Creating (forcing?) social connections, elgg as overkill and "helpful" educational technology: I continue to be cynical

Last night was the weekly Ed Tech talk brainstorming session. Yes, indeed, Erin and I are the ones that made it take a somewhat “contentious” spin last night according to the reports on the news wires (she in the chat room, I in the audio feed… somehow it became the edtech chat equivalent of tag team wrestling, I guess)

Let’s get back to the argument(s) while the soap box is still warm…indeed we have to gear up for another round come Saturday night…

1) Creating social connections for our students via technology… is that part of our job as educators? I would argue that is not. First of all, it is terribly presumptuous of us to assume that a) our students need us to help them make social connections and b) that our students even want us to connect their academic world with their social one.

The students that want virtual social networks already have them. Be it Instant Messaging, iChat, gmail… or the current tools like live journal or Facebook.

And what about the students who aren’t connected (here that might be about 40% of our student body)? Is it our responsibility to connect them socially as part of our academic mission? Heck no. They don’t need rescuing, and besides, to assume they need our “help” is patronizing to say the least.

Do I really WANT to know about my students’ extra-extra curricular exploits? Uh, probably not…And I can’t say that I really want them to know about my extra curricular world either. Perhaps this comes from my younger days of being a highschool teacher and where getting too close to your students was a no-no (it still is, if anyone is listening).

Elgg is an interesting tool and I admire the work that went into it, but it is overkill. It screams of an application that is trying to do too much for too many people. Ever opened up Dreamweaver and had all of those windows come at you and suddenly your screen is completely inunudated? No? How ’bout Photoshop? That is how I felt opening up Elgg.

Quite frankly if I were a user and did not have any friends with whom I could connect, elgg would probably make me feel worse about this lacking because it emphasizes the social side of things (I am not even going to say learning) so much.

We need to move farther and farther away from Learning Management Systems –even those that allow us to see what are friends are wearing or who needs a ride to NYC.

Yes, I am insinuating that elgg is a form of LMS. The description Erin and I came up with is that Elgg is a combination of Blackboard and Facebook with a Dreamweaver interface thrown in. Anything that tries to be too many things to lots of people is trying to, in some way, MANAGE you.

Please: You can’t manage learning. You can manage your class notes, you can manage the bodies in your classroom… but you can’t manage what (if anything) anyone learns. Be it Egg or Bb or ….

Barbara is a Lecturer in Hispanic Studies at a small liberal arts college in Maine. Rumor has it this was also her alma mater. She used to work for a small liberal arts college in the cornfields of Ohio for almost 20 years as a teacher and language center director. Prior to these adventures in higher ed she taught high school Spanish and loved it. She wishes she had more time in her life to play with her dogs, write, read, swim, do yoga things and making stuff out of clay. To see her online portfolio please click here!

1 Comment

  1. dave cormier · December 2, 2005 Reply

    contentious in a good way. I’m not sure i disagree with you! just not sure i agree with you either. but i’m happy that someone has thrown a wrench into the ring! too damn boring agreeing all the time.

    you can contentious my spin anytime baby!

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