Sunday, July 22, 2007

Don't be too proud of web 2.0.

Web 2.0 has become the new conventional wisdom of those who see themselves as radical reformers of the education system. Flashing bells and lights, gee wizz. Web 2.0 dominates educational technology conferences just like logo used to dominate educational conferences (without being deeply understood) in the late 80s, early 90s. This is a new majority within a minority. Let's sit around and self righteously criticise other educators because we get it and they don't.

It's a double edged sword. We have enhanced powers of connection and collaboration, many wonderful new applications but also some are thinking that enhanced ability of connection is some sort of virtue in itself. Like spam. It's not. Connection without discernment leads to trivia. The 1000 monkeys hammering on the typewriter is a real part of web 2.0. In some ways Web 2.0 is like TV, mainly crap, with the occasional good programme. Yes, web 2.0 is interactive, I know, but that creates new problems as well as new opportunities.

Things I have noticed:
  • Global village idiocy, like the uncritical promotion by some of conspiracy theories of history on the TALO list (zeitgeist)
  • Language based mathematics as state of the art, with no apparent awareness that great ideas about teaching maths using logo has been around for many years - yes, web 2.0 can be great for language based learning but that's not the end of the story
  • Web 2.0 bloggers sounding off about how information has changed but then running for cover when asked to deepen their analysis (how has information changed?). What is the point of blogging if you are not prepared to deepen?
  • New theories such as connectivism which are not built on a sound analysis (a challenge to connectivism)
  • No historical awareness of some of the great educational software (eg. Smalltalk / Squeak / Etoys, logo, *logo (pronounced star logo) and hypercard) and educational theorists (eg. Papert, Harvey, Kay) that have been around for years.
Some prominent thinkers have pointed out that we could have had a better web, a network of message passing objects. Ted Nelson. Alan Kay. There are software issues as well as cultural issues to be explored here.

Don't be too proud of web 2.0.


Anonymous said...

Point taken Bill, but there is something very profound going on when connections can form in a truly open way.

But since I am struggling to articulate what I can visualise its easier to say 'you just don't get it'


Look out for a series of posts with CLOSEDvOPEN in the title. Maybe you can help me to clarify my inarticulate ramblings.

Fang - Mike Seyfang

Sylvia said...

"Global village idiocy" made me laugh out loud! Terrific...

You might like this post I did about Web 2.0 being what they call in marketing-speak an "empty vessel".

And Mike, what if really there is nothing profound going on here? I think it's up to all of us to struggle to articulate our understanding of the world, but maybe we should try just a little harder to connect it to existing knowledge that exists beyond a hyperlink and a 400 word blog post.

Durff said...

I extend you a standing ovation!
I think I might be saying something similar when I contend the world is not flat. It is wrinkled. It is all 4 dimensions hitting us from all sides simultaneously. None of this global village stuff, though it is a nice metaphor and politically correct.
We must critically analyze this plethora of information efficiently or be overwhelmed by its spambots.
We are not dealing with a flat world here, we are closer to each other than ever before, but the wrinkles in time and space are not being ironed out. They are, rather, scrunching up as the fault lines of the digital information technology erupts exponentially across our radars.
I can tell you have made a full recovery and this is a relief!

Unknown said...

Two things Bill.

You run to TALO for creedence then shit in the same nest .......the actuation eludes me as to why.

I concur with those who attribute your dimissiveness to close-minded-ness.

The global village idiocy may be the only handprint you recognise in the tomes of the still-drying web 2.0 side walk.

All others lack face. Begone white male philiosophy.

One up Mikey.

Anonymous said...

Yup, agreed Bill.
I think what is missing in much of the Web 2.0 promotion is balanced consideration of the alternatives.

New = shiny = better is the extent of a lot of the thinking. Some commentators do go further, but probably not often enough.

erich said...

I have to agree that the web 2.0 makes people look like experts even more than that original WWW. Before you had to make a conscious effort to have a website which included buying a domain name and knowing how to use html or an editor. Now anyone can go on the web and post their dribble whether it is important, funny or irrelevant in any form. One of the biggest problems educators like myself are having is managing information for the next generation. Today’s generation is bombarded by information but they have few skills on appropriately using the information that is on the web. As open the web 2.0 is there are definitely things educators need to do to get students ready to use it.

Graham Wegner said...

Bill, some of your post stems from your observations of my CEGSA presentation and I wonder if you have read more into what I was saying than that is actually there. Sure, I'm a keen investigator of Web 2.0 potential but I certainly don't think I've been self righteous about other teachers' engagement with the internet in general. Fair enough, there are plenty of educators like me whose last dabble in logo harks back to high school and ironically it probably might not have crossed my consciousness again if not for blogging and connecting to you and your blog.
So, you have your passions and use your blog to further those ideas. My purposes may not be as high level or match the thinking of some of the influences you frequently cite, but it's the connection to a wide variety of other educators and the cross-pollination of ideas that keeps drawing me in. My only goal when I choose to put together a blog post, a conference presentation, a forum reply is expand my own learning and offer some of that to anyone wanting to engage. If that makes me a monkey, fine.
What should an ordinary educator like me without any specialised computer science background be doing then?
Maybe in Erich's case, my self confessed lack of expertise means I should refrain from posting my "dribble" online - maybe I should stop highlighting what I think is progressive classroom practice because it may not measure up to someone else's ideas of what is worthwhile. Maybe Web 2.0 is just a passing phase, a flight of fancy, something that is shiny and new but in working with teachers, you have to start with where they are and if Web 2.0 hooks them into self reflection, communication, actual self directed learning in a way that engages them and keeps them striving to better their practice, then it cannot be dismissed just because it can be mis-used.
After all, those poorly taught logo lessons from the early 80's hardly incited a positive result in my future career paths but they haven't closed my mind to the possibilities you list so competently on your blog.

