Remember the good old days when things like Calvin Klein jeans, big plastic combs in your back pocket, Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, and big hair bands were all the rage. Remember what we referred to these things as? Fads. That is right Fads. Yep, they have all come and gone (and they might come back again someday-hopefully minus big hair rock 'n roll), but they were just that, fads. Upon return from a very relaxing and very unplugged spring break here in the DR I cam e back to find a number of the edublogs I follow in my Netvibes account were discussing these new social networking sites such as Twitter, Ning, Facebook, the omnipresent Myspace, Jaiku, and beyond. It got me wondering...
There seems to be a lot of talk out there about how and where these fit into the realm of Educational Technology or if they fit at all. Most bloggers are trying these sites out themselves in order to see how they might fit them into their classrooms. I have no problem with this and actually I enjoy reading about their trials with these new Web 2.0 apps.
Stepping back though and trying to grasp what these networking sites provide, and what they might provide educationally, I was struck by an iconic vision of the 80's, the tight jeans with the big comb in the back pocket. Shortly thereafter, the word fad jumped into my head and I figured it worthy of a post here. You may have disagreed when you saw the picture of Poison above but if you're still reading, congratulations. I'll admit, I went to many of the sites I listed above to see what they were all about, most I had already checked out but Twitter for example was new to me. So where does social networking and technology in education fit? Hell, after thinking about this for a week, reading numerous posts, and writing one of my own, I have no clue. I don't see it/get it like many others out there are also saying. I guess I am starting to wonder if we do need to get it. Do we need to include social networking in the tools we employ as educational technologists? Will social networking sites last-are they here for good? And, what about the changing landscape of social networking sites themselves. The massive Myspace population is now losing some people to Facebook. Was Myspace the first of many social networking fads or will it re-invent itself to avoid the outcome of big hair rock n' roll?
Obviously I am not posting answers here but just some thoughts. Should we as educators be chasing fads and should we also be trying to see they educational benefit in every new Web 2.0 application? Would we be better off to let time and good judgement take its due course before actually rushing to the next "new" thing? When did it become important for us to "know" people we don't know and will never meet? What is the educational value in students knowing up to the minute updates of someones personal goings-on? Have we really moved that far from face to face social networking?
Finally, anyone who has ever been to Latin America will tell you about the plazas in the middle of most towns, from the smallest to the biggest you can usually find one with a statue of someone dead or a nice fountain of falling water. While there is much in Latin America that I do not admire, the idea of the central plaza is one that I have come to fully embrace. I now find myself rating the plazas I see driving through towns or when traveling. I guess what strikes me is that there are always people in these plazas, relaxing but almost always talking to other people...face to face no less. In the flat world will there be room and/or time for this type of social networking or will all of these non-virtual meeting places become the ruins of the pre-social networking age?