My CIO passed an article on to me from the January 27th edition of The Chronicle. (Note that the Chronicle requires subscription so access to this article is limited.)
Entitled "Facing the Faceboook," it was authored by Michael Bugeja of Iowa State University, and at first glance seemed to deal primarily with the perceptions of faculty about the Facebook social networking service. Had the article maintained that scope, I wouldn’t be quite so torqued as I find myself at the moment. The author introduces the concerns that many of us in the field of education (and not just edtech) have been talking about for the better part of a year regarding the lack of concern over privacy, content and the pervasive nature of this social app.
Unfortunately, there are a number of broad assumptions and generalizations about the negative impact of technology and social networking. Here are some of the quotes from that article that I found frustrating because the are not backed by primary sources (the bolding is my own):
"To be sure, classroom distractions have plagued teachers in less technological times. In my era, there was the ubiquitous comic book hidden in a boring text. A comic book cannot compare with a computer, of course. Neither did it require university money at the expense of faculty jobs."
This is an inflammatory statement with no supporting references. Is it true that technology is replacing our faculty or is that a faulty attribution based solely on one’s individual opinion?
"John W. Curtis, research director at the American Association of University Professors, believes that investment in technology is one of several factors responsible for the well-documented loss of tenured positions in the past decade."
The key phrase here is "one of the factors." What are the others and where does technology fall in terms of its true impact on this loss?
"Unless we reassess our high-tech priorities, issues associated with insensitivity, indiscretion, bias, and fabrication will consume us in higher education."
Is the assumption here that technology is to blame for our continuing devolvement? For when it comes to the social failings quoted above, these our human culture has faced since the dawn of its age. Lest we forget that technology is simply a means and not an end. It is a tool and as such is only as effective as the one wielding it. As the employer of that tool, it is we who determine its impact on our culture, and whether it is used to build or to destroy. Educators throughout the spectrum have been struggling with these topics for far longer than technology has been on the scene.
"… the younger generation views technology largely as a means of delivering entertainment—be it music, video games, Internet access, or television—and secondarily, as a means of communicating."
I’m not sure I can support this statement, particularly in light of the reports coming out of the Pew Internet and American Life project which clearly show our "net gen" or millenials as content creators, rather than passive consumers. This begs the question about how we define communication and what it means to communicate ideas, thoughts and knowledge. Simply because a certain generation does not communicate in an historically acceptable fashion should not invalidate their methodology.
"… we must make hard decisions about our investment in technology and our tradition of high standards."
Should technology and standards be treated as mutually exclusive? I would hope not.
The Chronicle: 1/27/2006: Facing the Facebook (while the link lasts)