Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wrapping Up "Digital Media in the Classroom"

This will be my last "official" entry for my Digital Media class although I plan to continue discussion of many of the topics that were raised in the last few weeks. This wrap up is really more a beginning than a conclusion.

It is my intent to continue to explore how social media and Web 2.0 tools can, and should, be implemented in the classroom. The essential question posed by this class was basically: which of the broad spectrum of digital learning technologies and tools provides the greatest possibility for transnational education across cultural boundaries? I would argue: All of them. What do I mean by "All"? Technology is ever-changing. You have to continuously learn and read and participate and connect, just to keep up. The answer is that every single technological innovation has it's place in education. Schools are the feeding ground for the next generation, the generation that in turn creates, uses, enhances and integrates the next technological innovation into their own lives.

So, the next question is one of HOW. How do we help propogate this circle of innovation? Through communities of inquiry. This class was an example of such a community. Each of us maintained our own blog with our own perspectives, while simulataneously discussing pertinent topics on the class main blog. We asked questions of the technologies and their usefulness in the classroom, and we shared our own reflections and feedback on practical (as well as visionary) implementation. Exactly what we have done here, is what educators should be doing with students. Get them to think critically and make use of all the tools and resources (digital and non-digital) at their disposal. Get them to think about school as a microcosm of the real world, not an imaginary world where nothing real is accomplished.

This clip ties together my learning from this Digital Media class with the intent of the blog.

You can also listen to this in my first podcast:

There are several sites that I want to leave you with because they provide avenues for further research.
  • The History of Social Networking Sites - An interesting account of SNS's from the early days of sixdegrees and friendster (both of which I had joined) through MySpace and Facebook.
  • The Tags Within (aka The Semantic Web) - Some call this Web 3.0, but it will only be made possible through the use of Tags. This blog entry describes the history of Tagging.
  • A review of the book Born Digital - which claims that a digital native is one born after 1980. I return to one of my earlier postings on this topic and maintain that I still consider myself a Digital Nagrant, although I might even take one step further towards Digital Native after this class. Oh, I was born in 1970. So, you can see that I wholehardly disagree with the hard line distinction here.
  • Everything you ever wanted to know about Participatory Media Literacy but were afraid to ask.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

This Week in Social Media: Political Twittering, Kindle Snobbery, and more.

As a continuation to my Social Media series started last week, I introduce a new weekly series discussing the latest news articles themselves discussing various social media topics. Seems somewhat roundabout perhaps, but I will dissect the articles and present my reflections on the relevance to education in the 21st century.

I begin today with "The Chatty Classes" in the New York Time Magazine section. The article suggests that politics and Twitter should be kept separate and that Twittering, like the days of private diary writing, should be something kept to yourself. It's the same old story of "why do I care what you ate this morning?" People still aren't getting it. It's not about diary writing. It's about networking. It's about following people who share your interests in order to increase your own expertise or simply for enjoying discussion on shared topics. For education, this means that students have yet another outlet for learning. They can reach out to experts on Twitter to gain new perspectives on a topic not found anywhere else. And, by the way, these same students will be the experts in tomorrow's Twitterverse.

"With Kindle, Can You Tell It's Proust?" suggests that Kindles and similar devices negate the benefits of reading actual books - for publishers, that is readers who buy a book after seeing someone else reading it, and for readers, the snobbery or fantasy of trying to determine what type of person reading a book is. I introduce the topic of Kindle here because, besides books, many are also "cramming the day's newspapers" on to it. So, it's a device for social media. My perspective is somewhat different. I'm not too concerned with trying to figure out why someone is reading a certain book, and while I do sometimes get an idea to read a book based on someone I see reading it, I wouldn't oppose Kindle for that reason alone. For me, I do enjoy the feel of flipping through the pages of a book and spend enough time "on screen" that a book feels like down time to me. However, remember that I'm a "Digital Nagrant". Wearing my Native hat, I see lots of educational and environmental benefits to a Kindle. 1) All textbooks can be delivered through a Kindle (assuming the price drops dramatically) and students will only have to carry one little device back and forth to school. No more, "I forgot my book at home". 2) Notes and highlights are all stored and shared electronically. 3) Think about how much paper will be saved! And, these are just to name a few...

