Our Digital World

I don’t think I have to really talk about how our World has become so connected … that’s fairly straight forward stuff. We know that we are part of this always-on society that seems to have more and more trouble turning it all off. To some that would seem disconcerting. I mean, how are we ever really supposed to relax, take a step back, gain perspective, or unplug when it is everywhere? I guess for me, the answer is that I can’t — I mean, I’ve tried. Just last week I actually went three days without my laptop, broadband connection, and my obsessive need to check my email and my RSS feeds. I had intended to go three full days, but I walked into the Apple Store in SOHO (NYC) and instead of looking at spending more of my cash on some Apple stuff, I checked my email and my feeds. Strange, but true.I think that’s the point — I am more at ease when I am connected. My parents don’t get that (and I suppose yours don’t either), but it is true. That’s why the whole notion of getting a grip of what is going on in our constantly connected environment is critical if we as educators and researchers are really going to make a difference with our Net Generation students. I walk across the Penn State campus and see more people with cell phones than backpacks … more students reading stuff on their laptops than newspapers … more students listening to iPods than each other. Some say that we’ve entered the age of poor communication — I beg to differ. I teach these kids and they are amazing communicators, amazing multi-taskers, and very strong and intelligent kids. We have to get into that space and figure out how to capture a slice of that mind share — that’s how we’ll make an impact.

I’ll do my best here to explore ways we can do just that — challenge ourselves so we can continue to challenge them. I love that … the notion that I first have to challenge myself to make sure my classrooms (and they aren’t all physical spaces anymore) are exciting and engaging spaces. I’ll spend a little time in the next couple of weeks talking about some of the tools we’ve built at the Solutions Institute that help faculty get into the “flow” with their students — tools that allow us to interact with them … the way they expect. I’ll look at some things we’re doing with iPods that extend beyond the podcast and can actually make it easier to assess and assign work. I’ll be inviting several of my virtual colleagues (they’re real people, but they really only exist out there somewhere in the blogosphere) to throw their ideas into the mix. So far, I’ve convinced D’Arcy Norman from the University of Calgary to by contributor. I’m sure he’ll bring his passion for learning object design and utilization to the fray.

I am going to be in Cupertino meeting with Apple next week to discuss how their tools can change what we as educators can do in and out of the classroom. We are looking to make significant progress in the educational space and this is a great step forward. If you have thoughts, ideas, or recommendations for those discussion, leave comments. This is our space.

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