When I read that this class was about the rhetoric of social networking, I really only thought about facebook pages and Twitter tweets. However, I’ve learned that these and other similar platforms are being utilized for a variety of social benefits. For my research project, I am focusing on how online technologies are being utilized to transform education and the ways through which we learn. More specifically, I plan to look into open courseware and social networking technologies.
The President of MIT refers to “knowledge as a public good for the benefit of all.” This is certainly backed up by MIT’s OpenCourseWare site, where materials for over 1900 MIT courses are available online, free to access by anyone with an internet connection.
The increased access to knowledge allows anyone to learn regardless of age, geography, or socioeconomic status. But these technologies don’t only provide opportunities to absorb new knowledge; they also provide platforms for an active exchange of knowledge. For example, forums on professional development sites for teachers allow individuals to discuss lesson plans or teaching strategies. In this class, video chat technologies will enable us to have a discussion with students in Australia. And blogging allows writing students in Texas to critique the research ideas of our writing class in California. I’m most excited to observe video chats because I think they provide the most dynamic example of an exchange of ideas. I’d like to talk to some of the participants afterwards about what they learned or shared and how that method is different from the ways they have learned and shared ideas in the past. Overall, these technologies are allowing us to cross boundaries to not only gain knowledge, but also to contribute new knowledge.
Research by the National Science Foundation and initiatives by institutions like MIT are evidence that there is significant potential in online technologies as educational tools. The full potential is far from being realized, but already it is noticeably changing the ways through which we can learn.
Yoshika Crider, Stanford University