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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Digital Tools to Mobilize a Community to a Goal




Today, as I was looking over the scope and sequence that ISTE has put out as plausible technology integration standards to support the ISTE student standards I found myself stuck on one standard and feeling the weight of the pros and cons stacking up equally on both sides of my brain as I wrestled with this idea: "Use digital tools such as blogs, websites and social media to crowdsource, crowdfund and mobilize a community toward a goal."

On one side I immediately swiped it under the doormat when the words "crowdsource" and "crowdfund" appeared. Why is this a skill that a graduate of our school must need to know? When I see those words I think of begging to support a cause for funds. And then the rumination began. I asked myself these questions:

  • Why is the standard there?
  • If we don't do it are we creating a disadvantage to our students?
  • Is this about exposure? integration? or even more...stewardship?
  • Are we just called to teach students how to navigate the internet or are we called to teach them how to add value to it as well?
  • As I forward think, is the internet always about taking or are we to give as well? Every click we make is monitored by an algorithm that learns us. How can I use that for good?
These questions led me to think about my own life. Do I crowdsource? Have I ever sought to crowdfund for a greater goal? YES on both accounts. I use social media to share the things I've learned via blogs to help others, I've asked people to join me at educational events like Edcamp Gig City and CoffeeEDU, I've asked people to support me in my JDRF walks to find a cure for type 1 diabetes, and more recently I've reached out to an entire city to help me find my lost dog. I've done this using social media, blogging, and various websites. 

I realized I am the epitome of this statement but the question that continues to ruminate in my head...should it be a REQUIRED skill? I don't like the terms "crowdsource" or "crowdfund" but I think there is value in the meaning of the statement. As I look at my job as an instructional technologist I see this as a way to use technology for a greater good. It definitely doesn't have to be to the extent I utilize it but if at my christian school it is a goal to graduate stewards of this world then technology and the internet can't just be seen as something to consume but also something to make better through our usage. The words "value added" come to mind. According to the dictionary value added means:

noun
ECONOMICS
  1. 1.
    the amount by which the value of an article is increased at each stage of its production, exclusive of initial costs.
adjective
  1. 1.
    (of goods) having features added to a basic line or model for which the buyer is prepared to pay extra.

Are we as educators truly teaching our students to add value to the digital world if we don't embrace mediums to do this? Even more, in a christian school setting aren't we called to it? Maybe I'm digging too deep and creating comparisons that only work in my head. But if all we do is take, learn, discern, and lurk are we becoming true stewards? As a steward we are responsible "for taking care of something, to arrange and keep in order in a way that glorifies God." Does this just mean personal intake? In our world that values collaboration and growing together I believe it means not just becoming fat babies off all the information on the internet but also exercising our right and responsibility to add to that environment as well.

I do struggle with the wording of the statement because I don't think crowdfunding is a particular skill that every student needs to know but I look at two instances in my life where crowdsourcing made a huge difference to me.

  • In 2010 after a very hurtful attack through the use of social media on myself and my donut business, a friend and educator, Jennifer Rimback, created a community support page for me on Facebook that helped me through a terrible week in my life due to poor digital citizenship skills of the masses in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
  • Just this year after losing my dog for a week, she was returned back to us due to a bombarding of social media and websites being shared over 500 times by people I did and didn't know. 

These were life changers. Is this a skill that should be taught is the question that keeps running in my mind?  Is this just something people should do if they want to but not be expected? I'll be honest, until today I thought so but as I have thought and rethought on this today and reflected on how much negativity we see on the internet, my mind has changed. Perhaps it is time to model appropriate and value-added internet opportunities to bring it to the forefront in today's world. Should it be crowdsourced? I don't know...but I do believe the power of the internet can be seen better through this choice. To experience the positive benefits of crowdsourcing exposure is a beautiful thing, take it from someone that has also received the opposite because of a donut named "Obama." 

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