A Singer-Songwriter Ignores Musical Boundaries profiles Gabriel Kahane, a young classical/pop musician most well known for his song "Craigslistlieder" about online dating and personal ads found on Craigslist. I mention this article, not because Craigslist is so social-mediaesque but more because it highlights the new forms of inspiration that are driving artists to create music, art, theatre and more. Educationally speaking, social media and the Internet itself, is a prominent source of inspiration in the lives of students today and this should be leveraged in the classroom.

Web 2.0 is even making it's way into film in the upcoming (Dec 2009) picture "Avatar". The article, "Fan Fever is Rising for Debut of 'Avatar'", describes what limited information is available about the much anticipated specially designed 3-D technological film to rival any picture of the past. The idea is that the 3-D virtual world will feel so real that it's like "dreaming with your eyes open". So, it begs the question, how different is a 3D film from an immersive education platform? Could we someday transform our classrooms into movie theatres and learn in this transcendent otherly world where lessons are hidden among the actual experience of doing?

Lastly, we speak often of the democracy of the Internet, the fact that everyone has an equal voice and participation and sharing of ideas is what drives this new era we live in. But, what happens to Internet democracy in non-democratic countries? In "A Tibetan Blogger; Always Under Close Watch, Struggles for Visibility", we learn that Woeser, a Tibetan poet and blogger is blocked and under constant scrutiny because of her beliefs that she espouses on her blog - Invisible Tibet (not in English). Her first three blogs were blocked. It is scary to think that governments even today are not recognizing the individual's right to freedom of speech and expression, espcially in this new age of participation. I mention this here because it is a topic that we, as educators, should strive to impress upon our students. It is only through educational enlightenment that these ancient traditions have any chance of falling away and bringing forth global equality.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My Life as a Shadow - Part IV

It's been a while since my last shadow entry, but I'm bringing the topic back. Yesterday, I spent the day shadowing at P.S./M.S. 188 - The Island School on the lower east side of Manhattan. Unlike my other experiences, this one was not elementary school. This time it was with 6th, 7th and 8th graders. At the beginning of the day I didn't notice much difference in the grade levels but my the end I could tell that the 8th graders were much more independent and followed directions more thoroughly.

As opposed to my experience at Drexel Avenue elementary, the technology teacher here, Mr. Lahana, taught the students the same lesson across all the grades. However, the implementation was slightly different. Mr. Lahana uses TechBrarian, his own website, to post lessons for the class. The students listen to a 5 minute overview and then proceed to work on their own as the teacher goes around the room helping them. "Room" is somewhat of a loose definition since it's really an extension to the building that used to be outside and has been converted to the Internet Cafe.

Today's lesson was part 4 in a unit about how sneakers are made. Each student is supposed to listen to a video, fill in their concept map with their notes using either or Inspiration and then proceed to the next step. In this case, the next step was to watch two videos (Beginner, Advanced) that Mr. Lahana created to show them how to design their own sneaker, download a sneaker template from Pig Magazine and then color the sneaker to their own preferences using layers in Photoshop. The last step is for the students to upload their creation to their blog.

Mr. Lahana chooses to use Blogger for each student and manages the blogs from the master class blog with each students' blog listed in the blogroll. I thought this was interesting because the blogs are out in the open with no security or privacy settings, however the master class blog is secure. Also, the students love blogging and it encourages them to write carefully and thoughtfully. Mr. Lahana shared with me one of the students blogs which contained a sensitive and honest portrayal of his relationship with his step-father and lack thereof with his "ancestor" - his birth father. I choose not to share the link to this young man's blog for privacy reasons.

I observed that the students behaviors during class varied by both class and grade level. Most did not watch the videos before attempting to design their own sneaker and then needed assistance along the way. Some, especially the 8th graders, followed the directions more closely. Some chose to work on their blog instead of the lesson of the day and some requested permission to use GarageBand as an alternative to the lesson. The environment was fairly freeform although I could see that some students were given more freedom than others, presumably the better behaved students.

Other tools that Mr. Lahana encourages students to use include ToonDoo which lets you create comic strips and embed them in blogs, XtraNormal which lets you turn text into animated movies, and Shelfari which students use to review books they have read and share reviews on their blog. I would say that Mr. Lahana knows his audience based on the tools he lets them use and the examples he gives them to make his point. He also uses Renzuli Learning for differentiated instruction and Keynote to create presentations that highlight student work.

