Monday, September 14, 2015

Time to Connect My Thoughts to the World.. Beyond 140 Characters or Less

The shifting sands of digital learning and media literacy. Continuously evolving...

It's time for a new beginning... yet it doesn't totally feel like one as I compose in the blog I used in Katia and Alec's #ECI831 course. I am still wondering if I should succumb and create a Word Press site... Make a new blog with a fresh new "Wordpressy" look or go with good old Blogger. I'm torn. I've been a Blogger blogger for seven years.... at least. I'm not even sure. Anyways, blogging in this platform is second nature. And honestly I feel like I'm selling out good ol' Blogger if I leave and join the masses in Wordpress. Does this indicate my social media age??

I took the On-line Social Media Age test that was posted on our #eci832 Twitter chat and discovered that I was old... 35 years old! (Really, I'm over 35) -  but really! I thought I was fairly cool and hip. (Don't judge because I said "Cool" and "Hip"... I'm trying not to judge myself actually!)  After-all I work with integrating tech into classrooms. Doesn't that stand for something?? Nope, it means nothing. So as a Gen X'er I guess I have to finally come to terms with where I am.  That is, not as "with-it" in terms of Social Media as the Gen Y's.... But just another person trying to find their way in the sea of connectivity.  As with everyone, adapting and continually evolving in the "shifting sands" of a digitally connected world, I started to wonder how social media is shaping our perceptions of ourselves as generations and how we relate to one another.

As I explored topics for this class and what media literacy means, I started thinking about how these new literacies are shaping us. All generations, from the Boomers to the Millennials.  How is technology impacting our perceptions of our world from generation to generation, and how we connect? Is new media, like Social Media making us really more aware of others in the world, or are we only aware of those who exist in the peripheral sphere of our digital lives? How many times do we disconnect from face to face interaction because the conversation doesn't pertain to our interests? Sometimes it seems as though access to Social Media is really just making us selfish people. Individuals who seek out those who think the same via digital connections. As I was listening to Sherry Turkle's TED Talk, Connected: But Alone? I started to question my own digital behaviour. How many times have I opted to text or tweet instead of call someone? My mom often rants that her children a becoming more and more socially inept because they text and do not call. Turkle asks, "Why do people not want to have a conversation?" And that not being able to edit or redo is making us avoid the messiness of face-to-face communication. I agree that texting allows us to focus-in on one aspect and dispense with the boring or awkward. I really like Turkle's point that conversations with each other allow us to learn to more about ourselves and encourage self reflection. This point is really interesting. If I were to apply it to those conversations with my mom where I have texted instead of calling, I am now wondering what was I avoiding? In texting was I just trying to control the conversation or interactions? Was I just avoiding hearing about the stuff that makes human relationships messy? The long-winded story, the idle chit-chat, the disagreements. In connecting more regularly with hundreds of people are we just brushing the surface of true connectivity?

After reading Chapter 1 and 2 of Potter's Media Literacy, it became apparent that it's unsurprising that digital connections are making us selfish or focused on what is relevant. This may be a natural occurrence when individuals are constantly sifting and trying to mentally process the digital overload. All that information, all those opportunities to access information or connect through social media. Never mind one or two platforms for connecting, like Facebook or Twitter - but Vine, Instagram, Pintrest, GooglePlus, Reddit, Youtube, Linkedin... This is an infinitesimal fraction as there are so many platforms. When I took Twitter promoted Social Media Test, afterwards I felt a little "non-techy". But perhaps it's okay to just dabble in a few platforms for connecting. If I was part of more digital social networks would my understanding of others be richer? Deeper? That's doubtful. So perhaps I should be okay with where I am. Maybe it's okay to connect with information more deeply than engage with the world in snippets of information.

I found a very interesting site from Gary Hayes called Personalize Media which explores how media is shaping us... Check out this crazy app (not it's flash-based, so it will not be visible on a mobile device) which updates social-media connections continuously and shows how this new generation is being shaped. This is the new media. Every 1/16 of a second there is an update to this flash app counter. Is it a wonder that teaching and how we connect to kids has to change? Or does it? Is good teaching with this generation about being tech-savvy or is it still what good teaching has always been. The ability to meaningful connections with kids and encourage them to think deeply. Pernille Ripp, well known as founder of the Global Read Aloud and author of Blogging From the Fourth Dimension, states in her post Why are They Disengaged? My Students Told Me Why, that  in order to understand what engages kids we need to listen. She did not mean listen through digital connections via social media but instead that face-to-face  hear-it-with-your-own-ears listening. Basically the keys to engagement are connection, urgency, purpose and opportunities to empower kids. Perhaps one of the benefits of social media is to provide a contact point, but it's up to us to help students connect their lives to learning.

Over the duration of this course I look forward to exploring how to make it all relevant. I also look forward to discussing our role as educators in helping our students make sense of it all. Hopefully in turn they can help us!

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