Tuesday, February 24, 2009

5.*: Education 2.0: Time to sever the link?

Susan Greenfield warns that social networking is having an adverse affect on users (specifically, children) in a recent Stuff article. Just some uninformed hack taking a swing at something she does not really understand?

Judge for yourself. Her publications include Brain power: Working out the human mind, Tomorrow's people: How 21st-Century technology is changing the way we think and feel, and I.D: The quest for meaning in the 21st Century.

As we pursue the promise of social networking in education it is increasingly important that we do not let the tail of social networking wag the dog of structured education. That such tools lead to "shortened attention spans, a lack of empathy and more self-centred children who increasingly define themselves based on what others think of them" is in itself cause to:
  1. Applaud those schools which ban such sites during school hours. 
  2. Refocus the broader contextual issues surrounding social networking onto evidence-based critique, rather than application.
  3. Fundamentally re-valuate calls for 'education 2.0'. 
I hope that Lady Greenfield's warning is taken seriously by all - most particularly those calling for education 2.0, who should really know better. In her comments regarding how such technologies affect 'real conversations', I am reminded by Naomi Baron's observation that online communications give significant control to their users. This change in control alters power relationships, and even what it means to relate to others.

For the record, I am committed to a socially constructivist appreciation of what it means to learn. I am also committed to the value that formal education can add to the process of learning. How far can we go before we actually undermine the very value of what strcutured, formal education has to offer?

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