The social web

Think for a moment about the kinds of success stories we read about in the press about how some young people use the web: sharing their music and scoring a recording contract, blogging from a fashion show and creating a TV channel on YouTube, and working with others to write software for smart phones. We also hear stories that are of more concern such as bullying on social networking sites, or the sharing of inappropriate photos. It has never been easier to connect, network, and collaborate as a result of the evolution of ‘the social web’. This trend reflects the ways that we can all now use the web to enable. amplify, and extend social connections.

Drivers for this trend

  • The exponential growth of social web technologies, such as social networks and social media.
  • The ease with which individuals can access and create meaning for themselves via increasingly ubiquitous connectivity, and the rise of the agentic learner.
  • The shift from consumers to prosumers, and connectivism: it’s not what you know, it’s how you locate, use, process, and apply that information. Check out the Bundlr collection of resources for this trend - a neat example of shared curation of content.

The issue for teachers and schools is that it’s never been easier for learners to access and create information for themselves. If control over how we access information is shifting, what does this mean for the role of the teachers and for the way we design learning experiences and curriculum programmes?

Identity and connections — the ‘who and why’

Whenever we upload and share information we add to the identity we are creating for ourselves online. We share data, we upload photographs, and we can have multiple identities across different online spaces. That has implications for the kind of values and the kind of expectations that we have of ourselves and the people around us.

We are also connected to each other in networks, communities, and groups, which provides a huge opportunity for sharing knowledge and sharing information. The implication for schools is in how are they supporting students to develop clear values and integrity, and to take responsibility over the way that they share and interact as individuals online. Check our our Digital Citizenship trend and the work of NetSafe.

The importance of values, key competencies, and of a curriculum that integrates digital citizenship with meaningful learning.

Filters, identities, and digital literacy — the ‘what’

There is an unprecedented amount of information to be shared and created. We can ask other people the answer at the click of a button, but what does this mean for the way our students come to understand Science or History? We have got to help young people learn how to filter information themselves, and help them to become discriminating, questioning readers of the information that they find online. The challenge for schools is to encourage students to develop questions of their own, to not accept easy answers, to look for arguments that go against their own point of view, and to question deeply by looking at information from all kinds of different perspectives. For example, watch the ICOT keynote from Ewan McIntosh as he talks about helping young people become ‘problem finders’.

The importance of working with learners to generate questions that are meaningful, not easily answered, require testing, iteration, and application.

User-driven learning and inclusive — the ‘how’

Web-based technologies are now essentially social in design. Recent years have seen an explosion in social networking sites and social media platforms with news stories and all manner of content going viral in fast-response feedback loops. It is rare to visit a site that doesn’t support sharing, linking, and broadcasting to networks like Twitter and Facebook.

Increasingly, we are seeing schools harness the social web in order to connect with their communities, and we have also seen examples of resources that are co-constructed and shared globally. Check out these videos on Enabling e-Learning that explore this idea further: Sharing learning in the class blog and The Portal Unity Project.

Multimedia resources and technologies on the web now offer unprecedented ways for us to design learning that offers pathways into new collaborative modes of learning, and to sharing our learning with whānau and communities.

Importance of sharing control with learners, allowing them to have agency over what they learn and how they learn it, designing inclusively.

What does this mean for schools?

As well as schools beginning to make the most of the social web for their students’ learning and for their own professional learning, there has been growth in the way they use social networks to draw their wider community together. There is growing enthusiasm for teachers to draw on professional networks to complement and sustain their own learning. Check out the collection of approaches that teachers shared when we called on our social networks for ideas in over 48 hours. The big shift now is towards thinking of ourselves as part of a network, and of each individual as having control and agency over how they chose to learn.

Three big questions that apply to both students and teachers

Who: How do our schools support students to act with integrity, to be responsive and effective online? How is this meaningfully part of the curriculum or professional learning?

What: Are we offering a curriculum that provokes deep questioning, allows students to construct the direction, weigh up information and build discrimination?

How: How can we allow students to drive the learning, connect, collaborate, and harness the technology to show learning in multiple ways?

Learn, participate, and share

CORE staff are using Bundlr to collate links to articles and information relating to Digital Citizenship in a Bundlr collection. There is the option for you to choose to follow the growing collection over the next few months.