(A blog post I wrote to 11th graders and to myself)

Some interesting research has come out in the past couple of months that looks at the use of social networks and blogging and the trends that are happening in society today.

Nearly half of 18-24 year old social networkers (45%) told Future Laboratory researchers that if they had 15 minutes of spare time they would choose spend it on social networking sites rather than watching TV, reading, talking on their mobile, or playing video games. The impact of this trend is so significant that a quarter (25%) of respondents state that the rise in social networks has decreased the amount of traditional television they consume.

Social NetworksI continue to look at trends in our society and find myself among those that have decreased my TV time in favor of the social network. I continue to ask myself why is it that social networks are where I want to be and where I do most of my learning.

What I have noticed personally is a change within myself from a consumer of knowledge to a producer of knowledge. Watching TV does not allow me to interact with knowledge, allow me to leave a comment, remix it into my own words, or interact with the author in a true and meaningful way.

Social Networks, and the social web (also known as Web 2.0) allows me to not only consume but easily produce knowledge of my own. It is this interaction with knowledge that leads to new understandings and pushes me to think.

Because I am connected to the social web I am then allowed to create new knowledge based on my new understandings. Does that make sense?

What really interests me is that we use to believe that those who spent all their time connected to a computer where lonely, disconnected, and had no life. Yet new research is pointing to the exactly opposite.

The research, from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, found after two months of regular blogging, people felt they had better social support and friendship networks than those who did not blog.

Social Networks2Those who are connected in social networks already know this, it’s just great to see research back it up. I have very few friends here in Shanghai, but I have support and friendship networks that are very live and personal to me. My wife gets frustrated when we are sitting on the couch at night and I have Skype calls from my friends around the world. She picks up the phone to connect to people, I pick up my computer. I use twitter, Skype, Facebook, and my blog as my communication tools. That’s how I keep up with my friends. I read their Facebook, I read their blogs, I talk/IM them on Skype. I am constantly reading, commenting, writing, learning. Why is it that I hated learning in school and now go home at the end of a long day and look forward to reading and learning from my social network?

Interacting with people in the social web allows us to not only consume information but produce it. This is new to education as we were all raised to be consumers. We sit in class, we listen, we do our assignments, turn them in and move on. We consume, show that we consumed and that’s it. We never were asked to produce, to think deeply about what we were learning and we never had the opportunity to share what we thought (as scary as it is) with our social network and allow them to comment or think deeply about what we ourselves are trying to learn and understand.

Social Networks3In the social web each of us becomes a node of information. We are allowed to connect to friends, people, sites, information. We are allowed to consume, produce, share, learn, recreate, remix, and be as large or as small a node as we want. Education in the 21st Century is not about consuming information (it changes to fast), it’s about creating new knowledge from what we know, what we think, and what we are passionate about.

Knowledge is power! We create it through interacting with information not consuming it! Get social, become a node, and start producing new knowledge.

[tags]sas, 21st Century Learning, tok[/tags]

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I told you this blog was one to follow, and have your students follow as well. The TOK blog (Theory of Knowledge) is up and running and the kids are already posting stuff that I’m bookmarking left and right.

Take this as an example. Sou an 11th Grader who gives suggestions for how to handle your online presence.

With all this in mind, how would one go about creating those words that define their online presence? Those that have no problem at all with the idea need not read on, but I’ve compiled a few quick pointers to help out my kindred souls (I know you’re out there, I’m not all that eccentric..).

  1. RESPECT THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE. This is something just as important as it is obvious. Netspeak and 13375p34k can discredit even the most brilliant of blog postings, not to mention it opens the door to unnecessary comments about how there’s no ‘z’ in ‘please’.
  2. Avoid sweeping generalizations. Of course, this should be absolutely no problem at all, considering we’ve covered it in the ToK classroom. If there’s one sweeping generalization that may be true, it’s that there are always exceptions. And even that one probably has an exception, too.
  3. Don’t complain. Unless you’re at some website made specifically for the purpose, people don’t particularly care about your latest ex or the pet dog that just died. Furthermore, there will inevitably be somebody out there that has it much, much worse than you do, and will not hesitate to rip into you for it.
  4. Don’t lose your temper. Should somebody post a scathing comment despite all your precautions, the worst thing you can do is flip out. Remember that everybody can see your retort, and there’s no glory in being baited by an uppity visitor. If it’s a baseless insult, ignore it. If it’s a legitimate critique, handle it objectively.
  5. Chill out. This is one that I need to put into practice more often. I admit I’m far too paranoid when it comes to what I’m putting out for public viewing. The truth is that as long as you’re sub-celebrity-status, you’re still considered a mere mortal, prone to mistakes like everybody else. So don’t worry so much– it takes all the fun out of blogging.

WOW…5 simple rules for high schools in understanding posting online content from a high schooler. Again..this blog is just starting. It’s only going to get better from here.


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