Sunday, October 28, 2012

Web 2.0 - Do not fear the synthesizers

If our students are to be successful in the 21st century, we, as educators, must model what it means to think critically in the 21st century. This starts with modeling synthesizing information, a modern day form of "separating the wheat from the chaff." 

Recently, I was able to catch up with a fellow colleague who is also an assistant principal in another school in the same school district where I have the privilege to serve. My colleague asked me questions about twitter and a few other social networking mediums. I was excited to share my views and opinions on some tools of technology I believe are very valuable and the potential I see that these tools can assist in the learning process. I was asked what the advantage was of twitter specifically, and my answer was simple: Learning. A more elaborate response would be that I see the enormous amount of learning that can stem from the over abundance of information streaming from tweets from the followers one chooses to follow. The sky is the limit. Twitter can be one's source of news, information, data, stats, records, current events, past events, social events, intellectual discussions, questions, answers to questions, social conversations, and so much more. The power of twitter is not new and I do not pretend to think that twitter is the "end all, be all" of social networking. It will eventually be replaced by another more valuable tool, I am sure. What I want to point out is the reaction of my colleague. Like so many others out there, there is a fear of these tools. My colleague turned to me after I shared the enormous potential of receiving information in a constant stream from a tool like twitter and said, "oh my goodness, that is too much! I cannot do something like that. That is just way too much information. I like things simple. I think it is just too complex." 

I could not disagree more. You see, ones who have embraced the power of Web 2.0 tools of technology and social networking tools are not trying to collect ALL information. These users have come to understand the power of synthesizing information. There is no question that I cannot take in all of the information that I currently have coming to me through Web 2.0 tools such as Google Alerts, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, blogs, etc. However, what I have come to embrace is the power to synthesize. Digital literate citizens in today's 21st century understand the information that IS and IS NOT needed. That is what it means to synthesize. This is a skill that our students need today and it is imperative that we, as educators, model this for all of our students. 

In a more formal sense: What does this look like? What does it mean to synthesize? In order to capture this idea... I have borrowed from the West Virginia Department of Education:

Synthesizing Information

Synthesizing information is closely connected to determining importance. As Ellin Keene and Susan Zimmermann say in Mosaic of Thought, "Synthesis is about organizing the different pieces to create a mosaic, a meaning, a beauty greater than the sum of each shiny piece." A synthesis occurs as a reader summarizes what has happened and gives it personal meaning.

What do you think? Is this a skill that needs to be taught and modeled by educators today now that we have Web 2.0 tools such as social networking and stream of information like twitter, etc. ???

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