Friday, 12 December 2008

Obama, social media and pedagogic change

Last month I blogged about whether the manner of an Obama victory had any implications for higher education. Since then, several reports have followed analysing the Democrats use of web and social media tools to connect their followers and organise campaigning. the excellent blog, ReadWriteWeb has analysed Obama's Social Media Advantage with several interesting outcomes:
  1. the demographics of democratic support aligned with the demographics of social media users;
  2. the number of people wishing to be connected with Obama rather than McCain, using social media, was demonstrated by the number of blog postings mentioning him and the number of Twitter and MySpace friends he had;
  3. the second act of Obama's use of social media, namely his engagement with citizens as President through change.gov, highlights that "the Obama campaign may have found another way to continue the conversation that they started".
The change.gov site highlights Obama's commitment to ongoing conversation: it argues for "the great things we can do when we come together around a common purpose". The site asks people to share stories and goals, and focuses upon crowdsourcing new agendas. Old ways of looking at the world are under pressure from social media and extended networks.

To be honest, this is a relatively simple, democratic approach that utilises established social tools and political ends, coupled to an apparent willingness to listen. This holds out hope for social change that might underpin progressive pedagogies with distinct characteristics.
  1. The design of meaningful, whole programme curricula, rather than atomised modular courses, which start from the learner within her/his social networks. Empowering the learner to make sense of how units in a curriculum might build to something more will then scale personal involvement in decisions about: materials to be analysed and produced; tools to be utilised; educational networks to be developed (possibly from social networks that already exist); and tasks and activities that enable actions to be taken.
  2. This links to a greater emphasis on negotiated, personalised assessment, which might be linked to patchworks and portfolios, which connect to, include and celebrate informal learning opportunities, and which can be represented in multiple media forms.
  3. Linked to this is an engagement with an enquiry-based curriculum for personal change, and more of an emphasis on learning agendas set by individuals through personal enquiry. Negotiating a curriculum, or a set of problems that will support change in the individual, and enable that individual to achieve a set of personal outcomes requires the type of socio-constructivist scaffolding that is central to the use of social media.
  4. Critical in the emergence of a curriculum that is co-managed by the learner is the partnership role of an experienced adult as mentor or facilitator. This mentor may be and more experienced student or tutor, but the key is for that facilitator to negotiate with the individual learner around: problems and concepts within an enquiry-based model; relevant social, educational and subject-based methods for analysing these problems; how to develop an appropriate social, educational and subject-based approach to knowledge creation; and the social networks and tools that can enable personal understanding and change.
The choice of technologies and networks, participation within multiple social forums and associations, a personalised definition of learning within a subject-specific context, and the development of critical literacies, are a function of partnerships between learners, mentors and institutions. For the institution, the mentor and the learner, the possibilities for empowered, pedagogic autonomy are strengthened by an active engagement with social media.

1 comment:

Chris Goldsmith said...

I agree with your analysis, particularly about the transformative and communal nature of Higher Education. The challenge is to get all the stakeholders (staff, institution, students) on the same page. What is the common purpose that they can all pursue? Obama's election was possible, because diverse sections of the electorate were able to pursue a range of political goals through one candidate. Can we artic