Shirky talks about the role the social media plays in our ability to organize and act faster than previously as well as the ability for the movements to bring about change quicker due to this higher level of organization.
A fun example of these events are flash mobs. These groups are often organized quickly and because of social media, these groups can transmit details to one another in real time for any adjustments that are needed.
He gives examples of organized protests in Leipzig, East Germany in 1989, the Belarus elections of March 2006, and against the airline companies in late 2006/early 2007 after they left people waiting on the tarmac for hours on end. In each situation, people were able to communicate in a way that allowed the groups to have more force than they would have otherwise, for the typical ways that these groups would have been thwarted in the past are not the typical means of communication.
I think about the use of this availability in the classroom. Shirky mentions that the need to make concrete plans is reduced because we can simply say “Call me when you get out of work” and make plans at that time. On one hand, I think that these technologies have a good and appropriate use in the classroom. For instance, if I am sick or have an emergency that will keep me from making it to class that day, I can simply send an e-mail to my class, letting them know class is canceled, saving them the time of walking to the room. Additionally, if students need to communicate with the entire class asking for some information or other need, an e-mail (or even a tweet provided the class uses Twitter) can save the student multiple phone calls and time.
However, my concern is that I have seen some professors use the ease and quickness of organization that technology promises for incorrect purposes. Some professors will procrastinate on writing out guidelines for projects, or even assignments for class, knowing that if they are not ready by class time to distribute to students, that students can get the information through e-mail or other means after class, and then place the burden on the students to scramble to organize themselves whether with each other on group projects or on their own assignments with the time remaining.
I’m not saying that all professors do this, or even a large number do. However, the fact that some professors abuse the fact that technology can get information out quicker and allow students to organize quicker should at least give us pause before universally embracing the idea that faster is better when it comes to technology and the classroom.