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Sociomedia: The Transformative Power of Technology. Richard Smyth, Ph.D. Library Media Specialist Cathedral High School. Sociomedia vs. Hypermedia. The neologism sociomedia suggests “that computer media exist for ‘social’ purposes.” --Edward Barrett. “Sociomedia: An Introduction.”.

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sociomedia the transformative power of technology

Sociomedia: The Transformative Power of Technology

Richard Smyth, Ph.D.

Library Media Specialist

Cathedral High School

sociomedia vs hypermedia
Sociomedia vs. Hypermedia

The neologism sociomedia suggests

“that computer media exist for ‘social’


--Edward Barrett. “Sociomedia: An Introduction.”

two components of sociomedia
Two Components of Sociomedia

Engagement --> “interaction with people”

Construction --> “students create a

product from their collaboration”

--Edward Barrett. “Sociomedia: An Introduction.”

example 1 of sociomedia
Example #1 of Sociomedia
  • Biology (Jamie Hutchinson)
    • Issue: Global Warming/ The Kyoto Accord
    • Partnered with an English class in Germany (1998)
    • Used email to co-write persuasive letter
    • Sent to respective government representatives
    • Won state award for environmental education
example 2 of sociomedia
Example #2 of Sociomedia
  • English (Christol Murch)
    • Issue: Rights of the Child/Universal Human Rights
    • Classes argued for which right should be most important in 21st century and why
    • Created video of play or plea to present during a videoconference with a class in the Netherlands
example 3 of sociomedia
Example #3 of Sociomedia
  • College English (Richard Smyth)
    • class created a text-based virtual reality (a.k.a. M.O.O.) for local 5th grade class
    • created allegorical educational environ-ment modeled on The Phantom Tollbooth
example 4 of sociomedia
Example #4 of Sociomedia
  • High School History (Logan Reichert)
    • Class will create WebQuest on Revolutionary War for Boston History class
    • Target audience is Cathedral Grammar School (across the street)
    • Intend to have real class of students experience the webquest
common denominators
Common Denominators
  • Students collaborate with other students within class and/or outside of class (engagement)
  • Students create a product for a real-world audience to experience (construction)
  • Students learning how to be active citizens
  • Students dealing with real-world issues (global warming, human rights)
web 2 0 as sociomedia
Web 2.0 as Sociomedia
  • New avenues for publication invite “engagement” and “construction”
  • YouTube, Podcasts, Blogs, Wikis
  • Ease of use invites publication
  • Rheingold: “Participatory Media”
participatory media
Participatory Media
  • Students are comfortable with these new media:
    • iPods
    • social software (myspace, facebook)
    • blogs, vlogs and wikis
    • social bookmarking (
students as digital natives
Students as “Digital Natives”

“Our students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach.”

--Mark Prensky. Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants.

digital natives cont
“Digital Natives” (cont.)

“It is now clear that as a result of this ubiquitous environment and the sheer volume of their interaction with it, today’s students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors. These differences go far further and deeper than most educators suspect or realize.”

--Mark Prensky. Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants.

digital natives cont16
Digital Natives (cont.)

--Howard Rheingold. “The Pedagogy of Civic Participation.”

Lecture delivered in Second Life (

rheingold quote
Rheingold quote

“Constructivist theories of education that exhort teachers to guide active learning, to hands-on experimentation, are not new ideas. And neither is the notion that digital media can be used to help encourage this kind of learning. What is new is a population of digital natives who have learned how to learn new kinds of software before they started high school, who carry mobile phones, media players, game devices, and laptop computers and know how to use them, and for whom the internet is not a transformative, new technology but a feature of their lives that has always been there like running water and electricity. This population is both self-guided and in need of guidance. Although a willingness to learn new media by point & click exploration might come naturally to today’s student cohort, there’s nothing innate about knowing how to apply their skills to the processes of democracy.”

brain based education
Brain-Based Education

“Some have surmised that teenagers use different parts of their brain and think in different ways than adults when at the computer. We now know that it goes even further—their brains are almost certainly physiologically different. But these differences, most observers agree, are less a matter of kind than a difference of degree. For example as a result of repeated experiences, particular brain areas are larger and more highly developed, and others are less so.”

