More on School 2.0

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.
Diagram 1

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.
Diagram 2

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.

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27 thoughts on “More on School 2.0”

  1. Students stop being mirrors, and instead become amplifiers.

    I think you have coined a new catch phrase. When we can get students to want to learn and have projects that allow them to amplify their knowledge in new a different ways.

    Dare I say that kids will challenge teachers to be more creative. Every time they do a project they will set new standards for themselves. Teacher’s will start to expect more and students will respond.

    So many kids want to be fed answers with a silver spoon. We are able through 2.0 to engage and hook some of these “spoon fed kids”. Once they have the skills to create cool projects, and use applications that make learning fun again we have them.

    Learning can be fun again. Shh Teaching can be fun again.

    Great post. Thanks.

  2. Can I see larger copies of the diagrams, maybe in your flickr account? The text is a bit small to read, and short of bringing down my screen resolution, and I’m not on my precious screen-zooming Mac…


    Chris Craft

  3. Wait a minute. Please let the rest of us catch up with you. Showing educators how to use the Web 2.0 tools and actually having them use them may be quite different.

    I am in my first year of using the tools in my 7th grade class. I am the only one in the district and probably this are using the tools. We are teaching others but the momentum has not built yet. There needs to be many more educators and students creating a ground swell in order for changes to come about.

    Keep on with the message.

  4. David, thanks as always for your invaluable insight. Chris Harbeck’s comment is dead on “from mirrors to amplifiers” could, indeed, become a catch phrase. I just posted in my blog, DoltonRoad, with the following reaction:

    I couldn’t help envisioning the mirrors (students) in School 1.0 morphing into prisms in School 2.0 both amplifying and refracting ideas and information in all directions — like a superconducting super collider for education!

    However, I have to agree with Diane’s comment. From my blog entry:

    I can understand David’s perspective. He’s been banging the drum for quite a while now, and he’s probably seeing a change in his audiences from “wow, gee whiz” responses to a lot of nodding of heads — many bent over their laptops busily blogging their reflections or capturing notes on a wiki for colleagues or a future podcast. But, David’s audience is often made up of the vanguard — those ready and willing to embrace the technology and the educational reform. We, in turn, go back to our schools and work with many teachers that are just getting past the notion that the technology is inevitable and are struggling with the day-to-day pressures of conflicting local initiatives without little time to breathe, let alone reflect. I’d have to say the vast majority still are not clear on the differences between a blog, wiki, or podcast or, more importantly, why it makes a difference for education. I think there’s lots more work for us to do in that arena.

    Just this past Monday, we had Will Richardson do a day-long workshop in our district for about 40 teachers and administrators. Will did an amazing job (as always) of delivering a compelling case for the impact of Web 2.0 tools on education. But I spent over an hour afterward continuing the conversation with several attendees helping them digest and sort out Will’s presentation. For many, this was the first time they had spent any substantial time considering these tools and their potential. To be sure, there were a few in attendance who already have blogs and have done some podcasting and worked on wikis — even a number who have used these in class with their students. But the majority were still in the “wow, gee whiz” phase. So there is much yet to done at the school and classroom level.

    But, David, please move ahead. The implications of School 2.0 as an extension of the Web 2.0 metaphor is an important one as we all figure out how education must adapt to the ever changing tools of collaboration and connective technology.

  5. David, I saw your presentation in Hartford this past fall and was so impressed. But when you say “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.” you are making an assumption about the masses. I’m doing a seven-part series with my staff this year on Web 2.0 tools. Trust me, they are stunned and amazed at blogs, have never heard of wikis, assume that podcasts are the same as iTunes, and were blown away yesterday by my discussion of RSS and social bookmarking as tools for organizing. We are barely into the second wave of adopters. We’ve got quite a ways to go before these tools are familiar and comfortable with the majority of educators. And only then will we begin to see significant implementation in a ‘school 2.0’ usage. So please don’t give up your evangelical work! You are still converting people every day to the new opportunities that are out there!!

  6. Em is right. They do NOT know what wikis are. They have heard the word “blog” but have no idea why it has anything to do with school, and have not heard the term “web 2.0.” Even attorneys and professors I meet professionally say, “what’s that.” To put it in high school clique terms, you travel in your own cafeteria full of web 2.0 junkies (a great group, by the way). But next period’s lunch has an entirely different group, and you never see them. Maybe you need to switch lunch duties a few times for a wider awareness of what’s being discussed at the tables. I am not criticizing you, just pointing out the inevitable social nature of web 2.0 proponents– that you (we) do converse among ourselves so well that we forget about others who are not even in the room. We all need to be more aware of the LARGE group of teachers/general public who are not “there yet.” Want to cut class and go to a different lunch period? I can tell you some places to start…

  7. Your post on amplifiers and vectors and reprocessing reminds me of a friend’s post on an enrichment class, wherein she teaches some fifth graders to knit.

    Pretty soon, you’ll notice that the kids are…wait, can it be? They’re helping each other. They’re showing each other where to wrap the yarn. They’re putting stray stitches back on each others’ needles. They’ll give a round of thunderous applause for the boy who finishes his first complete row.

