May 2011 Archives

The Myth of the Net Generation

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Many of today's college students are serious multitaskers, which come as no surprise, since they are growing up in an era where technology permeates every corner and inch of our daily existence. They are constantly on Facebook, updating their status and reading their news feed, while at the same time streaming a Youtube video, surfing the web and instant-messaging their friends. On the rare occasion when they are not using the Internet on their laptops or cellphones, they are either texting or talking on their cellphones.

It is probably safe to assume that the addiction to technology does not just affect college-age students but anyone living in this technology-rich era, one where technology has become more than just a tool but instead is an extension of our selves. Honestly, when was the last time you made it through a meal without checking your cellphone? I for one cannot even remember a time when I felt at ease without some form of mobile technology by my side.

However, the effects of technology are probably even most pronounced in college-age students. As an article in The Chronicle puts it, students belonging to the Net Generation are "born digital," and "with this birthright comes not only great facility but also great love the new technologies." Or so it seems.

A group of researchers discovered that students (age 18 and up) today in fact have significant concerns about the role of the new technologies in their lives, as reported in the article, No cellphone? No Internet? So much less stress, in The Chronicle. Even though many students enjoy and appreciate the convenience and benefits of technologies in their lives, many also appear to be reflective and genuinely concerned about technology's pervasiveness in their lives, more so than they are generally given credit for. Through a series of methods such as talking with and informally surveying more than 300 students at six colleges as well as conducting focus groups, the researchers noticed the same themes in every setting:

• Students are aware of, and seemingly frustrated by, the amount of time they spend online. Some talked about spending too much time online, calling it a waste and even an addictive form of behavior. As one student commented: "I don't realize how much time is passing while on my phone and computer. I'm so preoccupied, I'm not paying attention to what else is going on around me."
• Many students feel pressure from those around them to be continually connected and responsive. They feel this pressure not only from peers but also from parents, faculty, employers, and even the technology companies whose marketing strategies make them feel they must have the most up-to-date gadgets and features. "I don't have a coping mechanism," one student said. "There are so many things: e-mail, high-school e-mail, personal e-mail, texting, news."
• Students regularly talk about their online contacts as being less "real" than face-to-face interactions. "Talking to all these people, making connections when it wasn't really a personal connection, didn't feel real," one student said.
• When forced to disconnect for longer stretches of time, some students discover that they enjoy the slower pace of life. Their first reaction might be anxiety or panic--over the loss of cellphone coverage while on vacation, for example. But once they made the adjustment, they were likely to find themselves more relaxed. Said one international student: "When I came to the States, I didn't bring my laptop. ... I have much more time. It's a great feeling."
• Students hold a range of opinions about the use of personal technologies in the classroom. Some say laptops and cellphones are sources of distraction and shouldn't be permitted; others think that people who use them should sit in the back of the classroom. Still others feel they have the right to turn to Facebook or YouTube if the instructor isn't sufficiently engaging.

The researchers' findings come at a time when people are starting to question not only the role of technology in our lives but also the additional or unnecessary stress it can cause us. Wortham writes in a New York Times article that social media has created a problem emblematic of the digital age. Through hundreds and thousands of status updates, Twitter messages, photographs, and posts, social media has allowed us to keep up with the daily activities and lives of friends. Even though we may feel more connected to our friends as a result, the constant photo and status updates may also induce feelings of anxiety, inadequacy and frustration brought on by comparing your life with theirs. Known as "fear of missing out," we may become afraid that we've made the wrong decision about how to spend our time, especially if your friend's life seems so much more productive, fulfilled and perfect than yours.

Cordell offers a simple solution to the above problem in another article in The Chronicle - limit your Facebook friends list to people you actually care about instead of distant acquaintances. After cutting his Facebook friends list by half, Cordell said he's been able to spend less time on Facebook and is surprised by how much mental space that has created. He advises, "As social networks proliferate, we will have to make choices about where to spend our time and where not to. I made the choice to separate Twitter and Facebook: one for professional contacts, and the other for genuinely personal contacts."

Perhaps, this is something the Net Generation and also all of us living in this hyper-connected age have to be okay with - it's not quantity but quality, of time spent and number of friends, that make our lives meaningful.

What Would Nellie Bly Say?

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The original "New York World" published in 1889 featured the colorful writing of reporter Nellie Bly and her attempt to turn the fictional "Around the World in Eighty Days" into a real journey. Bly also helped to launch a new style of investigative journalism.

A new venture borrows the historic "New York World" name and its spirit of journalism innovation. The recently announced "New York World" digital project will help people learn more about their government and is being launched by Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. It aims to provide New York City residents with a site to learn more about how government services are allocated and how tax dollars are spent.

University officials say "New York World" will be an integral part of the Columbia School of Journalism and will deploy the talents of up to six recent graduates, faculty members, and current students.

A press release states the project's editor and staff will work closely with the Tow Center for Digital Journalism to "innovate and produce effective ways to help citizens understand how their government works."

The Tow Center for Digital Journalism was established in 2010 and is part of Columbia University. It provides journalists with the skills and knowledge about the future of digital journalism and serves as a research and development center for the profession.

New York City is, of course, home to the New York Times and other world-class media outlets. It will be interesting to see how and if "New York World" breaks any big stories. It'll also be exciting to see how this project harnesses the power of Computer Assisted Reporting (CAR) and marries good, old-fashioned reporting with new digital platforms.

Donors to the Columbia School of Journalism fund New York World through grants.


Quality Matters at the University of Minnesota - An Update

The University of Minnesota piloted Quality Matters in the fall of 2009. Since then, nearly 100 faculty and staff from four campuses have participated in Quality Matters trainings, and several have served as peer reviewers of online courses at other institutions.

The Quality Matters rubric is based on best practices and research on instructional design and student experiences in online courses. Aspects of the rubric will be familiar to people who have some experience with instructional design practice and theory. Even people who are familiar with instructional design have found the QM rubric helpful. As a rubric, it provides an easy-to-use tool to review aspects of an online course that directly effect student engagement and learner outcomes.

The rubric is also flexible: faculty who want to address specific aspects of the student experience in their online course can focus on the standards in the rubric that relate to those areas.

An updated Quality Matters rubric will be released in June 2011. In the meantime, if you would like to participate in a training or learn more about Quality Matters, contact Amanda Rondeau at amanda@umn.edu or 612-624-5732.

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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