And your homework for tonight is … Facebook?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this post from Will Richardson. On one hand, I agree with Will. There is tremendous potential in using social media for learning. I have personally had this experience while trying to learn something new, such as CSS, PHP, digital video, guitar riffs, how to clean my lawnmower’s carburettor, etc. In most cases, someone else held the key to a problem I was struggling with, and had I not been connected to a large pool of folks with similar interests and extensive knowledge, I would either be stuck in a rut or would have bailed on the whole thing altogether. The distinct characteristic from these learning experiences and those of K-12 (and undergrad, in most cases) students is that I was personally driven to learn something new. Students are personally driven to learn new things as well, but in many cases their personal interests don’t align with the learning objectives established by their teachers.

So, in the case of this 20-year old University of Missouri student, he probably is learning a lot by engaging in social media. He has probably learned a slew of new terms from the Urban Dictionary. He has learned how to be witty in 140 characters or less. He has learned how to keep tabs on his high school girlfriend. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he has not only learned how to get free music from YouTube, but also discovered music he otherwise would have never heard of. The challenge for educators (and professors) is a) to convince this kid that most of these “skills” (minus the stalking) can cross over to his academics and make learning a much more personally rewarding experience, and b) to venture into this scary territory where they relinquish control over the learning environment without drenching it in a cheap, imitation school-scented cologne.

In response to Will’s question, I’m not sure the blame for this kid’s lack of vision lies with anyone in particular. Perhaps the blame lies with anyone who believes differently and doesn’t do anything about it.