Bill Kerr said...

When I speak in generalities about there being a problem as well as new opportunities arising from web 2.0 then there is some agreement, clearly it strikes a nerve. I like Sylvia's comment about web 2.0 as a marketing slogan and love durff's comment about the global village becoming both flat and wrinkled at the same time.

When I mention some specifics then some people become offended either bemusedly, angrily, insultingly or diplomatically.

There is criticism well done and criticism done hastily. Some of mine was hasty but I see no reason to withdraw any of it even though it could have been done better. Certainly anyone who reads my blog will know that I see great potential in what is known as "web 2.0". I refrain from posting on other blog commentaries that are critical of my post. But did post to tuttle svc which was supportive. I don't understand why those people can't post their critical comments here, if they really want to discuss.

Alex, I'm of the Richard Dawkins school of close mindedness. There is such a thing as being so open minded that your brains fall out.

I have spent some time gathering some more resources together about web 2.0 with the thought of putting something more detailed and analytical together, as a separate post. Thanks, Graham, for the google chat which helped smooth some of the bumps and made me think more about this.

Anonymous said...

I refrain from posting on other blog commentaries that are critical of my post. ... I don't understand why those people can't post their critical comments here, if they really want to discuss.
You do see that you answered your question before asking it don't you bill?

I post about other postings on blogs to spread the topic out to people with insights (or not) that are not yet subscribed to your blog or in your network. Hopefully this will prevent you and I getting trapped into any deluded thoughts that we have "struck a nerve" or maybe surrounded by supporters... well, we can only hope... And because Blogger comments lose steam (no RSS last I looked)

I think I have been subscribed to your blog from the very early days (bring back the profile shot with the flicked tie.. that was you wasn't it) and have seen some very great posts, some interesting investigations, and now this hasty sweep (not criticism yet). Can you see by some of the comments here that this is a shaky start? I can't find a critique before it gets personal! "idiocy, laugh out loud, dribble, what if there's nothing going on? (!!), new shiny better is the extent of the thinking [what thinking?], web2 makes people look like experts (!), dribble...", you along with most bloggers, might do better to turn comments off, less they turn into some of the stuff we see in Youtube comments...

I for one don't want you to retract anything at all.. I want you to progress it. The one thing you maybe right about is the tendency of echo chamber in Web2 land.. I'm looking for the criticism of Web 2 you mention, so far the best there is (and its shite - Keen vs Weinberger).

What exactly are the problems you look to? I know while you may instinctively harbor a disdain for popular culture, rationally you surely can't be serious about monkeys and idiots? There are maybe thousands of voices out there saying different things (many the same), which ones you have trouble appreciating? Sounds to me like you are looking for some order in this chatter... some higher order maybe? That's worrying.. right back to where we started - see Pilger's speech in Chicago this month.

Bill, a long time ago you started a critique on my work to that date.. which would be a critique of many people's work as I could never lay claim to many original thoughts in my work. I responded and you left it at that. Perhaps you found or find my monkeying around too annoying to bother with.. but if not, I'd love you to dig that critique up again and use it to take this bad start further - so we might continue it in a little more depth, and without any name calling or loathing.

Wara said...

I don't mean to be trite :-)

Before reading this post and the comments I read lots of other stuff and someones signature or something bounced back into my head and it read something like "Everythings changed. Nothings changed". I hear the following comment a lot as well "Same dog, different leg".

Web2.0 means that everyone can publish and with that we end up with lots of junk.

On the other hand "one person's treasure and is another's junk" ehhh or visa versa. So the idea of junk is not absolute but relative.

To me it's a great big trash and treasure. Fortunately I find lots of bargains in trash and treasure. I also find lots of junk.

So is the glass half full or half empty.

Bill Kerr said...

Still not sure whether to write something more detailed. I'm trying to stay focused on learning Smalltalk and Python, which sometimes makes me feel dumb.

But most of the comments here have been thoughtful and encouraging.

In the meantime, historical perspective on web 2.0 is very important IMO. I was delighted to read a couple of blogs by David Thornburg, what makes new new? and watching out for number 2 . If you study the history of computing you will realise there have been other moments when the lights flashed on. Things happened in the late 60s, early 70s that are still cutting edge and some of them seem to have been forgotten

For the record: I wrote to leigh off line in response to his blog entry but as part of his response he has indicated to me that he doesn't want further communication. In this life, there isn't always a happy ending.