--Mark Prensky. Do They Really Think Differently?

new literacies
New Literacies
  • Need to expand the definition of literacy
  • Electronic environments place additional demands on and require different abilities of users
  • “Literacy. . . .may be thought of as a moving target” (Leu 11)
new literacies21
New Literacies
  • Critical Literacy
  • Media Literacy
  • Participatory Media Literacy
  • “Electracy” (read my entry at
critical literacy
Critical Literacy
  • The need to evaluate websites
  • Develop skills for determining bias and authority
  • Similar to “Information Literacy”
media literacy
Media Literacy
  • critical literacy focused on new media (video, images)
  • how to “read” images (commercials, advertisements)
  • how to “write” with images (videography, comics with Comic Life – at
participatory media literacy
Participatory Media Literacy
  • blogs, social software (myspace, facebook), wikis
  • “. . . shifts the focus of literacy training from individual expression onto community involvement. . . The new literacies are almost all social skills which have to do with collaboration and networking” (Rheingold, quoting Jenkins et al.)
  • a neologism describing the skills necessary to exploit the full communicative potential of new media
  • Electracy is to digital media what literacy is to print media
  • draws attention to need for entirely new term that avoids etymological connection to literacy
what does all this mean to us
What does all this mean to us?
  • Teaching to the (Digital Native) Student
  • Recognizing and responding to radical changes in Information & Communications Technologies
  • Using New Media for Construction, Engagement and Civic Participation
rheingold on civic education
Rheingold on Civic Education

“…I think we have an opportunity today to make use of the natural enthusiasm of today’s young digital natives for cultural production as well as consumption, to help them learn to use the new production and distribution tools now available to them as a way to develop a public voice about issues they care about…”

rheingold cont
Rheingold (cont.)

“Learning to use participatory media to learn and speak and organize about issues might well be the most important citizenship skill that digital natives need to learn if they are going to maintain or revive democratic governance.”

changing role for teachers
Changing Role for Teachers
  • Students know more about new literacies than most adults
  • Teacher can orchestrate learning opportunities between/among students who know new literacies
  • “In a student-centered, social learning environment, this knowledge can be exchanged, ironically, in a classroom where the teacher may not know either of these skills as well as the students” (Leu 21).
changing role for teachers30
Changing Role for Teachers

“Schools should require teachers to do action research so that they constantly feel what it is like to learn, to be reminded that real learning is always frightening, frustrating, and able to cause self-doubt, regardless of age or talent.  If the job and schedule make us think of ourselves as only teachers instead of also as model learners, we miss vital opportunities to make education more honest, invigorating, and self-correcting for everyone, adult and child” (320).

--Wiggins & McTigue. Understanding by Design.

changing role for teachers31
Changing Role for Teachers

“Effective use of games and other new technologies is likely to be limited unless educational institutions are willing to consider significant changes in pedagogy and content, and rethink the role of teachers and other educational professionals” (6).

--Federation of American Scientists. Harnessing the Power of Video Games for Learning.

second life as educational space
Second Life as Educational Space
  • Second Life is an online virtual world, a “participatory social network”
  • Like a 3-D video-game interface for chatting and collaborative world-building
  • “With [its] popularity…it was only natural that educators would take notice of the phenomenon and begin exploring the possibilities of turning it into an educational tool” (Appel)
second life in the news
Second Life in the News
  • Wired Magazine (October 2006)
  • USA Today (10/5/2006)
    • “At colleges, real learning in a virtual world”
  • New York Times (October 19, 2006)
    • “A Virtual World but Real Money”
  • New York Times (November 3, 2006)
    • “It’s My (Virtual) World”
  • eSchool News (November 10, 2006)
    • “Second Life develops education following”
second life
Second Life

At the Howard Rheingold lecture at the New Media Campus

second life35
Second Life

Abaris Brautigan (a.k.a. Richard Smyth) by the fire

second life cont
Second Life (cont.)

Map (close-up) with details of interface

second life37
Second Life

Abaris in the library near his “Electracy” book & terminal

second life38
Second Life

Sculpture outside of Parvenu Towers on Info Island

just do it
“Just Do It”

“So if Digital Immigrant educators really want to reach Digital Natives – i.e. all their students – they will have to change. It’s high time for them to stop their grousing, and as the Nike motto of the Digital Native generation says, ‘Just do it!’”

--Mark Prensky. Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants.


Appel, Justin. “Second Life develops education following.” eSchool News online. Available at

Barrett, Edward. “Sociomedia: An Introduction.” In Sociomedia: Multimedia, Hypermedia, and the Social Construction of Knowledge." Ed. Edward Barrett. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992. 1-10.

Federation of American Scientists. Harnessing the Power of Video Games for Learning. Available at

Leu, Donald J. et al. “Toward a Theory of New Literacies Emerging from the Internet and Other Information and Communication Technologies.” Available at


Prensky, Marc. “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants.” On the Horizon 9.5 (October 2001): 1-8. Available at

Prensky, Marc. “Do They Really Think That Way?” On the Horizon 9.6 (December 2001): 1-9. Available at

Rheingold, Howard. “The Pedagogy of Civic Participation.” Lecture 21 October 2006. Second Life New Media Campus 5. Available

Wiggins, Grant and Jay Mctighe. Understanding by Design. 2nd Edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2005.

contact info
Contact Info
  • Richard Smyth, Ph.D.
    • 617-542-2325 X407