The Facebook Effect

“From Sixdegrees to Friendster to Facebook, social networking has become a familiar and ubiquitous part of the internet.” – David Kirkpatrick

The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That is Connecting the World by David Kirkpatrick, provides a fascinating insight into the development of and the people behind Facebook. From near acquisitions from a host of tech companies including Yahoo and Microsoft, to Mark Zuckerberg hedging his bets initially, and continuing working on a file sharing application he named Wirehog, all while Facebook grew into a multi-billion dollar company.

Whilst the first 100 pages or so basically recounts the early history and the ensuing legal battles that Zuckerberg faced initially about intellectual property, the rest of the book goes into detail and recounts the many defining moments of both the company, the co-founders and the major players behind Facebook’s success. It is fascinating to read about the company as it grew from a dorm-room at Harvard into a business that is now valued at over 20 billion dollars. The talent that was behind Facebook was incredible – just to name a few:

Dustin Moskovitz – cofounder Facebook/ now working on a project named “Lille”

Charlie Cheever – Quora founder

Adam D’Angelo – Qoura co-founder

Steve Chen – Youtube co-founder

Mark Andreeson – author of Mosiac (the first web browser)/ co-founder on Ning

Chris Hughes – Obama administration social media campaign organizer/ Jumo Founder

Sean Parker – Napster, Plaxo

Matt Cohler – Benchmark Capital (venture capitalist firm)/ General Manager LinkdIn

The concept behind online social networking is not new. Something like Facebook was envisioned by engineers who laid the groundwork for the internet. In a 1968 essay by J. C. R. Licklider and Robert W. Taylor titled “The Computer as Communication Device,” the authors asked, “What will on-line interactive communities look like? In most fields they will consist of geographically separated members, sometimes grouped in small clusters and sometimes working individually. They will be communities not of common location, but of common interest.”

Aside from pockets of innovative teachers, education is still slow to adopt the concept of social networking. The main concern is privacy, litigation issues and for a lot of teachers, a fear of the unknown.

James Grimmelmann, an associate professor at New York Law School explains, “Facebook has severe privacy problems and an admirably comprehensive privacy-protection architecture… Most of Facebook’s privacy problems are… natural consequences of the ways in which people enthusiastically use Facebook.” One of Grimmelmann’s central points is that the violations of privacy that occur on Facebook are frequently the result of the behavior not of the company but of people a user has accepted as friend. This is the point that most people who resist the use of social networking in education miss – it isn’t the tools, but the people who use the tools. This is why we need to be educating our students about safe, effective and ethical behaviour in an online environment. Schools need to be doing this – because if they don’t, who will? Schools also need to be cultivating the next batch of Mark Zuckerberg’s – and this won’t happen if we keep pushing the ‘back to basics’ and standardized tests mantra.

Mark Zuckerberg is a true entrepreneur, a fascinating individual and has as a slogan, “Don’t be lame.”

In 2011 I’m going with this slogan, “Don’t be lame.” – What will your’s be? 

Dumbing Us Down

“Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique indivdual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are , whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important; how to live and how to die.” – John Taylor Gatto

In Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Talyor Gatto, a picture is painted that says the reality is that compulsory government schooling has nothing to do with education, doing little but teaching young people to conform to the economy and social order. A multi-award winning teacher of over 30 years experience in New York, Gatto’s book outlines what he believes is the destructive nature of schooling and goes on to state that everything he has done in his career has probably been to the detriment of most students. He writes about the seven lessons that he has been mandated to teach: 1.) confusion 2.) class position 3.) indifference 4.) emotional dependency 5.) intellectual dependency 6.) provisional self-esteem 7.) constant surveillance and the denial of privacy.

Gatto says that schools in their current state are unreformable and is a champion of the homeschooling movement. He suggests that we should remove the certification requirment for teachers and let students learn about what matters to them, what their interested in, whenever and wherever this may take place.

The most powerful part of this book for me is the full transcripts of the acceptance speech’s that Gatto gave when recieving his many awards. He uses his own award presentations as a forum to attack the very same educational system that is honoring him. Gatto describes schooling, as opposed to learning, as a “twelve-year jail sentence where bad habits are the only curriculum truly learned. I teach school and win awards doing it.”

No doubt, some would find this book controversial, but Gatto makes a compelling, passionate case against the one-size-fits-all model of education that is now so prominent.

Steve Hargadon recently interviewed John Taylor Gatto in the Future of Education interview series. You can find the recording at http://www.delicious.com/edtechlive/mp3?page=5