Education Disconnect or, what happens when personality meets the educational system

In an ideal world, education does more than give us a giant information hose from which we try and stuff down all we can find in the hopes that what we learn will adequately help us grow as human beings and/or functional members of society. A new video that popped up at Stephen’s Lighthouse. It’s produced by a company called Xplana, which proposes to act as an ERM system for individual learners which can be licensed by institutions. It connects publishers to schools to students, advertising itself as free to students, but not likely to publishers or institutions:

For educational publishers, it delivers a userfriendlyinterface and the most powerful suite of tools for turnkey digital publishing in the education market.Additionally, Xplana serves as an access and distribution point for premium content from publishers andother premium content providers, targeted to the specific academic subject need of the student.

For the student, who has access to all of the targeted resources (no explanation as to how they are targeted), they now can:

Connect your student life to your social life by integrating your Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks to collaborate with friends, classmates, and other students.

We’ve seen this fallacy of thinking before. The idea that all students will willingly hook their academic life into their social life. This is the same problem that haunts academic library facebook pages everywhere. More so than other brands, from Coca-Cola to Louis Vuitton, the library “brand” has little place in our average student’s social life. The thinking goes back to the idea that brands should co-opt the identities of their customers/clients, so when it comes to social marketing, they have a great built in marketing vehicle. This only really works when the customer/client has really made the brand part of their identity. Xplana oversimplifies the logic and assumes that just because they use social networking tools, that this easily translates into social media use for educational purposes. I skeptical, but I’m not an expert. Finally, they’re already paying for premium content through their tuition at libraries.

I think that the way that this problem goes deeper. The Awl, a great resource for commentary on all of the goofiness that goes on with the younger set these days, chronicles the application process that an aspiring young woman went through for a “dream job” (internship), where she was asked to expend her social capital on Facebook to compete with another prospective candidate. The result was this:

Fiona lost the Social Media Challenge. This was doubly offensive considering the social capital she had expended transforming herself into the kind of person who brazenly self-promotes on Facebook. But her talent had not gone unnoticed, and the firm decided to hire her for the internship anyway. Three blissfully employed months passed. Then, when the internship had run its course, Fiona was told that the company could not afford to offer her a job. In her exit interview, she complained about the hiring process, which she said reflected poorly on the firm. They bought her a chocolate good-bye cake.

Deep integration of educational resources into social media promote the kind of thinking that allows companies to believe that making prospective job candidates expend their personal social lives for the betterment of their company’s profits. Essentially, the employee and the customer become the brand.

I’m not against the integration of educational resources onto mobile platforms, or to allow for the easier sharing of those resources. All of that is fine and good. But it is dangerous thing for students is to integrate business products into their social lives through the educational system, or for that matter by the educational system. It’s not okay for us to teach them that this is okay. We need to teach students that there is a difference between social networks and social media. Otherwise, we’re promoting their co-option into a system that they all demand they be Fionas. We as educators also need to learn to distinguish between connecting with our students and being invasive. If we are not teaching and respecting social boundaries in the educational system, then we’re going to fail.


2 thoughts on “Education Disconnect or, what happens when personality meets the educational system

  1. This is really good; you make excellent points. I also find your comments particularly interesting considering the fact that you’re a “Millennial” (right?). I think there are only about 5 years age difference between us, so I don’t know how much it matters that I’m a Gen-Xer and you’re a Millennial. But I personally think it’s rather crazy to want to connect every single facet of one’s online presence. And I wonder if Millennials think about this or if they just assume that there’s no option outside of online hyperconnection. Do people really want to be “friends” with their local library or record store? Businesses and organizations seem to think so. Most often those businesses are owned or managed by Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers, and I see that my Baby Boomer relatives on Facebook are connecting with businesses through the Like function. So I guess it’s not a generational disconnect–people who grew up with typewriters have just as difficulty in making the social media/social networking distinction as those who grew up with iPhones.

  2. I think a lot of them are pretty aware of managing their online “audience,” but less aware of the social norms around that. Teens are savvy, but they also are figuring out their place in the world, especially on a college campus, where the social interactions w/ teachers has less hard lines than previous educational experiences. I think librarians are even harder to figure out in that respect.

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