Page 38 - Campus Technology, May/June 2018
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This is incredibly empowering, in some regard, for the individual — and increases the expectation in various environments of individual choice and the control of self to engage or disengage according to the individual desire or interest. In this reality, authentic choice is vital and, indeed, more important than any generic or prescribed engagement. Increasingly, however, psychologists are discussing the “downside” of this obsession with self, as it can also be destructive. For example, if what I have carefully mediated and produced is either disregarded or disagreed with, then that is a personal attack or rejection. This ultimately can lead to individuals becoming less rather than more confident and, ultimately, choosing to disengage rather than engage further.
As Katharine Hopson, writing in an article for NPR’s Health News, stated, referencing a research study from the University of Pittsburgh (PA): “It turns out that the people who reported spending the most time on social media — more than two hours a day — had twice the odds of perceived social isolation than those who said they spent a half hour per day or less on those sites. And people who visited social media platforms most frequently, 58 visits per week or more, had more than three times the odds of perceived social isolation than those who visited fewer than nine times per week. The study appeared ... in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.”
It would seem that the technologies focused on increasing
The age-old challenge of helping students engage in their own learning process is still with us, even with social media.
social interaction actually increase social isolation with excessive use.
The Elusive Balance
Back in 2013, I, among others, was writing about the importance of re-educating ourselves as educators on the best uses and applications for social media in learning: “Similar to how we have taught the differences between academic and colloquial or creative language uses, we now must teach the appropriate and effective uses of digital communication and learning-based networking language and tools.”
We instinctively knew, as educators, that social media technologies would greatly impact our students and our own lives. We also instinctively knew that we would have to think through how and when the technologies would benefit learning the most. We were struggling to find the balance between using the technologies and applying the technologies to improve learning. My sense is that we did
not realize that the actual processes of learning through interaction and engagement were changing, along with our students’ perception of their role in the process. So, we thought we just needed to confront the interruptive time spent using the technology or the scattered focus of students engaging in social media. We thought that the increase in social engagement would provide support in helping students engage with each other and raise the interest in a higher level of interaction.
Instead, we are faced with the intrusion of social media in learning itself. That is, the age-old challenge of helping students engage in their own learning process is still with us, even with social media. The learning goal is not student involvement alone but student engagement with learning, which is different. As Donna Freitas wrote in an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education: “In our classrooms, we urge our students to express a range of opinions, to disagree, to become critical thinkers. Online is a different matter. On their Facebook and Instagram feeds, they are learning to conform and be uniformly agreeable, because opinion and difference can come with a high price. Vulnerability, sadness, failure, and nonconformity are not to be owned publicly, lest they reflect negatively on their brands.”
The objective process of working ideas in the public space and the application of new knowledge in specific contexts of academic or professional use require less of an obsession

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