My assessment was that the technology classes are focused primarily around teaching technology as opposed to integrating technology into other subjects. I asked Mr. Lahana about this and he explained that the Island School is focused on creativity and innovative outputs from the students. His lessons are all about creating and a school video that he showed me described the student population as the "future innovators of tomorrow". So, the presentations of student work that Mr. Lahana creates is a measurement of how well the students are doing. He also creates individual "profiles of talent" videos for each student, and the school also has 2 talent periods per week. It's for this reason that using GarageBand instead of doing a lesson is permitted. It's also the reason behind the schools policy "No dissing around here" which was seen in the school video and heard through the day. Students need to know that they are free from ridicule in order to create personal and creative work.

To conclude, the students seem to enjoy their time on the computers although many of them do not have computers at home. They do want to listen to music while working but it is only allowed sometimes. They also like to be free from "infractions" (points they get for improper behavior) because infraction-free students can enter the Internet Cafe at lunchtime and get free time on the laptops. It is interesting to note that Mr. Lahana uses a Google spreadsheet to manage infractions so everyone can see it during class. The last period of the day, normally reserved for test prep, is also open to students to work on their blogs when it is not test season.

While, I am not sure how much technology is being used in other classes, it is obvious that the use of Web 2.0 tools and the very concept of Social Media is very much at play at the Island School. Students relish the opportunity to use technology as creative outlets.

Robin on Digital Media in the Classroom

This video contains my reflections on what I learned in my "Digital Media in the Classroom" seminar. It is also my first video blog so I apologize in advance for the poor quality. Hopefully this will get better over time!

In addition to the comments and reflections I've made on all the readings, I was particularly pleased to hear the way that some of my classmates have started using digital media and social tools in their classrooms. These include blogging about different pieces of music, using Ning to discuss and provide feedback on planning for an upcoming show, and using Twitter to as a pre-discussion tool reflecting upon readings before students get to class and continue the discussion.

Overall, I am quite pleased with the direction that seems to be occuring and the role that digital media can play in the classroom.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Social Media Part 2: The Effect on Education

Social Media and Social Networks are defining the next wave of the Web. There are unspoken guidelines about what it means to participate in this Web 2.0 world. Let's look at Facebook for example. Facebook just revised their governance documents to include one called Principles. They state:

"We are building Facebook to make the world more open and transparent, which we believe will create greater understanding and connection. Facebook promotes openness and transparency by giving individuals greater power to share and connect, and certain principles guide Facebook in pursuing these goals. Achieving these principles should be constrained only by limitations of law, technology, and evolving social norms."

In case you don't have a Facebook account and can't read the principles, here is a sampling of a few: "Freedom to Share and Connect; Fundamental Equality; Social Value; Common Welfare; One World". I believe that the principles which they identify apply to more than just Facebook. As you just read in Social Media Part 1: In the News, digital media is being created by everyone all around us. Individuals have an outlet for their voice as much as any media giant does. This creates transparency and our students are growing up expecting this transparency. They expect to be able to participate, vote, get involved, comment, give feedback, earn their online reputation through ratings, and communicate across borders anytime from anywhere.

So, how does this effect learning in the classroom? What is the effect of Social Media on Education?

First, we have to realize that not all students are digital natives. They come to school with different levels of technology literacy and like all subjects, we as educators, need to be able to differentiate instruction accordingly. As an example, my husband asked his 4th graders to do a biography in the form of a "Time for Kids Person of the Year" publication. The results reflected a wide variety of technology literacy ranging from a handwritten report on one sheet of lined paper to a very realistic Time "cover" adapted with student's name and date, typed with multi-columns and inline images. Quite a difference!

Second, we have to realize that while technology literacy will develop at different rates, all of our students are going to be immersed in a world where they can not escape social media and social networks. We must look at technology as though it is another language, rather than another subject to be taught. Technology must used as a tool to enhance learning in every subject just as every subject needs to rely on reading, writing and speaking.

