Social Network Learning: Supporting Theory and Framework

Pull up a chair. Here is my paper for EdTech 505:

Social Network Learning: Supporting Theory and Framework

While it’s not reading for the faint of heart, it is for those interested in supporting their use of social network learning with learning theory. It certainly contributed to my personal growth and connectivist learning. Enjoy!

Theory-supported Social Networking: A Reflection

An annotated bibliography makes a standard APA reference list look like a walk in the park. In case you, like me until this week’s EdTech504 assignment, have never had the privilege of creating such a resource, let me help you. An annotated bibliography is a blend: part paper, part reference list, part taxonomy. In this case it includes 7-10 resources on a topic of interest relating to educational technology theory. Such topic should be (as our module instructs) “broad enough to allow full exploration of the topic but narrow enough to be a thorough analysis.”

Not only did I find, read, summarize, and cite such resources from peer-reviewed sources, I wrote a short paragraph on each one. Lest you think that is simple, let me explain. This paragraph is much more than a summary or abstract of the article. It is a critical analysis of its purpose, a comparison to other works in the field, an explanation of how it fits into my taxonomy, and requires my personal conclusions and observations.

In short, the annotated bibliography is no small feat, as you may surmise from its title Selected Research on Supporting Theory and Frameworks for Social Networking: An Annotated Bibliography.

In plain English, I chose to dive into the framework and theory that supports using social networking in education. I knew social networking is fun and engaging for students. Schools use sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Edmodo, and Schoology to help students collaborate and connect. What I didn’t have a handle on before now is the research supporting such practice. Eight long resources later, along with several other course resources, I now do.

Social Networking is much more than a fun way to socialize. The Internet, though not initially designed as such, has become a social experience focused more on relationships than information or content (Lankshear, 2000). Depending on how well it is integrated into course design, social networking can engage learners and foster better retention (Jonassen, 1991).

I have seen this as I’ve assisted in my school’s 9th Grade Understanding Computers course. The teacher chose to use Edmodo as a learning management system and I am impressed at how well the students have embraced this format. The students always know what is coming, what is due, where they stand, and have all course materials easily at their fingertips. Comments and feedback are integrated throughout and they have responded well to the social nature of this course. According to Boitshwarelo (2011), the versatility of the online environment is an excellent medium to explore the growth and facilitation of key concepts of the connectivism theory. Social networking is supported by select learning principles from other learning theories such as behaviorism, where the learner is reactive rather than active in creating knowledge. Anyone who has sat back and caught up on current events or sporting event outcomes by reading their Facebook news feed can relate to this idea.

I think time will tell how social networking will impact long-term education and achievement, but there are some exciting possibilities that teachers can use now help engage their students in learning.

Boitshwarelo, B. (2011). Proposing an integrated research framework for connectivism: Utilising Theoretical Synergies. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(3), 161–179.

Jonassen, D. (1991). Objectivism versus constructivism: Do we need a new philosophical
paradigm? Educational Technology Research and Development, 39(3), 5-14.

Lankshear, C. (2000). Information, knowledge and learning: Some issues facing epistemology and education in a digital age. Journal Of Philosophy Of Education, 34(1), 17.

Reflection: Explaining Educational Technology

I think we all face the inevitable questions: “What do you do exactly?” “What is it again that you are studying?” “What do you plan to do with that?” I tend to give a short, user-friendly answer that goes something like, “I help use technology in the classroom for learning.” It’s a basic explanation, I know, but it usually suffices. For those who want to know more, or who need convincing that I don’t just help kids play on iPads all day, I will bring up my role in technology integration, curriculum development, and how I help instill 21st Century digital literacy skills in students and teachers.

I have been in the EdTech program for one year now and have worked hard. I have learned more than I initially thought possible. Whatever I thought I knew, however skilled I believed I was, I have come a long way. In short, I have learned practical tools, technology integration strategies, theories and instructional design principles, and technology planning helps.

I am not a certified teacher and therefore do not have my own classroom. However, just this week I started as a part-time technology integration coordinator at my children’s international PK-12 school. Already, I have a very full plate. I will be involved in teacher training, curriculum development, helping teachers integrate technology tools more effectively, and teaching grades 2-5 with the MacBook laptop carts. I am responsible to keep an upbeat, moving-forward technology morale. It is an overwhelming but exciting opportunity, and I’m determined to do the best job I can.

From this EdTech 504 course I hope to gain a deeper perspective of the big picture and be able to better explain to others a greater scope of what educational technology is – and is not. To be honest, I’m a little nervous about this course because I don’t really enjoy studying theory and models and epistemology (frankly, I had to look the word up). I would much rather deal with practical application. However, I’m sure that this course will add a depth to my studies that is necessary, and I’m hopeful that we will be able to make many connections from our coursework to our everyday practice.

So, I will start now. Here are three things that most impressed me from my readings this week and from watching the course videos:

Educational technology has been around a long time and making predictions about what the future will bring, or making grand assumptions, is a bit dangerous.
I loved the posted video Instructional Technology: Looking Backward, Thinking Forward. Too often, I tend to view educational technology as a recent development, defined by SmartBoards, document cameras, iPads, Wi-Fi, social networking, eBooks, and similar emerging technologies. This video was a real eye-opener that reminded me that teachers over time have always been seeking new and improved ways to deliver instruction and engage students, and that what we may think to be the next “big thing” may or may not hold true. It quoted a wonderful prediction by Thomas Edison that said, “I believe that the motion picture is destined to revolutionize our education system and that in a few years it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks.” Today we could easily substitute eBooks, iPads, or the Internet. Will we be right?

Educational technology as a field is complicated and difficult to define.
When I have a hard time explaining educational technology, it appears I’m in good company. It’s taken many people many years to come up with a working definition and it’s still a “moving target,” as our course module calls it. This week’s readings explored why it is a difficult field to define and how published definitions have evolved. I particularly liked Luppicini’s (2005) perspective when he notes McGinn’s breakdown of technology that looks at technology as a socio-cultural structure that is both form and activity. Even defining technology itself is not as easy as I thought, and involves much more than state of the art tools. Januszewski’s (2001) definition resonated with me more than any other that states, “As a worldview of education, educational technology emphasizes applying scientific techniques to solving educational problems in efficient and effective ways. This emphasis results in an attitude of action. This attitude values technique over philosophy” (p. 118). I feel that attitude of action, which leads me to my final point.

As educational technologists, we have a responsibility to use what we know to help the greater good.
Educational technology is not an individual field but is very global, collective, innovative, and fluid. As part of such, I feel a great responsibility to educate others in the key principles and application of educational technology. This scope is far-reaching and often overwhelming. For me, it involves teachers, administrators, parents, and students. For others it may involve different stakeholders, but the mandate is the same. We may not know what the future brings, but we must prepared to take it on.

Januszewski, A. (2001). Educational Technology: The Development of a Concept. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, Inc.

Luppicini, R. (2005). A Systems Definition of Educational Technology in Society. Educational Technology & Society, 8 (3), 103-109.