The computer age has gone through a liberation of sorts. Information is acquired in real- time, it is accessible right now, and users decide whether or not the information acquired is relevant. Moreover, the 21st Century brought with it revolutionized teaching and learning. People interact differently in the 21st century than we did in previous centuries. Computer users have transformed into active media consumers who no longer passively consume information. In the past we were merely consumers of news. We were given news from newspapers, radio and television. Citizens were generally not part of deciding what was newsworthy nor did we play any part in reporting the news. There was no democratic process, we didn’t get to vote on it, we didn’t get to say what was news worthy, and unless you were on the scene and chosen to speak by the reporter who was also on the scene, citizens had nothing to say about news choices. Our opinions didn’t matter and what we knew about an incident didn’t matter. However, the news media has been democratized. Social networking has changed the way we get the news and it has changed the way news is reported to the public. Media is simply not traditional anymore. Web 2.0 has proven valuable for communicating and sharing up to the minute news.
Do you remember the earthquake that destroyed Haiti in 2010? The earthquake was a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake with an epicenter (the point on the earth’s surface that is directly above the hypocenter of focus, the point where an earthquake or underground explosion orginates) near the town of Léogâne (Ouest Department), approximately 25 km (16 miles) west of Port-au- Prince, Haiti's capital. The earthquake occurred at 16:53 local time (21:53 UTC) on Tuesday, 12 January 2010.
I remember it well. Not because I was there but because at the time, I was on Facebook tinkering and chatting with a friend who had recently moved to New Jersey. Tina asked me about the welfare of mutual friends including, Elice my Haitian buddy.
Up to the Minute News. Social Media, Access to the World. It’s a Whole Lot More Than Mere & Idle Chatter!
Social Networking gives us access to others all over the world with whom we would never be able to reach. President Obama utilized social media in the 2008 election. A Facebook post instigated the recent revolution in Egypt. A blog post impacted the Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States early in 2012.
It felt as if Tina asked about Elice at the very moment I saw the first stream of post coming through my feed from “a friend of a FB friend” who was an actual friend of my good friend Elice. Can you follow that stream of “friends”? This is what social networking does for us; it gives you access to people all over the world to whom we never had access to in the past. This “friend of a FB friend of Elice’s actual friend of a good friend Elice’s “ lived Miami at the time. I befriended him on FB after my return from a trip to Haiti two years before the earthquake.
Did you understand my connection? Now let me tell you about my good friend who was born and raised in Haiti. She came to America in 1976. She had a death in her family in 2008 and asked me if I would make the journey home with her because she hadn’t been home in 20 years. Being a close friend, she thought I would bring her a level of comfort and prevent her nervousness about the trip and since she agreed to help with some of expenses related to the trip, I jumped at the chance to visit another country. Elice and I moved quickly to get our passports in order. Her brother met us at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. Elice’s family and friends in New York as well as the 4 cities we visited in Haiti treated me like the royalty I should have been. When her brother’s neighbor found out that my maiden name was Boisseau, he shrieked in slow and broken English, “Welcome Home Meechelle Boisseau there are many Boisseau’s in our country, no your country. You have returned home!” I felt a connection to Haiti so when I saw the first message about the earthquake in my stream I felt a panicked like “my family was in trouble.”
The streams of posts from Haitian American friends were coming and they werecoming quick and fast, suddenly I began to get friend requests from other Haitian Americans who saw my posts in their feeds, likes, and comments. I also sent friend requests to other Haitians who were “friends of my friends” so I could read more of news of deaths, people dug out of caved homes, pictures of utter devastation, videos of total chaos, and shouts of those in pain and need. People were sending pictures they either took first hand of victims or pictures they got from other friends of friends and family on the ground. Some streams were in French and I couldn’t read them but the pictures were universal. Images have no language. The suffering and turmoil was evident so I reposted them. People were asking if anyone had seen their children, their mother, and their friends.
Social Networking - Real Time, Right Now & Relevant News
People were asking if anyone had contacted the Haitian Consulate her in Evanston.
