Connected for education? Yes, but can online communities build character?

As I sit here pondering my blog, yes, for a week straight and a week late, I can’t help but wonder, maybe I’m just looking for the perfect words.  Or, maybe I am just longing to have some dialogue and talk face to face with people to discuss my thoughts, as opposed to writing about them.  I don’t want to have to script myself perfectly.  In speaking, the thoughts flow freely and I can edit as I go and feed off of the recipient’s comments.  In other words, I don’t have to hit the delete button so often! 

As I sit here sipping my red wine, as Jeff suggested (great suggestion by the way), I sift through the blog posts of my classmates and an overwhelmed feeling overtakes me once again!  Why, you ask?  Because after an exciting, intriguing and extraordinarily intense day of technology in our first session together, my brain couldn’t take it anymore; it was fried!

I am losing sleep thinking of the enormity of the digital realm today.  I can’t believe how far technology has come in my short life on earth.  I am feeling both overwhelmed and excited to try and stay up to date.  I am a life-long learner and I am excited to dive into this somewhat unknown territory;  yes, the fighter in me always steps to the challenge.  But after our last class, I couldn’t help but feel this challenge was enormous!  So, I started thinking “baby steps, Rosey, baby steps.”  my technological journey

That is what’s worked for me this far, when in the mist of obstacles, scale those mole hills, or in this case mountains.  Yes, I am overwhelmed, but I am also excited to begin to dive into the digital world where my students have lived all of their lives.

This got me thinking of my digital journey thus far.  I came to Taipei American School four years ago, from a highly multi-cultural, city school in east Denver, with minimal technology, to an international school ready to launch its 1 to 1 laptop initiative.  It was the most amazing, and overwhelming experience of my life to date.   I remember thinking, “I can’t believe this!  I have just landed myself in the realm of a life-changing educational experience!  How awesome is that.”  And then I remember about week 3 into my first year, the excitement turned to panic and frustration as I tried to figure out OneNote and the SmartBoard and how to run the OLC?!  I remember crying to my sister (also a teacher at TAS, at that point in her 2nd year) and she and her husband (aka Erik from our class) sent me flowers and said, ”You’ll make it!  You are awesome and you’ll find a way to make it work!”  And I did.  I am now an avid user of OneNote and the Smartboard and a champ at the OLC.  I have gone from printing handouts for the students to posting the class notes digitally where students take notes on their laptops.  Now I ponder how I ever survived in the classroom without these tools.  Funny how quickly we adapt.  And now it is time to adapt again.  I see the gains technology can bring to the classroom and how it opens up a whole new world of learning.  However, my concern lies in the effects on the personal and social life of the youth today.

Reading Living and Learning with New Media” I couldn’t help but be a bit pessimistic .  No, I am not the digital anti-christ, in fact I am quite the supporter.  However, I have to say I truly cherish interpersonal, face to face, actually SPEAKING to each other interaction.  So, I cannot help but wonder, what is that is becoming of a generation hooked to their computers?  Yes, they are still “building social networks, friendships, and (somehow) romantic relationships” but how real are those?  When you can create your own profile image and depict yourself publically in a way that depicts the BEST sides of you, how do you know the real person??!!  There IS something to be said about having to answer to someone IMMEDIATELY instead of taking time to contemplate your response. There is something more sincere about an immediate response than one that takes five minutes or three days!

Maybe this is just me responding to the social networking aspect of it.  Part of me sees, and regularly benefits from, the use of technology to communicate and keep in touch with those in my life.  Yes, I rely on being connected.  But, I live halfway around the world from my close friends and family, so if it was not for Skype and Facebook, I would be so disconnected to the lives of those I care about.  But on the other hand I cannot help but think that these means of “being connected” can become somewhat of a COP-OUT; especially when it becomes your means of communicating with your buddy that lives down the street or who is sitting right next to you in the lunchroom!  Okay, for the web generation, who have lived it all of their lives, they may not know any better.  But for the immigrants or digital natives has it become a way to be less personal and more distant?  Has text messaging become an excuse for not calling to say hello or to express your thoughts; a way to hide behind an interpersonal shield?  And what about that person who is being ‘defriended’ publically in front of everyone on Facebook?  Who is there to comfort that person?  When you are dumping your friend digitally, you are freed from having to see the other person’s hurt or emotion.  But is that a good thing?!  Don’t the emotions of face to face interaction help to define the significant moments of our lives?  And, if we can blog about it or post it as our status, does it resonate more clearly or more significantly, or just become a longer, more drawn out emotion that has less meaning?  And, how does all of this incorporate itself into the classroom?  If everything becomes about online communities, who is there to build the character of the child?  Do our students become socially inept and oblivious to the feelings and emotions formed through interpersonal communities?

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2 Responses to Connected for education? Yes, but can online communities build character?

  1. Avatar of Nyoli Connor Nyoli Connor says:

    Great post Chrisanne! Your thoughts on the benefits of face-to-face communication resonate with me. And we do often distance ourselves from the messy emotions by resorting to social networking. The challenge will always be to find the balance!

    • Avatar of roseleipc roseleipc says:

      Thanks for your comments. Yes, finding the balance is ideally the goal. But is that what we really want? I think I still opt for 80% face to face and 20% social networking. Call me old fashioned. ;) I do want to be an “expert” on the technology, but I don’t want it to become my way of life.

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