|My Learning Journey||
Watching Saiful Izham Hassan video, "Information Overload and Technology" was a micro exercise in information overload in itself. I must have paused the 3 minute video clip over a dozen times, in order to process the rapid delivery of "facts" insinuating that information overload and the inability of 97.5 percent of American professionals to successfuly multitask has led the economy into a 90 billion shortfall. While I was suspicious of this conclusion, I did appreciate the suggestion that digital distractions need to be limited, books should be read and focus needs to be placed on completing a singular task. This theme was also elaborately echoed in the fantastic book, "The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains", by Nicholas Carr. In "The Shallows" Carr builds a compelling argument that the dynamic and non-linear presentation of information is reshaping our brains and impeding our ability to concentrate on singular tasks and ultimately impeding our ability for deeper focused thought. The suggestion made in both the video and "The shallows" is that if the specific skill of uninterrupted reading is not practiced than we will lose this important skill. It is suggested by both pieces that a strong measure of self-regulation is required. I strongly connected with the food/information metaphor presented in JP Rangaswami, "Information is food", TED talk. Rangaswami, skillfully develops a strong case that information like food, needs to be consumed with caution and purpose. Although he didn't say it, I kept thinking of the expression "You are what you eat", and I suppose the same applies for your brain as does your body. I not sure that I have ever reflected on the consumption of information in those specific terms, but generally I am aware of the value of information I'm consuming. Strangely I like to balance my input of meaningful content with mindless content. After a long day, week or semester, year, nothing seems to clear the mechanism like a mindless episode of "Justified" or a "John Grisham" novel. In terms of becoming overwhelmed by technology, I'm not sure that I've experienced this. When I sense the stress of being overwhelmed or having too much on my plate, I tend to make an ordered list. Writing on piece of paper, I place "life and death" tasks at the top and "would be nice to do" items at the bottom. One by one, I focus on each task individually and just start crossing off items. Usually by the time I've completed a few tasks I feel like I've got things back under control and my anxiety/stress slowly melts away.
In this blog post I summarize and compare An Empirically Grounded Framework to Guide Blogging in Higher Education by Kerawalla, Minocha, Kirkup, and Conole and Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship by Boyd and Ellison. Both articles analyze their topics using various methodological approaches to quantify their value as educational tools.
The biggest difference between the two articles is that the Kerawalla article on blogging focuses more specifically on the value of using blogging in higher education. The article recognizes the potential of blogging then breaks down some of the difficulties when observed in case studies. It outlines the potential benefits to learning as blogs can be used to share and collect resources, promote reflective learning, promote interaction and the building of knowledge communities. It also can promote students to comment on each other’s work and help connect distance learners to a larger group.
The blogging article monitored a group of 10 students and recorded the successes and failures of using blogs in higher education. Specifically, students liked the technical aspects of using blogs and being able to access their writing forum online instead of being tied to a single device. They also noted that students welcomed the idea of having an active audience who was interested in their work. One student explained, “…The issue of it being available to anybody doesn't excite me very much but the issue of it being available to me when I'm online anywhere is good’.”(Kerawalla, Minocha, Kirkup, and Conole, 2008) Some students explained that they were ultimately disappointed with the quality and lack of student comments. It was also noted that as commenting was a mandatory part of the assignment the fun and intrinsic nature of participation was removed.
For my own practice I would like to further pursue the use of blogs, but recognize the need to keep the assignments and motivation genuine and authentic. Perhaps if used in a framework of inquiry based learning, this could be achieved.
The second article I examined, Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship by Boyd and Ellison, focuses on social network sites (SNS). As a user of Facebook, both privately and in my professional practice it was a reflective exercise to review the history of SNSs and to examine how they function, their purpose and how they are used. Directly stated the article seeks to examine, “…a unique collection of articles that analyze a wide spectrum of social network sites using various methodological techniques, theoretical traditions, and analytic approaches.” (Boyd, Ellison. 2007)
The first part of the article defines SNSs then provides a history of their development starting with SixDegrees.com in 1997. It explains that the next generation of SNSs was led by Ryse.com. The visual timeline was fascinating, showing Facebook and Twitter at the end of the 2006 spectrum. The history explains how SNSs grew out of obscurity to gain the social acceptance and mass global participation that we are now witnessing with Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.
Following an examination of the history, Boyd and Ellison review and summarize the scholarly work done in the field of SMSs. Specifically they review studies on “Friendship Performance, Network Structure, Bridging online and offline social networks and Privacy. They document the findings demonstrating how the research has uncovered intended and unintended social behaviours associated with the use of SMSs.
In summary this article provided me with a deeper understanding and forced me to reflect on the SMSs that I use on a daily basis. Ultimately, while the article has deepened my understanding on the subject I’m not sure that it will force a change in my practice, as I have a fairly conservative approach to SMS usage.
Boyd, D. M., & Ellison, N. B. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), article 11.
Kerawalla, L., Minocha, S., Kirkup, G., & Conole, G. (2009). An empirically grounded framework to guide blogging in higher education. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 25(1).
Justin Mark currently works at Cedar Secondary School in SD68. He teaches French FSL and History 12 and he is the Modern Language and Networks Technology Department Heads. When he is not working, being a being a dad to his 3 and 5 years olds, you'll probably find him riding a bike, or trail running (when its super ugly out, or his bike is broken.)