Every university auditorium should be required to have power outlets prevalent throughout the room. Good thing someone brought their own power adapter to this one. 🙂

Missing the point with school social networks

I read an Edudemic article this morning about the future of school social networks:

Now, a movement is afoot to create student-friendly social networking sites, which would be limited to education and bound to particular districts or schools. These sites would give students the chance to communicate with peers in person and via the computer, in a setting not unlike an online school. Yet the most desirable aspect of school-friendly social networks may be that they would allow students to work together in a productive manner, while providing adults with the peace of mind sites like Facebook simply cannot offer.

This is all well-intentioned but it likely won’t be successful in any meaningful way.

It reminds me of educational video games. Things that education executives draw up to try to marry technology with their version of learning. They don’t work. You can’t create a video game that kids will want to play by removing its soul.

Similarly, creating a school social network by allowing for social connections which parents, teachers, and administrators approve of misses the point. You’re leaving out the soul of a network. It’s this soul that makes Facebook and Twitter so appealing in the first place.

Growing up outside of a very small, rural town meant being extremely isolated in many ways. Had you told a junior high or high school version of myself that I could use something like Twitter, Facebook, or, hell, even my blog to connect through shared interests with people irrespective of place, age, or social status I would have been floored.

That’s the soul of these platforms. That’s what makes them revolutionary for schooling. If you think creating sanitized, school-friendly networks watched over by parents and administrators is going to create any meaningful learning opportunities then you’re totally missing the point.

Educate kids on proper usage. Teach them online safety. Show them the power of serendipitous connections to people a world away. But don’t, for their own sake, limit their potential because of fear.

College for $99 a month

Imagine if Honda, in order to compete in the American market, had been required by federal law to adopt the preestablished labor practices, management structure, dealer network, and vehicle portfolio of General Motors. Imagine further that Honda could only sell cars through GM dealers. Those are essentially the terms that accreditation forces on potential disruptive innovators in higher education today.

College for $99 a Month

Disrupting College

It’s taken a while but I got around to reading the Center for American Progress report, Disrupting College. 1 It was a really fascinating read, highly recommend it.

One quote particularly stood out. While describing the disruption that occurred in the computer industry the authors characterize the old mainframe model by writing:

We had to take our computational problems to these centralized computer centers where experts solved them for us.

This contrasts with the current smartphone era. We now have the computational power for many daily tasks residing in our front pocket. This all got me thinking about college.

With the traditional college system we have the same mainframe model. We take our knowledge problems and inexperience to a centralized place where experts with many years of training help solve them for, or in the best case with, us. Carry the analogy from mainframe computing over to education and holy mind explosion Batman! If we could even achieve half of the transformation accomplished with computers we’d be in for some wonderful times.

A future where the tools for education are accessible on an individual scale and where geographic location is no longer a limiting factor makes me really excited.

Construction of space in computer labs

I was reading this article about online courses on the MindShift blog today. It starts off with this image.

What a horribly depressing vision of a computer lab. While it is how the lab in my high school and those at Whitman were set up it nevertheless seems like such an utter failure at creating a place where students can collaborate around digital content.

In addition to the great firewall problem of web access in schools perhaps a large reason why online courses and digital initiatives fail is because they are forced into spaces like this.

This is what makes me most excited about the role iPads could play in schools. The opposite of a desktop machine, an iPad would allow students to engage with content without having to sit in straight rows with nothing in front of them but a monitor.

If a school could create socially designed spaces for their computers they might be surprised by the type of learning that happens.