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Categorizing Online Behavior

In association with the book Empowered by Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler, Forester Research provides an online tool for helping companies define their clients using a set of seven overlapping categories. They call this “Social Technographics.”

This tool is really directed at B2B and B2C, rather than an educational context but the underlying taxonomy makes sense when narrowly considering individual students and faculty behavior using technology, and more broadly in examining the underlying dynamic in the classroom.

Bernoff and Schadler’s categories are

  • Creators
  • Conversationalists
  • Critics
  • Collectors
  • Joiners
  • Spectators
  • Inactives

They organize this as a hierarchy, with the following explanations of what defines the behavior in each category.

Social Technographics Ladder

One reason this descriptive model seems so apt for the educational context is the loose correlation it has with models which advocate for greater participation, collaboration, and application. This is the whole argument behind the power of Web 2.0 technologies, where passive consumers become active creators. It also echoes the underlying argument against purely lecture-based models of teaching in lieu of more collaboration and student-centered, interactive work.

One of the critical areas we are going to be asking faculty at IIT as we reach out to work more closely with them is how this kind of hierarchical description applies:

  • Where do faculty themselves fall, both personally and professionally among peers?
  • Where do faculty think their students fall and what are their expectations?
  • What kind of environment do faculty cultivate to meet those student expectations about being able to participate and collaborate?
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