Finally, we have to embrace constructivist learning. We can't be afraid of change. We must recognize the fundamental changes that 21st century skills will require of education. What does this mean? It means that we need to design more real-world like tasks. We need to encourage learning across boundaries: classrooms, schools, geographies. We need to ask more open-ended questions without right or wrong answers. We need to use team-based approaches to learning. We need to stop "drill-and-kill" methods of instructing. And we need to enable students to not only enter the workplace ready to participate in a social world, but encourage them to start participating now.

This is my take on how the unprecedented evolution of media from traditional sources to social, digital platforms will impact the education of our students. I used to hate watching the news when I was younger. Too much "bad stuff", but today you can choose the news you want to hear about, you can seek news of interest, you can easily find multiple perspectives on a story. Social media provides a wealth of information and the opportunity to transform yourself into the "expert" you want to become. Students are no exception.

Please share your own thoughts on how social media will impact education today and tomorrow.

Social Media Part 1: In the News

Have you noticed all the press that Twitter and Facebook are getting lately? Do you think the press is running scared? No, I don't think traditional media is going away, but social media is definitely giving them a run for their money.

Listen to this clip from Larry King Live after CNN loses a contest to Ashton Kutcher about who will get to 1 million twitter followers first.

The most telling point for me was when Ashton commented that he thought how significant it is that "we now live in an age, for media, that a single voice can have as much power and relevance, on the Web that is, as an entire media network." This is exactly what we've been talking about in my digital media class. The world is changing and everyone can have an equal voice.

Here are 5 articles within the last two weeks worth noting.
  1. Florida Blogger Wages War on Street Giant - Riding the train home the other day, someone had left a Post (the paper kind, not the blog kind) on the seat next to me. This article caught my eye. I include it here as a response to the article Feeling To Down to Rise Up that I wrote about in Thoughts on Readings - Week 4. It's a David vs. Goliath story of one man who took on questionable practices at Goldman Sachs through his blog postings. Again, it's just a new and different way of rising up.
  2. The YouTube Presidency - Transparency has never been so transparent. Remember in "Back to the Future" Doc Brown, shocked at finding out that Ronald Reagan, the actor, was President in 1985 commented that it was no wonder - "in the 'future', you had to look good on television". Well, in 2009, you have to look good on YouTube! And Obama's widespread understanding and attachment to technology was just the person to do it.
  3. Let Them Eat Tweets - The author contends that our prescious connections - Twitter followers and Facebook friends - are really "liabilities that we pretend are assets" and that social networking has become overcrowded. I'm not sure I agree with her assessment but it's just another in the long line of Twitter articles popping up all the time.
  4. To Get to Carnegie Hall? Try Out on YouTube - Another glimpse into the possiblities that social networking offers. Maybe next time Carnegie Hall will host a virtual orchestra with each musician playing his/her part from the comfort of their own home. A very green idea, don't you think? My little nod to yesterday's Earth Day!
  5. J-Schools Play Catchup - While this article is not speaking about any specific social media outlet, it addresses a more widespread problem. "How do you position students for an uncertain future in the media?" Journalism schools all over the country are having to redesign their entire curriculum because of the new "digital, on-demand world" that is creating a whole new vocabulary for media. Like the video above says, everyone has an equally powerful voice; media is no longer one-directional.
Traditional media and digital social media are coming together, faster and faster. I think it's particularly relevant to mention that I read or viewed all of these on traditional media first. The Ashton Kutcher clip I watched on TV. The others I read in an actual newspaper. However, I found all of them online EASILY. Traditional media sources are being forced to jump on the digital bandwagon or be left behind.

Wondering how this is going to effect learning and education? Read the next installment: Social Media Part 2: The Effect on Education.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Webby WebQuests

I'm back from a short hiatus to tell you about the most recent project I've been working on. I recently took a seminar on how to integrate technology into curriculum using WebQuests. As an aspiring Educational Technology Specialist, I decided that I should create a WebQuest for my final project that would be usable, so I recruited my husband and his 4th grade class to be my guinea pigs.

But, let me take a step back. If you are at all interested in using technology in the classroom, I suspect you have heard of WebQuests, but I believe there may be some misconceptions about what they really are. Some people think they are just eFieldTrips. Some people think they are just a way to collect Web resources for a project. But, strictly speaking, a WebQuest is more than that.