Events began to be posted where people were gathering in Chicago as well as other cities for information, to raise funds, and to collect medical supplies, food and water. We went to several events to do my part because “my family” was in trouble. I convinced my own sisters and brother, their husbands, my sister- in-law, and our children here in Chicago to help. We banned together and organized a gospel concert to raise what we could to send to Haiti. We found several Haitian organizations on Facebook to send the items we collected and the money we raised. I asked a small church where I attended to start collecting medical supplies, food, clothing, and other items I saw on Facebook that was needed. We contacted the Haitian Consulate they picked up our stuff and shipped with others immediately.
We asked students at the school where I worked at the time to get involved in the giving. We got my daughter who lived in California the time involved. She added interviews from Haitian American Citizens to her video blog. We were involved, highly, actively, and aggressively! We were connected. We got more information for Elice and her family from FB than we did from the news, and it felt good to help. Elice’s family in New York and Chicago, not FB savvy, called Elice several times a day to ask her to ask me to check Facebook to get updates as they could not reach the family they needed to reach by phone. It was Facebook that engaged us in the earthquake as if we were on the ground in its midst.
Elice camped out at my house a few days so that she could read my stream of feeds on Facebook. I taught her how to chat, respond to posts and send messages. I taught her how to “get the news” she desperately sought about family members and her country. When she stayed over she sometimes stayed up all night reading and posting while on three way calling with her brothers in Chicago and New York. The news was posted in real time. It was right now and it was certainly relevant. I investigated my family tree because I wanted to be forever connected with these people with a fortitude that is admirable and found the connections I sought. It was an amazingly unbelievable and valuable experience greatly impacted by social media, specifically, Facebook, a Web 2.0 tool!
Social Networking in the Classroom is Here to Stay
Elice and her brothers have since gotten the Internet in their homes and are on Facebook communicating with their family and friends whom in the past, they hadn’t communicated with in over 20 years; whereas prior to the 2010 earthquake they saw little need for the internet and Facebook especially. They are sharing their children’s wedding pictures and graduation videos, and even unassuming things like recipes and bible verses. They are experiencing their family in ways they were not able to before. By and large, the enormous social feat is a match for advances made during the infamous industrial revolution, from 1750 to 1850, especially for families like Elice’s. Like the industrial revolution social networking highly impacts change in families, in communities, and even in education. This social networking revolution has spread throughout the world and it is not going anywhere. We are experiencing an era that will be recorded in history as a major turning point in the socialization of people worldwide and an era that has made an impact on daily life in so many ways for so many people. For us, living in this day and in this time, social networking is as sustainable as the publication of the 1st Chicago Tribune in 1847.
The 21st century brought with it innovation that is matched to the invention of the celebrated electricity as well as the development of the legendary telecommunications. However, there are teachers whose teaching strategies are stuck in the 20th Century, most due to a lack of information and sheer fear. To far too many teachers cell phone in the classroom is often a dirty word. Schools are still creating elaborate systems for having students check in cell phones each morning only to have to take valuable time in returning these cells phones.
Most of these phones they require students check in are connected to the Internet and with a system of teaching students cell phone etiquette, these phones can be used in classrooms, especially where technology is limited or not available at all. I find this amazing and backward. If students can learn to solve complicated mathematical formulas and read complex text, they can learn the things to do or not to do on a cell phone in a classroom. Teachers can collaborate and discuss beneficial ways to use the cell phones students already have to involve them in “The New 3 R’s: Real Time, Right Now, and RelevantTM” learning, and instruction that highly involves them so that they want to absorb information. The New 3 R’s: Real Time, Right Now, and Relevant instruction is appealing, engaging, participatory, involving, evolving, inclusive, collaborative, and exciting.
The sad thing about it is that social media is not away. It is here to stay. It is changing lives and transforming societies not just in the United States but also throughout the entire world. Teachers in Singapore are partnering with the countries Ministry of Education get Web 2.0 Tools for the classroom. Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and social computing are impacting classrooms all over Europe and have been since 2008. Students in South Africa and Asia are blogging. The use of Web 2.0 technologies is sweeping America like word of the first telegraph. In order to prepare our students to be global thinkers and learn to think outside of the box in which they live, we need to include Web 2.0 tools in more classrooms, especially in urban and rural areas where resources are limited.