The dozens of hours I have recently spent in the air and the nights of half-sleep (inspired by mind numbing time-zone shifts) have given me time to think. The one topic that I have been presenting most consistently has been Web 2.0 — and it’s getting a bit stale. It’s still “edges of your seats” fun! But most everyone now knows what a blog is, wikis hold no mystery, we’ve gotten over wikipedia, and podcasting is no longer the “next big thing.” So what do educators need to know?
The question persists, “Is Web 2.0 going to lead to School 2.0?” Is it truly transformative, or just more geek lust and magic tricks for consultants to perform on stage for the applauds? It’s what I’ve been struggling with. I have been convinced for a long time that Web 2.0 is important, that it is affecting how we use information — which affects education. But in what ways? How might it transform what and how we teach?
It’s my nature to reduce things down to elevator speeches, to three bullet points, to a simple but illustrative diagram. I’ve said before that information, as a result of Web 2.0:
- Comes increasingly out of conversations that people have (blogs/wikis),
- Comes increasingly under the control of people who use it (RSS/Aggregators), and
- Comes to connect people through their ideas (blog linking and search engines)
Each of these characteristics is empowering. They empower us by valuing out ideas and stories, our ability and need to shape information for our needs, and our need to connect and communicate with other people who can help us do our jobs.
So what does this mean for education? I’ve been working through a diagram in my head about schooling 2.0. But first we should characterize the old school. It is important to state that our goals are not changing. We are, and always have been, tasked with helping our students develop the literacy skills, context of knowledge, and practical experiences so that they can prosper in their future. Nothing new here. However, as the market place, our children’s context, and the information landscape change, the skills, knowledge, and experiences that they need have changed.
In school 1.0 (and especially during shifts into the negative realm that have resulted from the well intended but stifling affects of NCLB) teaching and learning are a game. David Williamson Shaffer characterizes games as consisting of roles and rules. Teacher’s and students practice roles and work within the constraints of rules. Teachers deliver content and skills, students are mirrors, reflecting content and skills back to the teacher (or government). If the reflection is in the image of the teacher and the state’s standards, then success has been achieved — regardless of any continuing affects on the students abilities to prosper in a rapidly changing time. (See diagram 1)
School 2.0’s greatest affect on teaching and learning is that it empowers both roles with a Yin and Yang affect. Teacher’s become learners and learners become teachers, and each side is empower with conversation, control over their information landscape, and connections with each other — with almost no constraints of hierarchy.
Students stop being mirrors, and instead become amplifiers. Their job is not merely to reflect what they encounter, but to add value to it. Content and skills are no longer the end product, but they become raw materials, with which students learn to work and play and share. Information is captured by the learner, processed, added to, remixed, and then shared back, to be captured by another learner/teacher and reprocessed. Each exchange and improvement not only runs on the energy of students (learner/teacher) curiosity and intrinsic need to play, work, and communicate information, but it also generates energy, which the teacher (teacher/learner) channels.
As the energy builds, the activities, ideas, and content begin to re-vector out of the classroom and into the community, begging for attention and further participation. (see diagram 2)
Teachers and learners become information artisans, mining for information raw materials, remixing and re-networking what they find, and then communicating their new and valuable information products for re-mining. Teachers become learner models, and students become interactive learners developing and practicing life-long learning skills.
A while back, I was writing about a school that I had visited, where they were implementing a variety of Web 2.0 applications — and I suggested that, having removed some of the boundaries of the old school, they were still looking for new places upon which to get traction. I wonder now, if perhaps it is the students themselves where traction can be found — and if maybe that’s where it should have been all along. There is a certain amount of logic to teaching from standards. But there is no energy in standards. When classrooms become increasingly flat and we can no longer rely on gravity to drive learning — then we have to find new energy, and that energy is in our students.