Barry Wellman Visits BEDUC 476 via Skype

Barry Wellman, co-author of Networked: The New Social Operating System networked

spoke to our class BEDUC 476 via Skype on Monday, February 13, 2017. It was exciting because I had never been to a class or workshop where the speaker lectures through Skype. He reviewed themes presented in his book Networked and told us about his current research projects. Here some of his ideas:

The Mobile Network Revolution in which many individuals have bought and use their cellphones is only one to one communication. This mobile phone revolution is much more individualistic than his description of the transformation of human groups becoming Networked Groups or the Internet Revolution.

More of us have automobiles, woman are outside of the home working, we take airplanes more frequently than use our cars to travel, the decrease in church attendance and the study of interracial and interfaith marriages as being widely acceptable in the United States. These studies in sociology explain the reasons why we have become so mobile and the internet has taken down a lot of cultural barriers from previous generations (not entirely).

“Glocalization” we are more aware of conflicts throughout the globe but in fact they are less frequent.

Optimistic on the more individualistic movement that has emerged since the widespread use of the internet home/workplace and Mobile Revolution.

Cellphones being used creatively outside of his studies in North America, an example being in Kenya and using cellphones to wire money to people.

I feel a lot of what Barry Wellman said was presented very well in his book which we have been reading. However, see him talk brought a lot of his ideas to life. He made a lot of jokes, used himself as an example in many explanations and is a very happy and jovial man in his mid-seventies. Although many of the things that he explained over Skype were not new to our class because we read many of the concepts in his book, there was something fun and unique about actually hearing him talk about his work. One thing that I strongly believe is lacking in many of the technology companies that are a mere ten miles from our university campus: Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Facebook are “internet sociologists”. When Barry used this term and I learned that he is a trained Sociologists, I really connected more to his work because I am a Social Studies teacher. I have a strong understanding of Sociology and believe that as an academic field, it is not seen as important in our country. However, just like the strong push towards educating our public K-12 grades in STEM education I feel that it is important for people like Barry Wellman and educators t not set aside Sociology studies. Because if we only focus on the material items, the new technology tools being marketed to us, and learning to use our tools then the most important lessons are left out of our collective history: humans and how technology may or may not actually be improving our lives for the greater good.

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Technology Improves Access to Relative Content

When I first started teaching in 2007, we used desktop computers, email and programs (for grading, attendance and school documents) however the true access to technology like we have today was not present. Most teachers did not have smartphones and without laptop computers, like many teachers use today, the work that I took home was papers to grade and lessons to plan. Today, in 2017, I can access everything from my work laptop anytime and anyplace. I can ask a question to my colleague at any time through email, evaluate curriculum from other teachers around the country but the downside is that all of the work that I do at school can also come home with me.

In the book Networked: The New Social Operating System by Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman that we have been reading in class (B EDUC 476), in chapter 7, the authors discuss “Networked Work”. I agree with what these authors wrote and┬áhad to say regarding networks in our daily lives, families and in the workplace. Communication between educators has become so infinite. Even since I have started this graduate course, I have discovered┬áso many individuals on Twitter, blogs and websites that I could never have enough time to tap into all the available resources to enhance my lessons in the classroom and my job as a teacher.

I still find that I learn a tremendous amount from just conversing with other teachers in my school. My students had finished learning about WWII in their World History class when I started working as their teacher this past week, beginning 2nd semester. A fellow World History teacher recommended this incredible data-based documentary to me called The Fallen of World War II. I had my students watch this as a transition piece from WWII to the Cold War. Once they finished watching the video, I asked how it made them feel? There are no people, no actors and it is not a traditional documentary. The video is all data visual info-graphics yet after watching it, it makes you truly understand the destruction of WWII, and feel moved or sad about the number of lives that were lost.

In order to show this to my class, I used technology. However, I discovered this amazing documentary through word of mouth. As Rainie and Wellman wrote in their book Networked, “The success of collaboration in the network operating system often depends on a delicate balance of computer networks and human networks that provide the trust and incentives to share information and knowledge” (p. 194). I fully agree with this interesting balance of using computers in the workplace to enhance our ability to organize, display information, access knowledge and overall work better as teachers, however we can never fully replace the camaraderie, the friendships and the personal networking that takes place between educators in schools face to face.