Why are social technologies such a Big Deal?

Ewan Macintosh asks.

After pointing out that

there are only 23.6 million public blogs, the same again in private ones and a tiny proportion of internet users have a Flickr account. But many more are reading them and looking at the pictures

Ewan goes on,

Suw Charman started off the Socialising in the year 2055 panel (not Social Work panel) of Les Blogs 2.0 with what appears a simple statement: the reason these social technologies work is because they are social. But they are also changing the way that we socialise.

He then quotes from Anne Davis’ blog Edublogs Insights, in which she refers to research on effective instruction. As Ewan’s done something to his blog (or something’s wrong with Firefox), I can’t copy and paste anthing from his post, but here’s the link to Anne Davis’ post.
The paper Anne is referring to is (PDF file warning) Developing the Digital Mind: Challenges and Solutions in Teaching and Learning
by Marshall Jones, Stephen Harmon and Mary O’Grady-Jones.

The paper refers to Marc Prenky’s coined term “digital native” and digital immigrant”. It also refers to Generation X, and provides a table of Generation X-ers are different from others (altho some of these differences reminded me of the differences which supposedly exist between traditional and non-traditional viz. older, students. (This reminded me of a reference in a Nutshell Note by Ed Nuhfer on the book Generation X Goes to College, a 1996 book by Peter Sacks that was discussed as part of a professional development program. The link is to the Amazon.com entry for this book. The reviews are pretty entertaining.)

The article Developing the Digital Mind combines ideas from a paper by B.L Brown (1997) entitled “New Learning Strategies for generation X (see the Digital Minds article for the complete reference; it’s not available online) and from a paper by M.P. Driscoll (“How People Learn (and what technology might have to do with it.)” 2002. The ideas are combined to form an 8-point list of strategies or suggestions for “teaching the digital mind”. You can read the original list on page 8 of the Digital Minds article. I’m just going to comment on one.

#1 – Focus on outcomes. This makes pedagogical sense, and indeed more and more educators are focusing on this. Ted Sizer, for instance, has been advocating “exhibitions” as a form of student assessment. Reality-based learning, hands-on learning, problem-based learning. Just the other day, at the Kyoto Faculty Development Forum for higher education, one of the symposium speakers mentioned the example of a science teacher having his students do a holiday assignment where, while they were back in their home towns, they were to walk around, keep their eyes open and spot some kind of environmental issue or problem that needed solving. His point was (and isn’t it really astonishing that this point needs to be made) that knowledge should not just be remembered, but learned for the purpose of solving some real-life problem or of being applied to a real-life situation.

What do you think of this list? Ewan Macintosh’s responses are well worth reading.

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