MediaSnacking: Grazing on information and connecting through media
I have the pleasure of a) meeting and b) working with DK from MediaSnackers (and I'm one of the few people who actually know what the DK stands for). We're talking about how the world has changed and it's not turning back.
You want to know what a mediasnacker is? It's a description of a young person in 2007, grazing on vast amounts of information, chewing the cud to get something useful out of it, using media to communicate and connect with other people.
This is a new concept in the grand scheme of things. Take a look at how the internet has changed things since 1991 and look at how well (or badly) those 16 year olds born then are now coping in the world of work and further education. More importantly, what are the expectations of the young people coming in behind them?
When we see silly videos like this and this our temptation as educators is to lock it out - it's stupid, meaningless, useless. Yet, by doing so, we're missing a trick. Another opportunity for helping young people make more and better use of this media can be seen when you browse some really ugly MySpace pages. These kids are able to communicate but do they have the skills to harness this technology better so that they actually do communicate? Are education institutions placed to encourage those skills? Almost certainly not, so long as we ban even the simplest networking and creativity tools - like Flickr, for example.
By having those decisions taken out of our hands, and more testing put in them in the case of teachers down here in England, it's easy to go down the 'poor teacher' line. It's something with which I empathise greatly. However, I also think that really, as well as talking about empowering students, we need to make a call for action from them and their teachers. Education needs to vote with its feet and, if this hot air is worth something, do something.
At the moment, a huge number of kids I know come to school to, first of all, socialise and second of all to learn. Online they socialise first and learn at the same time. Does that not say something about a missed opportunity?
Where schools do take that opportunity to let kids' socialisation skills and technology come into play then it's projects like the ones Stephen Heppell has incubated that result: Turning spreadsheets and databases into creativity is a must-see video.
And, before we get too bogged down with the net and what it can do (which is what we adults tend to do when we think about technology) let's not forget the most important technology that kids own: their portable tech. Mobiles, games consoles...
Gaming, playing can learn us
Taking just the average complex game played by students, we see a great appreciation on their part for "leveling up", seeing where they stand in relation to the 200 or so levels in the game. They are making decisions, collaborating, creating things from simple avatars to creating whole games.
It's natural - kids who've never touched a computer can do it
And, as always, it's not just about the tech. It's about the teach, perhaps, but it's also about kids' inert desire to communicate through media. Take DK's work in South Africa with kids who had barely seen a computer, if at all. In minutes they were trained up being citizen journalists, videoing and podcasting their hearts away. For these kids, not exactly digital natives so much not yet drilled out of their creativity by school, it's natural.
Some thinking points:
- teachers teaching at kids: what does school look like when you're teaching and learning with them at any time of day or night?
- marketing at them instead of working/playing with them (marketers the biggest predators on the net?)
- who is shaping society's opinion? what are they shaping it with? How can the people in this space today start changing society around them?