Sunday, 28 December 2008

Two topical articles about social networks

Came across an apt article "The Kids are alright" in the Economist (Nov 13th 2008) reviewing Don Tapscott's book "Grown Up Digital".

“The Net Generation is in many ways the antithesis of the TV generation,” he argues. One-way broadcasting via television created passive couch potatoes, whereas the net is interactive, and, he says, stimulates and improves the brain.
Yet, here I am, maybe not such a typical TV generation member... But true, I am probably not quite as wired as my daughter or students, but not far. According to Tapscott the following are typical attributes of the net generation:

Net Geners value freedom and choice in everything they do. They love to customise and personalise. They scrutinise everything. They demand integrity and openness, including when deciding what to buy and where to work. They want entertainment and play in their work and education, as well as their social life. They love to collaborate. They expect everything to happen fast. And they expect constant innovation.

I have experienced this in practice while testing different online tools with students. They truly seem to prefer ones where they can customise their profiles, for example. Actually, I have had some discussions about this with colleagues, many of whom would argue that such customising activities account for nothing but trivial waste of time when the curriculum is too crammed as it is with too little time to possibly cover it all. I would argue back that if customising your profile motivates some students and possibly makes them approach a task more positively, how could that be a waste of time? At the same time, though, I do realize that these attributes don't automatically apply to all youngsters - there are the slower, quieter loners among them, too - and there are naturally members of our older generation who share the same values, preferences and expectations (myself included!).

Overall, however, I found the book review reassuring about our young generation and their use of technology, although I totally agree that they should be guided about what not to reveal about themselves online.

Which brings me to the other article I read in the Economist The World in 2009 - "The perils of sharing" by Andread Kluth (Nov 19th 2008). I, too, have got bouts of doubt about internet safety since starting to experiment more and more with different online networks with students at school. Maybe I am ill-advisedly leading my students into some unknown harm? My only guideline at the moment is modelling responsible online behaviour to students myself. I have made a point of online openness, honesty and dignity, but at the same time common sense protection of privacy, and I am striving to practice what I preach. I try to remind students about empathy and consideration to other people's feelings in anything they upload online. Appropriate netiquette, copyright, or profile creation will all need to be carefully discussed and agreed on before letting students loose on online networks in school contexts. If you pay special attention to these important new online literacy skills, I still believe that the advantages of open online networks far outweigh the threats. Mr Kluth concludes his article along the same lines:

The wise will still share things about themselves in 2009. But they will become hyper-sensitive about sharing collateral information about others, in the hope that reciprocity and a new etiquette will eventually limit everybody's vulnerability, including their own.


Keith Lyons said...


A brief note to say thank you for all your posts on Lost in Translation. There is so much energy in your writing.

I think your concluding quote is a great way to start 2009. I am sure your work will promote the etiquette that will be so important. I believe reciprocity is a key characteristic of this practice.

I hope your return from Malaysia to winter in Finland was not too much of a shock!

Best wishes from Australia


sinikka said...

Hi Keith,
Thank you for your very positive comment!
I must say, the return from the tropics was rather a shock, still slightly jetlagged, too, waking up 4 am and so on... What I miss most from incredibly multicultural Malaysia is the colours and the smiling faces:) It's rather dull and miserable in Finland in comparison... But luckily we are moving towards spring again, slowly but surely! HAPPY NEW YEAR to you there in Downunder!