    This…This is the good part. They’re knitting. They’re knitting, and talking. (OK, so they’re talking loudly.) They’re excited about knitting. When they get an inch on their OWN needles, they do a little strut and preen and have to show everyone else that They Are Making A Belt. Or a scarf. Or whatever they want to make. Watch for the cool moments – when one of them finishes their first row, and says “But what do I do now?” tell them to switch hands…and wait for this: “But then what do…OOOOooooohh, I do it again!” Look around the room. Kids are knitting. Girls are knitting. Boys are knitting. Nobody, so far, has even thought to question whether boys knit – look, they’re just doing it, no big deal. One boy has proudly brought in three feet of scarf that he’s making for his mom. Their teacher has to go around and tell them yes, they DO have to also eat lunch. “Lunch is good.” “Yeah, but knitting is better.” “Will you come every week to knit with us?” “Can we knit during reading time?” “Look, here’s how I knit: I go whoop, and then I go whoop, and then I go whoop, and then I go whoop. Look, I made a stitch!!”

    Yes, I will come every week to knit with you. Yes, I’m making a sock. (Yes, it’s a lot of needles…but I only use two at at time.) Yes, that’s how you go whoop. Yes, you’re doing a great job. Yes, you still have to eat lunch.

  8. David, I enjoyed your ruminations. I have spent years trying to envision a classroom that was OPENED via telecommunications links, and how that might be different from the “Islands many classrooms seem to be.

    The question of “School 2.0” is similar to the question of “Web 2.0” in that we have to balance our desire to create and connect world citizens with our need to protect innocence and ignorance from that same world while we educate owr very own children as they mature.

    I often wonder why we create “public” diaries. Blogs, right. Something in that concept challenges me. So would open classrooms. Yet that is what we are contemplating. Classrooms. What are they in the new world order? Where are they?

    Balance those questions with the “learning theory” questions, and maybe we can
    figure out how to place your nice (and admittedly vision-challenging) diagrams in a context of “school”.

  9. I like the concept of the prism …. but would expand it to be more like one of those multi-facited crystals you hang in a window to make rainbows. Stuff comes in and the learning, conversations and connections spread in all directions – some short, some sustained. All dependent on the purpose.

    I also have an issue with ‘standards’ driving curriculum! Standards, I believe, encourage medeocrity … when you have achieved the standard you are ‘fine’; you get left alone; your achievement is satisfactory. For me a better determinant is your trajectory of learning …. where were you before to where you are now. NOT where you fit with respect to any predetermined expectations. Kids who struggle will sometimes never reach set ‘standards’ despite having a good trajectory of learning (if we look at component skills and understandings), and conversely the learning of more able students can have flatlined but they are still ‘above expectations’ or ‘achieved’.
    Lets get each child achieving to the best THEY can and celebrate this. Not comparing us all to some mythical arbitor of success.

  10. I agree with Em and Candice. The schools that invite you to speak are “in the know” about Web 2.0–or open to learning, that’s why they invited you. I teach in a large (30,000 kids) suburban school district. Here’s some evidence to support the point that we are not all on the Web 2.0 train–when a website is blocked by the district filtering system one has the option of notifying the CIPA representative to have sites unblocked–I think I’m about the only one that is having blogs and other Web 2.0 sites unblocked!! I’ll retire before this district supports technology beyond buying new computers every three years.

  11. David,

    Your post, I see has resonated in two ways: those who have adopted and are applying, and those who are adopting and trying to convert. I fall into the convert category, but let me just describe briefly my experience with Web 2.0 tools in the classroom, more specificially, wikispaces.

    Since January 1st, I have helped 8 teachers begin their own wikis for class projects, and each of them, to the person, has responded with a gasp after the first night that their students were active on the site. One of the teachers termed it an “explosion” of student activity.

    For Em and Diane from above: get the teachers on and let them play, then unleash the students. When your staff sees how much these technologies extend the classroom, they will want more of it. My advice is to publicize your successes as well. As a former teacher, I know that when I saw other teachers doing cool things, I wanted in as well. To be so bold, check out our district tech blog at You will find our teacher’s wikis there too.

    As with many of the technology that we’ve brought into the classroom in the last 20 years, it will all become cliched, but what I like about David’s diagram’s are the ways in which they reflect “real” learning. Social learning, connectivism, and multiple intelligences all fit very well into the model of school 2.0 that David suggests here.

  12. great summary – may i use your blog in an attempt to convince my colleagues there really is a need for change…they think i’m crazy raving on about web2.0 type things – it certainly hasn’t caught on widely here yet….
    enjoyed your talks at learnging@schools in NZ.

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  14. I love this post! I am presenting at the AETC this summer and my topic is School 2.0. As such, I have been researching what the gurus in the blogosphere are saying and I believe that you have hit the nail on the head. Something that I have been grasping at you stated so well with the following…

    “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 keep saying that I am only scratching the surface of school 2.0, but the more I scratch the closer I come to finding gold.

    I love the diagrams! With your permission I may use them in my presentation! Of course, I’ll reference you…

    William Bishop (Bill)

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