Going Viral in the Classroom: Using Emerging CMC Technologies for Social Change

Going Viral in the Classroom: Using Emerging CMC Technologies for Social Change

Jessica J. Eckstein (Western Connecticut State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-077-4.ch015
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This chapter demonstrates the potential for social change in computer mediated communication (CMC) education. A foundational discussion of emerging online technologies in terms of potentials for students and responsibilities of educators is followed with a description of a “best practices” classroom project and incorporation of case-study observations in terms of CMC benefits and challenges. The goal of this chapter is to highlight potential societal outcomes inherent in CMC education for students and educators as agents of social change.
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The Potentials Of Online Education

As noted by Willson (2010), the potential for social change via CMC is not without controversy. On the one hand, initial speculations of Internet networks’ massive societal impacts were perhaps overstated, at least in their time- and influence-expectations. On the other hand, limiting one’s focus to social communities and their online communication illustrates that CMC technologies have affected society (macro) at interpersonal (micro) levels. In this sense, speculating as to the possibilities for using the Internet or CMC for individual-level social change is not idealistic, but, as this chapter demonstrates, is evidenced in day-to-day work with CMC and students.

With each new technology that surfaces, teachers and researchers are able to harness and assess the potentials of these tools for educational purposes. As Larreamendy-Joerns and Leinhardt (2006) discuss, CMC allows universities, philanthropic organizations, and individuals to further their respective social goals. Contrary to, and perhaps not mutually exclusive with, the perception that online education is solely a tool sought by universities seeking profit (Feenberg, 1999), this chapter takes the position that the use of CMC in education is instead a method with the radical potential to challenge and re-envision, if not to uproot, dominant systems and cultural misunderstandings or stereotypes. In essence, activists and advocates of social justice can utilize technology (and have done so1) to advance diverse politics and encourage participation in social movements (Castells, 2007; Denning, 2002).

Thus, the potential of educating students to use CMC effectively is significant, documented, and twofold, involving (a) students’ ability to operate locally and globally for social change and (b) teachers’ social responsibility to conscientiously educate their student-agents-of-change.

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