One way, or another

Good day. Well, it’s been a while since I blogged here.  What’s it been… yuck, the 27th?  Wow, more than a week.

I did start to write a blog but then stopped as stuff got out of control with my Phase 3 committee responsibilities.  Looks like things are starting to calm back down on that front so I have had time to peruse the tech news for interesting stories and have come up with two.

The first is about everyone’s favorite Web 2.0 application platform: Facebook.  It seems that some enterprising kids started doing a virtual study hall using a Facebook account’s wall as the place where students could post questions and answers to each other.  This ran afoul of the student code of conduct and now the ringleader is facing expulsion.  I can sort of see the kid’s point: this is just an electronic version of what they were already doing in one of their study groups.  But the problem is that the students were told that this was an individual assignment.  They weren’t supposed to be answering those questions as a group REGARDLESS of what technology is used to facilitate that group work.  That’s what violated the student code, not that they used Facebook to do it (as the poorly written article suggests).

This case, though, is interesting to me because it is an intersection of two ideas that are currently floating around inside my head like and unflushed turd: non-foundational views of knowledge and the modern student’s irrational openness with personal information on these Web 2.0 platforms.

On the one hand this is a clash between foundational and non-foundational learning.  In the foundational model, teachers have the knowing of a great many things, which they then impart of the tabula rasa of the student.  This is how I was taught and I hated it.  Teachers and libraries were places filled with intimidating professionals who supposedly knew more than you.  Your job as student was to shut up, never question them and let them fill your mind with “facts.”  God forbid if you solved a math problem differently or questioned the hegemony of any answer.  As I’ve gotten older, I can see some benefit to this type of teaching, it has its place.  But even if a teacher is taking a more foundational approach, they will allow for some non-foundational questioning of their “authority.”

The completely non-foundational approach states that there is a social construction of knowledge.  This approach encourages group learning and at its extremes (see, Bruffee 1995) sees all knowledge creation as fundamentally social.  The modern student has to do a LOT of non-foundational learning (or as I would argue, foundational learning cloaked as non-foundational learning).  When I was at the iSchool it was over half our grade for most classes.  Thus, from the student’s perspective they were just participating in what they always participate in: collaborative learning.  This is such an important buzzword right now that the author of the article doesn’t even question whether the collaboration is allowed but instead passes the collaboration off as a function of Facebook.  Thus, Facebook is seen as the problem; if only the students had been studying in a room in the library the faculty would have never known (or, the implication is, cared).

It really does highlight how collaborative this generation has become.  The student in that article knows that she was supposed to complete the work alone “While Neale admits the professor stipulated the online homework questions were to be done independently, she said it has long been a tradition for students to brainstorm homework in groups, particularly in heavy programs such as law, engineering and medicine.”  And yet, she set up the Facebook account anyway… I guess there’s just no reasoning with common sense.

And while on that one hand there’s the common sense notion that doing work individually really means collaboratively there’s also this disconnect between what they are doing and that the program is public.  The two things are inextricable.  I know that the kids nowadays don’t like us “Grups” getting Facebook accounts and befriending them or even looking at what they are doing with their lives.  But I have a newsflash for you… IT’S PUBLIC.  In fact, the fact that it’s group work should have been your first clue.  If your best friend can’t keep a secret what makes you think people who don’t like you can keep a secret?  And again, this isn’t a Facebook phenomena: it wouldn’t matter what social networking site you used the “Grups” will find out and you will get in trouble.  It’s called “privacy” look into it sometime, kid.

The other story that caught my attention is that Apple has finally peeked their heads out of the clouds and deigned to open the iPhone and iPod touch to developers.   OH GLORIOUS DAY!!!  You mean that I can now pay for the privilege to pay for third party developers to install programs on the iPod touch???  When will Apple’s largess ever end?  This kind of stuff really pisses me of.  You can already hack the iPod touch and install a ton of apps.  So, sure, open it up that makes sense.  After all, the more useful this device is, the more likely people are to adopt it.  BUT NOW YOU WANT ME TO PAY???  ARGGGGGH.

I predict I will be buying tons of apps for the iPod touch.

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