Monday, June 22, 2009

Responding to an I-Phone World

I finally got my iPhone for Fathers Day--(amazing how my family read my mind!)there was no telling my excitement when the great 3G version of the phone arrived in the highly seductive Apple packaging. I was very thankful to them and to Apple for giving me again a gadget that truly offers something mind-expanding in the same way that my I-Pod and my I-Mac have been at prior times in my consumer history.

Now I can 'tweet' and 'facebook' (no verb comes to mind here) and 'Google' to my heart's content from almost anywhere and certainly at any time. The reality of a globally interconnected world is here in this small and lightweight package with the famous astronaut taken picture of the blue earth on the front screen --before you slide the virtual switch to see your decorative looking 'apps.'

The iPhone enters a world built for all of its swiss knife capabilities--using all the new social media that demand real time communications. But does a world so tightly socially networked have room for both a Google and a Facebook? I was set to wondering this question the other day after reading an article in Wired (not available in electronic form just yet otherwise I would link to it--it is by Fred Vogelstein by the way) that suggested the same--that there was a battle between a Facebook and Google ruled planet. The underlying reason for the competition was that there were two ways of seeing the web--one Google--top down organization of information through mathematical algorithms and the other personal and human centered. Facebook believes that with their millions of users (carefully screened off from Google's big brother like crawling engines) they can deliver answers to people on what to read, visit, listen to etc than the impersonal Google.

On reflection I think the analysis is wrong --while both envy each others' market share we now live in a Google, Facebook and Twitter world--they all have a place in helping us to know it--know each other and come to terms with our interconnected realities in different ways. Even Twitter--that comes in for a great deal of knocks-(self indulgent time wasting)has proven itself in this latest Iran crisis to have socially redeeming value. I also agree with what Clive Thompson said that "the real appeal of Twitter is almost the inverse of narcissism. It's practically collectivist — you're creating a shared understanding larger than yourself. "

The challenge is out there for journalists just as much as it is for teachers, to make sense of that "shared understanding." It is too easy as teachers to pretend that the issue of the way the new media is changing our world can be put off until another day--but it is worth tackling now--not just because more and more students are getting their news through the new media and getting their content through Google (not to mention turning up at school with smart phones) but because it threatens our relevancy as teachers. We cannot prepare our students for a world that no longer exists. We have to acknowledge that the planet's rapid fire communications are in danger of rendering our traditional textbooks and libraries as dinosaurs --we need to provide our students with the global awareness and media literacy skills that can help them make sense of both the nightly news and their academic studies.

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