Sonia Livingstone - The Realities of Youth and Peer Culture: Balancing Learning Opportunities and Risks

How do social relationships shape forms of learning in and out of school? And how do forms of learning shape social relationships?

About The Speaker(s)

Sonia Livingstone is Professor of Social Psychology and Head of the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her research examines children, young people and the internet; media and digital literacies; the mediated public sphere; audience reception for diverse television genres and public understanding of communications regulation. Sonia is also Principal Investigator in the Connected Learning Research Network project The Class, which examines the emerging mix of on- and offline experiences in teenagers’ daily learning lives.

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Key Questions and Comments

  • (3:52) So, Sonia, maybe you would like to start us off by explaining how youth are using digital technologies as part of their daily 'learning lives'?
  • (6:18) How do we balance those opportunities and risks that technologies can/could enable?
  • (8:30) [In our project, The Class,] we saw a lot of learning and a lot of digital media use. And we didn't see it coming together very much. There are four problems I thought I would bring to the discussion:
  1. endless technical problems: the printer doesn't work, the wifi's too slow, problems with the school's systems...
  2. when we talk to parents, teachers and (especially) children, they have no idea of the kind of complexity and sophistication and creativity of a lot of the kinds of things that we're talking about...there's a huge awareness-raising task, I think
  3. the school lockdown: cell phones are not allowed in schools, Facebook is not allowed in schools...
  4. real, embedded reasons why children, but also parents and teachers, actually don't want these spaces to completely connected up
  • (16:05) Looking at some of the comments from the teachers, technology is looked at as, perhaps, more a burden rather than something that is a benefit: "Oh no, I have to learn how to troubleshoot. Now I'm going to have too many parents emailing me..."
  • (17:42) In The States, the data doesn't always necessarily back up the risk and fear narrative that drives the practice...how much of it do you think is buried in these dark 'fear' places? Or are they actually grounded in real events that have affected [educators'] practice?
  • (21:03) Clearly, what we've built around the use of technologies is a supremely risk-averse culture, in which everyone is fearful of complaints or even litigation. And, so, the school's easiest answer is just to say "turn it off."
  • (24:48) I think people are really lacking in models and lacking in visions of how things could be otherwise...I don't think people have a vision of what that benefit could be that is sufficiently great for them to decide to overcome the impediments.
  • (26:42) What one would ideally like is for students to be learning some of that risk-taking--but also resilience that comes with it--around all the digital media in a space that is oriented towards learning.
  • (28:40) I'm wondering how much the [teachers'] anxiety stems from a lack of resources?
  • (32:12) I feel like Facebook should be blocked in schools. Facebook, to me, is like [BlackBerry Messenger]...it's not good as an academic site. You're on Facebook to get popular so everybody can notice you.
  • (35:45) That's exactly the message that I've had from the students that I've interviewed who've also said, "It's fine, actually, not to be allowed to use the phone in school. That's the way it should be."
  • (41:46) In the groups that we look at, we actually see more connection and collaboration through platforms like Facebook or YouTube or even Twitter. And I'm wondering if part of the connected learning enterprise might be to include conversations or lessons about these privacy issues that keep coming up?
  • (43:35) What is our ideal version of digital citizenship, and what makes a young person a "good" digital citizen?
  • (49:16) If you start with the students' self-perception of what this particular media is for, that tends to be what it's for...It seems to me that we need to provide kids with more spaces to do rich stuff, that we should not limit ourselves to Twitter and Facebook.
  • (52:39) I think one thing I'm inspired by by connected learning (and the community, really, of people in the connected learning sphere) is that we need to start generating more positive examples and more use-case scenarios that have youth development and empowerment at their core. We have to beat back the fear narrative...which I think isn't drawn out that much by the data and by the reality out there.
  • (56:25) I think that's the kind of ethos that we have to get through in schools and with parents as well. That, yes, there's a risk but, yes, there are also people who get the kids through it and past it. And then there are a lot of opportunities.

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