Recently, the PEW Institute asked a variety of Internet Stakeholders to look ahead to the year 2020 and predict if the internet will have had a positive or negative impact on their social relationships. I was intrigued by this notion because there has been a lot of discussion in the district around Edmonton Public Schools’ Vision 2020. It is important that we consider the completion of high school not as a “finish line” but the start of the rest of their lives.
The results of The Future of Social Relationships survey showed that 84% of respondants agreed that the internet will be a “mostly positive force on [thier] social world.” The highlight of the study for me, however, were the comments that took a realist approach. Here are some examples:
“Certainly both good things and bad have happened to relationships because of the internet. I believe, though, that overall, the increasing ease of connection with people at a distance is improving social relations much more than the occasional gaffe or thoughtless act is harming them. Some discretion about what to do and say online is necessary, but that’s simply a social more that needs to be worked out and understood – the tools are advancing quicker than the social etiquette around them. There will always be people who damage their relationships spectacularly, and if the internet were not available to them, they would do it another way. The benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.”—Rachel S. Smith, vice president, NMC Services, New Media Consortium
“Context matters. It’s not just the internet. It’s the pace of change, the pace of life, the pace of work – all of which are accelerating, in part because of the net. But norms take longer to develop than technologies. And where you stand depends on your circumstances. For me, the net is a wonderful learning network and for some it is alifeline and for others it is a tether to their boss or a source of harmful misinformation, disinformation, and distraction. Since when is the world starkly divided into either-or alternatives? For many, life will be alienated, rushed, and confusing because of theirinvolvement online. Others will choose or will learn or be trained to cope with dangers of an always-on lifestyle.”—Howard Rheingold, visiting lecturer, Stanford University, lecturer,Tools forand Smart Mobs
It would be interesting to see what the results would be if we polled teachers and administrators in Edmonton Public. It would be an important question because as we consider using Social Networking in our classrooms, we should know how we feel about it’s impact on our lives. Your response will determine your approach to social networking. You may want to teach kids online social skills to protect them, or you may want to harness Social Media to empower them. Either approach is good for our students.