Cross-posted at ThinkTime

Today's top story from eSchool News Online is "Smart mob" tech spurs student activism by Nora Carr. The article begins with the student protests in Jena, LA, and explores how blogs, RSS, text messaging, cell phones, and wireless technology are leveling the playing field and having a democratizing effect at all levels in educational institutions.

Carr cites the work of Howard Rheingold, who coined the term "smart mobs" in a 2001 2002 book by the same title. Rheingold envisioned both the disruptive and democratizing effects of global, pervasive, wireless computing.

I was really enjoying Carr's balanced presentation of the issue. She even discusses how teachers in various academic areas might use recent events such as the Jena protests and the current presidential campaign to engage young people in a critique of these powerful technologies.

Then, oddly, she writes:

While most school leaders undoubtedly applaud anything that gets young people involved in civic affairs, most also would agree there's an appropriate time and place for such actions--and that's typically after school or on the weekends, and not on school grounds.

I am not sure how to interpret the above statement. Is it an endorsement, or is it simply a statement about the status quo? As a columnist, it's certainly Carr's prerogative to impose her viewpoint where appropriate, but in this case it just seems contradictory. How can she in one instance encourage teachers to capitalize on the "powerful learning opportunity" represented in cases like Jena and the democratic rebellion in Myanmar, and then suggest that the technologies that mobilize citizens for the greater good still have no place on school grounds or during school hours?

That just doesn't compute (sorry for the stupid pun).

It would be nice to engage in a dialogue with Carr about her story. But eSchool News Online doesn't provide any contact information for her, and the site doesn't provide a means for users to comment on stories either. Apparently the site does host discussions on certain stories for users who register for TypeKey accounts. I registered for an account but couldn't locate any threads or forums related to Carr's article.

Frustrating.

So, what do you think?

Views: 52

Comment by James Folkestad on October 20, 2007 at 6:35am
Thank you for sharing this and giving your insights. I have followed Rheingold's work for years now. He was so far ahead of his time... what a visionary (he wrote his book "SmartMobs" in 2002). I think that disruption of this type is scary for many and such it causes inconsistencies in people. The old controls are no longer in place.

We are just beginning to understand the new dynamics and everyone is attempting to learn how to communicate and collaborate in this arena... I feel your frustration.
Comment by Jennifer Koch Lubke on October 20, 2007 at 6:59am
Oops. I said 2001 for Rheingold's book. I'll correct that.

I guess I just didn't understand the writer's dispassionate take on the status quo. Well, OK, most administrators probably would not want students to mobilize a protest on school grounds using these newest communication technologies. But since she is a "nationally recognized" expert in educational communications, could she not provide some viewpoints to contextualize that? Maybe interview some principals? Or, since she is an award-winning columnist and this is her column, maybe she could share her perspective on the subject.

I was also frustrated by the lack of interactivity at the eSchool News site. You would think they would be more cutting-edge with reader comments or at least an email link to the author.

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