Knowledge does not come to us by details, but in flashes of light from heaven.
Mark Ahlness has delivered another impassioned piece of writing, called “Fighting Filtering.” It’s an old story. But good stories need new energy, and Ahlness is a man of energy and passion.
He points out that EduBlog.org, James Farmer’s blogging service for teachers, is blocked from the Seattle Schools network. So is 2Â¢ Worth, that tame and docile bed of complacency and conformity. Mark also reports that Technorati is blocked, and I think that this deserves some comment.
Technorati, in a very real way, is the forum of our Athens. This, and other blogging search engines, is where we go to engage in discourse about public affairs, jurisdiction, law, government, right and wrong, and judgement. Open discourse is necessary in a democratic society, and, in my humble opinion, essential in any teaching and learning environment. It’s the hallmark of the new web, but not of our old ways of doing things.
Like the Athens of 2500 years ago, Technorati has alleyways, where the seedier, darker, dangerous, and depraved conversations take place, and because there is that side of our society, I can not say that we should stop filtering content that comes into our classrooms.
However, I think that it is not access to inappropriate and dangerous information that is our only fear. I believe that the open discourse that has been unleashed by these new web applications has come to threaten our notions about how education happens. Education believes in containers. The new information landscape operates without containers. This scares us to death.
We have taught for decades by putting information into containers. We put it in textbooks, on bookcases, in folders, and on worksheets. We categorized and classified everything from plants and animals to the parts of a sentence. We boxed off and containered information so that we could easily and neatly deliver it to our students, and so that they could easily and neatly report back on their learning. It is a sterile and impersonal way to teach that was designed to prepare children for sterile and impersonal work environments.
The world is changing. Information is changing. How we make a living and contribute to our societies is changing. There are many reasons why education must adapt to changing conditions. But the most imminent and crucial reason is our children. For how many years, or months, or days is the MySpace nation going to allow us to put their learning into containers.
Just Joel, “My Sister.” Just Joel’s Photostream. 23 Mar 2006. 2 Sep 2006 <http://flickr.com/photos/carela/116990476/>.