Fight for the living

imagesSome online communities believe social-media provides new beneficial ways for students to learn and interact, now it is domesticated for the classroom.

It’s nice idea, and one I was convinced of before I woke up with a hangover. That was some party huh. Volumes of actual media research show that where extensive computer-mediated means of communication occur, those with weaker-work ties exchange fewer, less frequent kinds of information than those with stronger work-ties. In places where ties are strongest, media is provided and used with greater frequency, richness and diversity — by which I do not mean — adding an attachment to an email, or boring others with powerpoint. It means creating and working in environments with rich media culture actually have more impact than using powerpoint presentations, email correspondence and twitter.

Strong work-ties demand careful, equitable deployment across cultures, ethnicities, locations and genders to allow individuals to maintain them. Allowing some sections and role based layers of education to be better funded than others, creates weak-cultures where few people find themselves “media-rich”. Despite the edtech rhetoric, this has little to do with literacy — but concerns the ability of individuals to maintain relationships though communication.

The focus of edtech communication is nearly always about dyads – two things we stick together, like gaming and education to make gamification, rather than recognise that poor communication and leadership apathy towards it means we go around and around in the same orbit – blogs, wikis and bunions. The worst dyads are those spoken in social media using high valyrian. For example, proividing high levels of computer skill and teaching skill can be used predict improved student outcomes at all levels of the process. Look, here’s a book I wrote to prove it …

Ultimately, the choice to ‘go online’ comes down to attitude. If you want strong friend-ties online … choose your media and work hard. If you don’t, you can be sure no one will make it for you, but plenty will enrol you in their dogmatic-zombie-army trained to echo and repeat the valyrian tropes, but not question.

We are not a hive. Personal, contextual and social architectural factors dramatically differentiate online spaces. It’s impossible to develop the kind of routines and strategic actions needed when you have no power. Of course, this is the game – the goal is to ensure weak-ties can be easily broken should too many latent ties be connected. Only certain people should have the ability to maintain strong-ties and rich media communication. When most classroom teachers have no personal computer, and the office administrators and experts come armed to the teeth there is something fundamentally wrong. There is not getting away from the fact that providing a rich media environment also requires providing rich opportunities and choices in communication — and well funded support which actively demonstrates it’s culturally diverse attitude to media.