A WebQuest is a learning platform designed specifically to take advantage of Web resources in a more focused way for students. All WebQuests ideally follow the same format. They identify a realistic task that will help students achieve the learning goals desired. The process section is where the majority of the work is done and it has 3 main steps.
  1. Set the background knowledge needed to accomplish the task.
  2. Break up into groups which will be assigned different roles. It's beneficial if some of the roles conflict with each other. Each group will research the roles using the identified web resources and do an activity to check for understanding.
  3. Come back together as a class to complete the task. The WebQuest should end with a call to action.
A WebQuest should take advantage of all that the Web offers over printed, traditional material. So things like research data, archival primary sources, multimedia, communication & conversations, and publishing/participation are a big part of it. Now, obviously, some schools are going to block things like YouTube but hopefully if enough of us start including them in educational ways, this will change. For now, my advice is to make sure the content from these sources enhances the overall content but is not absolutely required to fulfill the real-world like task. Hence, the WebQuest should be "Webby" not "Schooly".

Are you ready to see mine now? You might have gotten an idea what it's about from the picture above.

Colonial Values and America Today

My goal was to make history relevant for students today through a culminating unit on American history and how colonial values have shaped America. So, feel free to peruse around this WebQuest, ask me questions, and try it out for yourself!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Virtual Schools and Cyberschools

In a report from Education Sector in June 2007, Virtual Schools are examined and their contrast to cyberschools is discussed. If you don't know the difference, don't worry. You are not alone. Cyberschools are schools that we typically think of where students attend full-time and all of their schools is online. However, virtual schools are typically used to supplement learning and students generally attend school in a traditional setting.

Why is this relevant to ed tech? Because with online courseware popping everywhere from places like Kaplan University and MIT's Open Courseware to iTunes U and YouTube EDU, online supplemental learning will become part of an ed tech educator's bag of tricks. You just have to know when to pull out the right tool.

Here is my assessment of the article:

I hadn’t given a lot of thought to all the aspects of online learning before reading this article. I also hadn’t considered that many home schooling families might transition to cyberschools or integrate virtual school courses as a supplement, but I think that it makes a lot of sense. A few of the points mentioned in the article are worth noting and expanding upon.

1) On page 1, the authors speak about the impact that iTunes had on the way people collect, listen to and share music and more recently videos but they fall short of mentioning iTunes as a management system for many online courses delivered in podcast or videocast formats. iTunes U offers a whole new dimension to online learning that many K-12 schools and higher education universities are already tapping into.

2) The advantages of the personalized learning highlighted by FLVS on page 2 as “any time, any place, any path, any pace” is an interesting perspective. I think we can all agree on the first three items – this class is an example of any time, any place, as I have logged in at times convenient for me throughout the week and from any location including my home office, laptop anywhere, and work office. Even any path is clear as we select the courses that we want to take to design the curriculum required by our chosen Master’s. However, any pace is not something that I have experienced in any of my TC online courses. At least not the way they explain it in the article. Any pace in a TC course is work as slow or as fast as you want within the week on a given unit, but there are also units in the syallbus and assignment deadlines associated with each one. I don’t believe that any TC online courses are organized in such a way that you can complete the course in less than a semester or take longer than a semester to complete it. Has anyone had experiences with courses like this? Do you think it would be beneficial if there were courses like this at TC?

3) I think the article does a good job of identifying challenges such as costs (and how they differ from traditional classrooms), online teachers and the differing methods by which they must teach, funding considerations and growth aspects.

4) The fourth and final point I would like to make is that emphasis for virtual schooling seems to revolve around the high school level and yet the article refers often to “K-12” experiences. Do you think that virtual schooling could be effective for younger grades? In what way? What would be the different design configurations that would need to be considered?

Regarding the Box on Pages 9-13:

In the box on page 9, there is a discussion about the fear that cyberschool students would not develop “social skills and real world survival abilities” but I think this is an irrational fear, dependent upon how the online school is implemented. While students would not have the same in-person socialization - parents and others would need to ensure they get this from outside school experiences, and many would already be getting through in person classes they are taking or through their athletic and artistic pursuits – they will also be getting a digital socialization that many in solely traditional classrooms would not experience. This digital socialization will be key for any future 21st century career. Likewise, online schools have a unique ability to offer constructivist, and hence, more real-world like opportunities for learning.

