older Boomers aged 55-63
 
Younger Boomer aged 45-54
 
Gen X aged 33-44
 
Gen Y aged 18-32And, while the notion of dividing up the population on the basis of age cohorts isuseful for analytical purposes, it ignores some simple facts about people. In each agecohort is a bell curve for change adoption – with some members as early adopters, themass as early and late majority, followed by the laggards. I fundamentally disagreewith the idea that mere membership of an age cohort determines a person’s
 
Social Media & its Implications for Education
2009
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© Copyright Kate Carruthers 2009www.katecarruthers.com 
relationship to technology or propensity to adopt change. Rather the determiningfactor will become one’s willingness to be connected.This willingness and desire to be hyperconnected via technology will become the newgeneration gap. A great example of this is the loose confederation of people whomeetup on Thursday mornings on the northside of Sydney for coffee. Most of themmet originally on Twitter, decided that they liked each other and thought it would begood to catch up informally for coffee.What has happened is that this has created a vibrant group of people who know eachother in real life now. Business ideas are exchanged, family and social tips are sharedand other connections are made and broadened. More can be seen at their Posteroussite atwww.nscm.posterous.com. Many similar groups all around Australia – I haveattended them in Surry Hills Sydney, Perth and Brisbane.What is interesting here is that online and offline activities are blurring and theboundaries between public and private are no longer clear. The conflicts between theconnected and the unconnected are already being seen in schools, colleges andworkplaces around the world. Just try asking members of your class to turn off theirmobile phones to test this hypothesis.
Social implications
The social implications for all of this are astounding. They reverberate across all areasof life from business to education to socialising.This technology and the way it is being used now is creating massive interconnectionsbetween people and enabling the creation of groups and communities. This kind of community building and collaboration is similar to that we experienced when living insmaller villages rather than in large cities.But think on this – the children of today will stay in loose contact with every group of people the meet throughout their lives from kindergarten onwards. It is going to be achallenge to manage over a lifetime. The only way to manage these masses of looseconnections is by chunking them up into niches. This is where richer technologies thatenable this to happen seamlessly based on use rather than manually based on effort.Another feature of this interconnected world we live in is that we no longer need towait. Delayed gratification is becoming a thing of the past in many respects. Forexample in the area of entertainment we used to wait for a movie to come out or waituntil our favourite television show was broadcast. But now with the advent of decentbroadband and streaming video there is no more waiting. Anyone can watch whatthey want when they want. And they do exactly that, as anyone with teenagers in thehouse with a broadband connection knows all too well.However, against the backdrop of this explosion in connections, information andentertainment at our fingertips we remain unreconstructed human beings. Thisremains similar to our cave dwelling days.

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