A few days ago, I had the opportunity to speak to a wonderful group of English graduate students in a course about Social Media at Kennesaw State University. I shared with them some of the research interests I have in instructional technology, digital publishing, and usability. I’ve become particularly interested in all the different learning spaces that are developing online and the social characteristics at their core.
Since the course is about Social Media, I thought it would be fun to point out a few of the different “social media” websites or applications that I’ve recently been exploring, such as Kahn Academy, Udemy, Inkling, and Kno. I also suspected that these selections would be outside of the more popular platforms used for social networking, (such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn Delicious, StumbleUpon, or Pinterest) that they’d been discussing. If you’re interested in seeing my full list of resources, take a look at the handout I used during the talk.
We had a really great discussion about how technology and the internet are changing the idea of information sharing and learning. We also hit on a few really great questions (some of these are listed in the handout), such as:
- How can we identify “the experts” in a particular field? And how does this growing network of shared knowledge change the definition of “expert?” If I can learn how to fix my dishwasher by watching a YouTube video, I no longer need to call in someone to do it for me. But, on the flip side of that–the person with the credentials and the degree will often be taken much more seriously than the person (who might have the same degree of knowledge) who was self taught. Who is the real expert? And how can we identify them online if the expert isn’t the one who necessarily has the greatest number of formal credentials.
- Who owns collectively created information? In cases such as the interactive textbooks, like Kno and Inkling, who owns the user driven content? These are both textbook publishing companies that have developed iPad applications that function as interactive textbooks and learning tools. The apps allow students to not only read, annotate, and highlight their texts, but they also offer features for students to talk and collaborate with one another through the app’s interface. If students carry on conversations within these texts, who owns this content? The student? The textbook author? The publishing company? The app developer?
- One of the textbook companies, Inkling, allows students to sign into their Facebook and Twitter accounts through the textbook app interface. This allows users to “turn your social network into a learning network.” How does this affect student privacy? Does this mean Facebook will now have access to all the content the students create and maintain within the textbook app? Does this mean Inkling will now have access to the information the students keep on Facebook or Twitter?
- Kahn Academy, Udemy, iTunes U, Know, and Inkling are largely dominated by science and technology content. Why are the humanities being neglected? I actually want to dig into this question a a lot further. I posed this question based on a very cursory analysis of all these sites. But, it seems pretty evident that a lot of the shared learning online has to do with technology and the sciences. I haven’t stumbled upon too many blogs or websites where writers are trying to workshop their work or ask for tips on constructing better sentences!
Like I said, these are just a few of the questions we discussed. There is a rather long list of questions on the handout (many of which we didn’t even get to), and I’ll likely be trying to tackle a few of them over the next few months on this blog.