I liked that the policy recommendation on page 10 discusses the future innovations that will only serve to enhance the types of online learning that could be made available in the future and that they specifically mention things like immersive simulations and cognitive tutors that we have discussed in this class. It’s good to know that policy makers are considering these tools.

I also liked that policy makers are considering ways to take advantage of economies of scale thorough things like collaborative curriculum design and sharing of lessons and methods. For example, the non-profit Curriki is trying to encourage this very behavior among teachers everywhere.

Lastly, I have experienced, in several TC courses, the trend towards blended learning and I believe that this practice will continue and grow in the future.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Facebook Revolt

"Do you own Facebook? Or does Facebook own you?" asks the title of this article in New York Magazine this week. If you read some of my other posts, this article might sound like a bit of a contrast. It sounds like Facebook really is a democracy. Why? Well, after a group arose protesting the new Terms of Service, Facebook actually offered users the opportunity to comment on a revised ToS, will review the comments and allow users to vote on the new ToS during the week of April 20. (Don't forget to vote - they need at least 30% of members to vote to "ratify" it).

But, this is not the only part of the article that drew me to it. It brings into question the whole idea of social networking and sharing - the participation age, I like to call it - and ponders the effect that Facebook has on our own lives. Beyond that, it clearly explains some very real new terms in this era of social networking.
  • Folksonomies - Like the old library filing system uses a taxonomy to categorize information, so Web 2.0 is organized by tagging and other social categorization conventions.
  • Social Graph - The network representation of your online social life.
  • Digital Self - Your whole online persona
  • The Cloud - A networked hard drive; the future storage of your information
The article raises some interesting questions. Feel free to post comments with your thoughts on these....
  1. "Your digital self could be even more sensitive, and powerful, than your real self". There is lots of talk about people being bolder and less inhibited online, but this seems to indicate the opposite: A more self-aware and sensitive online self. What do you think?
  2. Facebook and other social networks are continuously trying to balance functionality and privacy issues. Users are on a "perpetual search for the perfect balance of unity and autonomy on the Web"? Where do you fall on this issue? What is most important to you? And how do you think this will differ among different generations of users?
  3. No one asks for a phone number or email anymore. It's just "I'll find you on Facebook". Facebook, the utopian promise of a place where everyone is equal, where reflection is abundant and where, through social cohesion, there is a "chance to save the day". If this is true, if Facebook presence becomes ubiquitous and real social change can result, how does this impact how educators should think about technologies like social networks and their use in the classroom? How should educators change their teaching methods as a response to understanding students online persona and the world in which they live?
Read the article and let me know what parts stood out for you. What components are important to you? Why?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Thoughts on Readings - Week 4

Wikipedia: Exploring Fact City

This article compares Wikipedia to a city, a metropolis online. I'm not sure I would go that far but it does represent what we mean by digital citizenship. It's a democracy for all that choose to participate. And that's where the concern also lies. Is Wikipedia credible? Is it a crutch? Last year, one of my husband's 4th grade students chose a famous person to do a biography about. His entire report was a word for word paragraph from Wikipedia. Now, plagiarism issues aside, was this even representative of the person? How accurate was it? Was it simply laziness that caused this student to rely solely on Wikipedia or did he think it was a complete picture of this person? The article identifies that one of Wikipedia's founding principles is "Assume good faith". That's great but as adults we may be able to discern when something is inconsistent with "good faith", but can a 9-year old? The article muses that it's the "sidewalk-like transparency and collective responsibility that makes Wikipedia as accurate as it is" but the question is, how accurate is it? Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Wikipedia and use it often. I just don't rely on it to be the sole provider of answers. As educators, we need to encourage the use of multiple resources to cross-reference data and ensure accuracy. The non-linearity feature of Wikipedia - the ability to get lost and follow multiple paths finding ever more interesting information - is great but only if the information is reliable. In some ways, I love the fact that Wikipedia is open to all. It's a true democracy of information. And, Wikipedia, themselves have chosen not to require expertise which, in the opinion of the author, "has made all the difference". Absolutely, this is true in terms of growth and popularity. But, maybe there ought to be some way to discern content that is shared by experts from those that aren't - this mostly in an effort to help younger audiences analyze the accuracy of the data.

