In order to properly embrace the social networking paradigm teachers need to be able to distinguish between the broadcasting and intercasting tasks they perform every day, and understand the impact that technology is having on these tasks.
The idea of any technology is to enhance the task already being performed. The washing machine made it possible to wash clothing without having to exert as much physical energy and was soon made to do the task itself better than a human could do with some soap and a scrubbing board. The computer was able to collate and manipulate the data from a census quicker and more accurately than a room full of analysts. Its computational power was soon able to be used to enhance a multitude of tasks. This computational power is now being used to enhance communication abilities.
But which communication abilities?
There are two general types of communication in the classroom - broadcasting and intercasting. Broadcasting is the model used by teachers to insert the knowledge of the ages into the minds of students. Teachers have used a myriad of technologies over recent decades to enhance this process - radio, television, VCR and YouTube. This is also where the Interactive Whiteboard is used. Intercasting in the classroom has been the teacher talking one-on-one with the student or the teacher implementing some form of group work. The technology of intercasting is social networking and the tablet.
The issue for teachers at this stage is one of control. Up until now teachers have been able to control the flow of communication to the student in their classroom. Teachers controlled the broadcast, by ensuring the attention of a captive audience towards a specific flow of information from the voice, chalkboard, radio, television, whiteboard or YouTube via the interactive whiteboard. Teachers controlled the intercast by limiting the off topic talking between students and by deciding on the structure of group tasks. Social networking and the tablet takes the communication of the classroom beyond the walls of the classroom. A network of knowledge holders is just a fingertip swipe away from a deeply connected student in the classroom; and the action is barely visible in a classroom where phones aren't allowed, let alone in a classroom where the tablet forms part of the desk.
And that's the crux of the matter, the teacher is no longer the only knowledge holder in the classroom. There is a plethora of knowledge holders out there available to the student in the classroom. We have known for a while that students are able to discover their own learning while interacting with other students in the classroom but we were able to direct that learning through control of the broadcast and our physical presence. Now we have to learn how to direct the learning without being able to control who is delivering the knowledge or how it is being delivered.
A difficult task indeed.