Dr. Michael Wesch makes several great points in his TEDx talk "From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-able." He argues that given today's technology and the ease with which the world can collaborate, connect, share, and organize online, we should not be avoiding technology in the classroom. Lecture style classes in colleges throughout the country are often not utilizing the tremendous opportunity that an online community can offer. Wesch provides excellent examples of collaboration that is occurring online, including a virtual or digitally connected choir, and maps that are collaboratively created by people in the area that are used during natural disasters. When we have such a rich resource literally at our fingertips, why would we not use this in the very environment where young minds are learning about the world around them?
Wesch further asserts that we need to move away from multiple choice tests and from "one right answer" questions. We as educators need to focus on critical thinking skills and enabling students to interact with modern day society, both in face to face and digital contexts. Wesch is urging his audience toward a trend that has taken hold of the education world, one in which we actively engage and challenge our students to think critically and to participate in a quickly evolving society, rather than to passively accept information.
That is certainly the focus of current education programs; changing the way we instruct and engage students begins in elementary school and continues from there through the levels of education. As a future secondary teacher, it's exciting to consider how I will implement technology in my classroom and take advantage of the effective collaboration tools available online. Creating a project as an entire class can be a powerful experience for students, as can sharing it online with the wider online community. As educators, it is vital to understand and utilize updated technology in order to ensure that students leave our classrooms better prepared to participate in today's society.
Dr. Dave White's Visitor/Resident Theory (link below) provides a compelling recontextualization for people's motivations for their level of digital engagement online. White suggests that rather than forcing people into a digital dichotomy largely founded on age, perhaps we shift our perspective to perceive online engagement as a continuum. At one end of the continuum is the online "visitor," while at the other is the online "resident." The visitor is someone who uses the internet to meet specific needs while leaving no trace of themselves in the digital community. In contrast, the resident's digital self or persona stays online when he/she is offline. White addresses several popular concerns about social media by implying that 1) being a digital resident is not a bad thing, and 2) digital residency does not necessitate a surrender of privacy.
What was most striking about his argument was his indication that we should all consider how we use social media in terms of our private and professional lives. As someone who greatly values her privacy, using social media has never been high on my priorities, given that many people I know only use social media to document their private lives. While I'm interested in staying in touch with people, using Facebook or Twitter to do so has never been my first choice. I would far rather have a conversation on the phone, text, or email. For that reason, I'm currently closer to digital visitor than resident. But using social media and the web to broaden and develop my professional network is certainly something with which I can get on board. It will require a change in some of my digital habits, but there is so much information on the web and so many opportunities for collaboration that altering my habits would prove to be beneficial and tremendously useful.
In order to do this, many people will need to consider what exactly they currently use social media for and why. It might require another look at how you use each platform and it will certainly require some curation of each platform, in addition to finding a line to draw between personal and professional. Nonetheless, social media can be a powerful and effective tool for professional development, no matter what profession. Being a digital resident in today's economy will increase your marketability incalculably.