Friday, December 4, 2009

Connected... But Not Making Connections

Our students, whether we like it or not, are VERY connected. They are connected via Facebook and MySpace, text message and IM, and even email in some cases (although they view email as a tool for those of us who are "old"). But what does "being connected" mean? Are they learning anything from these connections? Have they mastered any information or skills through all of this networking?

I recently read two different blogs with interesting graphics that got me thinking about this.

First, Dean Shareski (an edu-blogger I have referenced in past posts) wrote Why Audience Matters. He quoted a member of his PLN, Chris Lehmann, who asked, "When having audience is no longer novel, simply having one is no longer motivating. We still must help kids have something powerful to say."

He illustrated the point with a cartoon by Hugh MacLeod (MacLeod doesn't always use kid-friendly language...just a warning).

The second blog I read that mentioned similar ideas is called I Don't Need Your Network by Will Richardson. He asks a lot of great questions in this post, but what really meant the most to me was this image of a classroom:

Richardson asks, "I wonder how many educators look at that picture and think 'OMG, puhleeeese let me teach in that classroom!' (I suspect not many.)" As much as I love the 1:1 computer ratio, I wonder how it detracts from the human connections and social skills (NOT social networking skills) that are essential for success in the adult workforce.

Sometimes it can seem daunting to teach content, skills, technology, and manners (which I think we should teach, by the way) all at the same time. Imagine how our students feel as they sit in the classroom. They must feel like the last kid left on a losing team in a game of dodgeball, pelted from all sides with an overwhelming amount of information.

YIKES! (Image reused with permission from The Met Online)

So is being connected enough?

I say, "NO!"

We need to also teach our students how to maintain those connections and develop relationships. Sure, they can learn from the Internet, but they can't live their lives behind a computer screen (or a mobile touch screen). It isn't healthy or normal, and it would mean they are missing out on the riches that face-to-face interaction provide in our lives.