Feeling Too Down to Rise Up

This article proposes that the digital generation, while still invested in widespread anger over such topics as AIG and the economy, are less likely to demonstrate in front of buildings and explode into riots; that they are passive because "anger remains corralled on the Internet" and it is unlikely that the "Obama administration [or anyone] will do much to assuage the anger [that way]." I have to disagree here. The author claims that technology separates us but I believe it actually brings us together. The very idea of LinkedIn, Facebook, Plaxo, Twitter and more is that these technologies bring us together with people who share common interests or who want to remain connected in one way or another. Additionally, the author notes that we are too self-involved, reading our own niche news and listening to our own personal playlists, and that this means we can't have effective rebellions, again, because we are in our own little worlds. On the other hand, wouldn't you think that these niche preferences would eventually make us experts? Experts who then provide valuable insight to the group, rebellious or otherwise. The author feels that rebelling publicly or even political engagement is to expose your own inadequacies, but I don't see that at all. In fact, the Internet gives us a whole new forum to express discontent and likely hides inadequacies when so many others agree with the sentiment. The author alludes to the necessity to bring back "real protest, nonviolent civil disobedience, even good old-fashioned town-hall meetings". Excuse me, he must have missed the Barack Obama Open for Questions virtual town hall just last week. I believe that social tools like Twitter are even more empowering (not to mention safer) than riots in the street and the impact these technologies have will cause more action to take place by the recipients of the dispute than ever before.

Is Facebook Growing Up Too Fast?

Facebook is growing astronomically and it suggests tht Facebook is becoming an "essental personal and business networking tool". I would not have argued this point last week, but it's even more clear to me now. On Monday, I found out that my job was being eliminated and almost immediately I realized the impact that Facebook would have on me and my network. My peers, my partners, my customers - they all wanted to be my friend, to help me find a job, to introduce me to others. Of course, there is the expected use of Facebook - students chatting with each other, sharing pictures, posting their favorite American Idol etc... and there is also the less common but apparently growing in popularity application of using Facebook as a genealogical search tool (Cool!), but another use is worth mentioning to counter the article above. "Facebook has also become a vehicle for broad-based activism". Hmmm, and some people think the digital generation doesn't rise up!

The other aspect of the article that is worth discussing is Facebook's own perception of itself. They view the most important metric as the amount of information "zipping across its servers" not the number of members. They believe all the recent changes they are making to the interface are to make "the act of sharing" easier and faster and will soon introduce dynamic page updates instead of forcing a refresh. However, what I found most interesting is that they believe Facebook is NOT a democracy. What? We keep talking about how Web 2.0 and Facebook in particular are all about participatory democratization of information. So, how could Facebook not be a democracy? Well, they believe that Facebook is more a medium of communication and that they have "enough perspective to ... be caretakers of that vision". The problem is that the members of the Facebook community "feel not only vested but empowered to challenge the company." So, what does the future of Facebook look like? Well, two views might give us a clue.

1. Facebook is not a "homophily" - Facebook users associate with people of all different mindsets, ages, ethnicities and relationships. This is how you build a network of value and I suspect this will continue to grow although some privacy challenges will need to be overcome.

2. Facebook is the new DoubleClick - Interactive advertising by engagement is the wave of the future. Get users to become fans of your brand and tell their friends and so on and so on (like the old Shampoo commercial). Get users to vote for their favorite products and you build brand loyalty without even realizing it. When users participate, it is way more effective than a pop-up annoying ad or click-through that must be followed.

The Celebrity Twitter Ecosystem

This is a brief article about how Twitter has emerged as a sort of anti-tabloid for celebrities and highlights the interrelationships (the social graph) among famous people. I refer to it as an anti-tabloid because in most cases it's the celebrities themselves who are posting updates and not their publicists, so it's very real. It's not gossip, it's their real lives. And, I think that is the point of Twitter in the first place: for all us, it's a place to comment on your own lives and let people with similar interests converse with you. Let's not forget that celebrities are real people too, with real interests, and there is no reason you can't share an interest with them. I think this would also be a very interesting way for students to present a biography of a famous person they respect - follow them on Twitter and add that to any other research about the person.