Purpose

This site aims at addressing the needs of higher education staff and faculty in engaging the current and future generations of college students. In particular, the wiki provides practical examples of how higher education can adapt to the digital lifestyle of many students.

Format

While working towards developing a potential model of college student identity development through online social spaces, questions continued to arise with colleagues and peers about whether and how they should engage the space. Their concerns were centered on this notion that these online spaces are the student’s domain and they did not belong. Alternatively, a common theme was that the spaces represented some type of negative behavior with consequences out of line with the goals of the institution. For staff and faculty who were trying to engage students in this space, there was a lack of knowledge about what it is, how to use it, and whether it could come back to bite them.
All of these questions and concerns resembled Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1943) centered on online social engagement where a model of college student identity development through online social spaces would be a few levels up, their needs were towards the base, and represented a greater immediacy. Thus the name of the paper, Facebook for Dummies Smarties. A play off the popular “...” for Dummies book series, this paper will go deeper than Facebook for Dummies (2008), and is focused towards higher education faculty and staff in particular. The sections/chapters will address specific questions posed by faculty and staff and will introduce the concept of digital literacy and digital natives.

Wiki-Publishing

The goal of publishing this paper/thesis in the form of a wiki is to allow practitioners and researchers the opportunity to have a continuously developing guide. It seemed natural that in such a fast paced digital age, a paper attempting to discuss how we can address students in online spaces should itself exist digitally, and be capable of fast paced editing. The use of a wiki also allows for individuals to share their experiences, through contributions to the site. Additionally, a wiki encourages the development of online literary skills that will be useful in other online contexts.

Assumptions

There are often two positions taken when talking about the web, the first is that it is good because it will eliminate societal restraints of access and ability, providing education and opportunity to everyone (Clinton 1996; Hunter 1992). The other position is that the web has negative implications because it makes us less human, by mediating our interactions through a machine, further removing us from reality - leading to the destruction of morals and our community at large (Sproull & Kiesler 1986; Bugeja 2005). While these are both extreme opposites, there is not often talk about a middle ground. Why not? Maybe because the web is relatively new and its use is still being shaped. The term Web 2.0 is a recent phenomenon, but represents a shift in how we use and think about the web, that has been evolving since its inception. In its most basic form, Web 2.0 represents a shift from our thinking of the web as a source of information, towards a platform for collaboration. This fundamental power shift from deposits of information to users as depositors and aggregators of information, illustrates the growing complexity of our relationship in this ever evolving meta-medium. With this shift, our position as to whether the web is good or bad, becomes a question whether we are good or bad. Are we using the web for good or bad? By contextualizing the impact of the web with each user, we create a new lens through which to see the web. Therefore, the web has potential to be good or bad, depending on how we use it.

In looking at online interactions using computer-mediated communication (CMC), we need to change our thinking of the web as limiting our humanness, restricting us to the use of arguably one primary sense, sight. While sound and touch are also used, the primary means for communication is through text, inscribed and read from a computer screen. By saying that this makes us less human in these interactions, we take an ableist position, which would imply that interactions that limit our five human senses are in some way bad. A different way to look at these interactions would be to examine the ways in which our humanness is expressed through the constructs of the technologies. Emoticons are used in Instant Messaging (IM) to convey nuance in a statement. This recognition of the human in the text environment should refute any claim that CMC makes you less human. It would also imply that anyone who has limited or no use in any of their senses is therefore less human. A person who's blind can still interact with others through text-based CMC. Humans find creative and unique ways to interact through mediating technologies. These interactions are not limited, rather, they are unique, and they reflect the creativity of the human experience. Anyone who has ever sent or received a “...” at the end of an IM understands this position. It is this resistance to the technological structures, creating nuances, that illustrates the humanness of the interactions, the creativity of its users, and a need to rethink our prior positions of good vs. bad.

References

  • Abram, C. & L. Pearlman. (2008). Facebook for Dummies. Indianapolis: Wiley Publishing.
  • Bugeja, M. (2005). Interpersonal divide: The search for community in a technological age. New York: Oxford UP.
  • Clinton, W.J. (1996, November 4). Remarks in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. [Speech-Transcript] Administration of William J. Clinton. Retrieved May 14, 2009, from http://bulk.resource.org/gpo.gov/papers/1996/1996_vol2_2071.pdf
  • Hunter, B. (1992). Linking for learning: Computer-and-communications network support for nationwide innovation in education. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 1(1), 23-34.
  • Maslow, A.H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370-96.
  • Sproull, L., & Kiesler, S. (1986). Reducing social context cues: Electronic mail in organizational communication. Management Science, 32(11), 1492-1512.