Emerging Technologies, Students and The University

Born Digital

Born Digital

Inspired by several great articles that I have read lately (cited below), and in the spirit of the Educause conference this week, I thought it pertinent to comment on the tech trends that are sweeping the infoverse from the perspective of University as a civic institution. I’ll try to keep it short… Here goes:

There seem to be two major areas of new media/technology that academics, journalists and other folks are talking about- Social Media and media ownership (online piracy). Without going to far backwards to define the hell out of these terms, I plan to stick with Twitter and downloading music, as most people are generally familiar with these.

In an article posted this morning by Steve Kolowich at insidehighered.com, Twitter gets a real once over. In summary, the article is a review of a conversation between two Higher Ed administrators over the usefulness of twitter in the classroom. The basic argument is that it can be used as a tool to engage students in the conversation, but there becomes no way to control the flow of information once its out on the web. Personally, I see more positives there than negatives. As technology becomes part of humanity’s culture (another topic of much debate, but an unavoidable fact) the university is going to have to find ways to adapt and connect with students where they are… online.

In a similar vein, aside from the legal concerns, universities are having to consider methods for curbing or allowing downloading practices that so many students are actively engaged and well-versed in. Earlier this week, The Chronicle posted this article which exposes some new initiatives being taken by the music industry in collaboration with universities to allow students to download music freely. What it sounds like, according to the article, is that schools could choose to charge a “music tax” from students, or individual students could purchase access to the service, and therein they would have legal access to all the songs in the database. This initiative is being headed by Warner Music Group, so there is some real clout behind it.

Both of these technological “issues”, Twitter in the classroom and legalizing downloads, point to a larger trend involving students, the university and information. Howard Rheingold calls it “infotention“, a combination of attention, information and intention. Students are coming to college now with an astounding amount of media literacy, or set of literacies, a “kind of know how including a skill component and a social component.” Tweeting in class and accessing media are part of the new literacy, and at least university administrators are acknowledging this fact and beginning to consider options for capturing the infotention of the new student.

So what? Isn’t this all just hobbies and fads that will fade like a tye dye tee shirt? Not necessarily. Hypebot Associate Editor Kyle Bylin, in a recent post titled “Minds for the Future: Why Digital Immersion Matters” writes, “Like many other crucial skills, digital literacy¬†needs to be taught and learned through constant practice.” He goes on to point to research that suggests that 15 year olds in 2016 will accumulate 1500 hours per year on digital technologies. At age 20, with continued access, they will be at 10,000 hours, making them experts at internetting. The University would be remiss to not concern itself with these sorts of facts and to make every attempt to keep at the forefront of the technological age. Wither the cyborg? Not to far in the future, say I.

Further Reading –

http://www.educause.edu/7Things – A series dedicated to “schooling” educators on new media technologies

www.nmc.org – New Media Consortium, group of “learning-focused organizations dedicated to the exploration and use of new media and new technologies.”

Lev Gonick’s Blog – Case Western’s VP for Information Services

Photo from Flickr user Dianecordell