Being an Early Career Teacher in the MEdTL often feels alienating to some degree, and even more so considering I’m not currently in a teaching role. In this elective I felt very much within my depth, however, being of the millennial generation and having grown up with technology in the sense that gadgets and devices have always been present in my life, but also in the sense that as I have grown, so too have technologies and the overwhelming possibilities they are capable of. While I joked in my first post for this unit (Jeffery, 2018a) that social media can often be re-branded as anti-social media, during the course of this unit I have not entirely changed my mind on this front, but rather refined why it is that I think this way. I’m optimistic that my natural stance of ‘understanding’ technology (or more realistically, being a fast learner) will allow me to differentiate my personal scepticism from my professional needs of using technology in this fast paced world.
Growing up with technology, I have experienced computers going from large machines in the corner of the family room to portable devices I wear 24/7 on my wrist; and I’ve witnessed ‘LOL’ go from an abbreviation to a verb. I’ve seen Facebook move from a space where I felt free to share ‘what’s on my mind’ as the prompt suggested, to a place where I’m constantly seeing targeted ads which are eerily accurate to what I’m thinking or feeling at the time and never being sure if it’s because I’m an incredibly predictable human being, or because Facebook has access to my data traces through Facebook Pixel (Goldman & Vogt, 2017). The internet has gone from a place where it was funny to Google my own name and find all the completely unrelated images that were connected, to a space where it was suggested that my face had been identified in a photo uploaded by my sister-in-law’s husband’s father when we were out for dinner this weekend just gone – an individual I had never connected with in an online space. And, yeah, that’s scary for twenty-five years of personally witnessed growth, in just one technology (but for the record I appear to have managed to elude Google Images using my full name – for now).
However, I can still see the other side of the argument, and agree that social media can be incredibly effective at fulfilling its definition: making connections and engaging with people and their ideas (Jeffery, 2018a) and allowing the creation and exchange of user-generated content (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010, as cited in Van Dijck, 2014). In implementing the Social Networking Project (SNP) in my workplace for assessment three, I was able to see in real time the effectiveness and frustrations of using social media for the purposes of networking. As with students in educational settings (such as explored in Freeman et al., 2017), I was expecting my colleagues to be able to learn anywhere, at any time, with access to each other and materials as a given. As previously discussed (Jeffery, 2018b) the success of this was reliant on accessible, reliable, available technology, which was not the eventual experience held across my workplace. While it was possible to create a social environment online, there was (and remains) some opposition to the integration of technology which had introduced with the aim of ‘fostering community growth’ (Wehner, 2017). The preference for a physical social environment in my workplace still prevails, however the social networking ideas explored in my SNP are still active, with roughly one third of the cohort accessing and utilising Yammer to communicate.
In implementing the SNP I was acutely aware of varying attitudes to what I was aiming to do, which also broadly fell into Bigum’s 1998 clusters of discourse regarding technology: the ‘boosters’ were championing the change alongside me, ‘anti-schoolers’ tried to emulate the SNP in other areas of our workplace which did not necessarily require change (e.g. an external network was created to communicate with a third-party provider), ‘critics’ questioned the need for another social networking site in their lives, and the ‘doomsters’ did not agree that there was a need for communication to improve in the workplace, and therefore rejected the SNP as a solution. I found it interesting to note that concepts regarding the integration of technology that I first learned about eight years ago in my undergraduate degree (and which were already over ten years old by that stage) were still relevant in today’s attitudes. Given further time for exploration, I would be interested in learning of the progression of Bigum’s 1998 discourses, and if there is an updated version for the markedly different world of today, or whether the continuation of the 1998 discourses are still globalised, rather than limited to my own experience.
This unit was not the first in which I used my CSU ThinkSpace, but it has been the catalyst for much change in how I viewed my Online Learning Journal (OLJ). Marking criteria stipulating a “professionally designed” OLJ had me reconsider the first layout I had chosen, which featured photographs I had taken of snippets of the ‘real world’. These photographs did not relate at all to my OLJ posts and were mostly used for aesthetics. The wordpress theme that the layout came from had a standard font which was far less aesthetic, and not particularly easy to read when looking at large paragraphs of text. For this reason, I found a new theme to implement for this assessment, and did away with featured images entirely. Feeling a sense of sadness at losing the opportunity to use this social space to show off my photography, I reasoned that I could just change the layout back to how I had previously had it, at the conclusion of the semester, ready for the next.
It stuck me that this reverting back to old thinking is perhaps a very accurate analogy for how my attitudes to social networking have come full circle throughout the unit. While I started out cautious regarding social networking and the benefits and blunders possible through it, I soon found myself immersed in a digital sphere that was excited for change with, through, and by technology. On examining the rise of social media, and platforms I was previously unaware of, the future of networking seemed bright. Subsequent modules looking at the concept of data traces and digital shadows (Tactical Tech, n.d.) again had me considering the positives and negatives of networking socially online, and I then very seriously considered deleting my Facebook account after the unit conclusion, so as to appear tech savvy during the course, but to err on the side of caution afterwards. On completing this reflection for the unit, however, I have come to realise that I have learnt there are more highs than lows in embracing technology and social networking change, if you just change up the layout a bit and adjust your way of thinking. I will continue to use social networking in as safe a practice as I possibly can, to best prepare myself for being an information professional in a world where the newest technology and its own unique triumphs and tribulations are coming whether I’m ready for them or not.
Bigum, C. (1998). Solutions in search of educational problems: Speaking for computers in schools. Educational Policy, 12(5), 586–601.
Freeman, A., Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Davis, A., and Hall Giesinger, C. (2017). NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2017 K–12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.
Goldman, A., & Vogt, P (Presenters). (2017, November 2). #109 Is Facebook spying on you? Gimlet Media: Reply All [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from https://www.gimletmedia.com/reply-all/109-facebook-spying
Jeffery, R. K. (2018a, February 26). Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine (INF506 assessment one) [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/rebekahandreading/2018/02/26/eleanor-oliphant-is-completely-fine/
Jeffery, R. K. (2018b, March 10). What is Web 2.0? [Task 2] [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/rebekahandreading/2018/03/10/web-2-0-and-the-influence-of-technology-on-organisations/
Tactical Tech. (n.d.). Me and my shadow: Take control of your data. Retrieved from https://myshadow.org/
Van Dijck, J. (2014). Engineering Sociality in a Culture of Connectivity. The Culture of Connectivity: A Critical History of Social Media. New York, New York: Oxford University Press.
Wehner, C. (2017, September 18). The future of the public library: from dusty tomes to disruptive technologies [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://bluetrainenterprises.com.au/blog/2017/09/18/future-public-library-disruptive-technologies/