21 August, 2009

danah boyd: Some Thoughts on Technophilia

danah boyd has written a very accessible piece for the New Media Consortium's Symposium for the Future entitled 'Some Thoughts on Technophilia'. It aims to 'provoke conversation in preparation for the event', and I think it does a great job of simplifying some important issues that educators using new technologies need to consider.

I think we all know that "Dumping laptops into a classroom does no good if a teacher doesn't know how to leverage the technology for educational purposes...", and so on, but I think that it is also clear that it's tough for teachers to know how to use a specific technology in teaching and learning, let alone a wide variety of technologies. Learning 'deeply' how to use the technologies requires using them in different aspects of your life, thus it requires you changing the way you do things, and this is time consuming and disruptive. It doesn't fit neatly into managed staff development sessions.

I think educators should be encouraged by danah's statement that "Also there are no such things as 'Digital Natives' ... Most of you have a better sense of how to get information out of Google than the average youth." People of different generations, and perhaps even of different year groups, may have different online habits and subtly different online etiquette, but there's no need for educators to be intimidated by perceptions of young students' competence. You have a lot to teach them about information literacy for example.

The second to last paragraph challenges us to be careful with the online spaces that we choose to use in education. The argument here is not refering to the affordances of the technologies themselves, but instead demands some awareness of how students' various online identities are constructed and how their complex social world works online. This might mean not using Facebook and tools that students may already use in a different contexts for socialising.

By the way, danah boyd has studied extensively how American teenagers use the web socially, and some of her insights are relevant to anyone wanting to explore social aspects of learning and teaching online. The video of her interview with Discover magazine is a good overview, and then have a look at her published work.

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