Thursday, July 12, 2007

Britannica -Wikipedia

I have been busy writing a paper over the past weeks and had only had a glance at the discussions taking place on the Britannica blog on Web2.0. The piece by McHenry and the subsequent comments show how much 'ideas matter' to Britannica . They removed Stephen Downes' critical comments and in doing so showed that they didn't really have any intentions of true debate about Web2.0 and education, just a one-sided story to support their views: their experts are the only ones able to think and produce valid knowledge. By discarding other views they have shown that they don't adhere to their own principles for validating information. Most of us remember their attacks on Wikipedia as being a second-rate piece of work. The argument by McHenry shows a distinct lack of understanding of the societal impact of Web2.0 technologies.
Henry James from MIT shows he knows the issues in his blogposts on Wikipedia and media literacies. They go to the heart of current developments in networked information and knowledge. He follows the move away from expert knowledge towards collective knowledge, developed on online networks, perhaps in projects such as the Wikipedia or in games. People work together, develop skills and knowledge as they go along, learning from others in an informal way. He discusses four skills as most important to this: Collective intelligence: to be able to share knowledge and build knowledge together, which of course is not at the forefront of most educational programmes, where most assessments are individual projects; information literacy and critical analysis skills to ensure sound judgements are being made on information sources; networking skills, to be able to make the links to other people and information, sysnthesise and disseminate information; negotiation skils required to travel across networks, get involved in communities, adapt to a variety of cultures. I agree with these and if the education profession is serious about personalising the learning environment, and embedding it in students' other everyday activities, these are the skills student will require to foster a deeper level of learning. Educational institutions should think hard on how these skills could be embedded in the curriculum as they are undoutable what citizens of tomorrow need.
It is not helpful of traditional media to attack new developments, and even worse to use new media and not engage with them in the best possible way by distorting the discussions and deleting views that are not quite theirs.
Seth Finkelstein in TechnologyGuardian was wondering what the purpose of Britannica's involvement in blogging has been: to get involved in the technology as it seems unavoidable, or to just make use of the technology to create links to their own encyclopedia. I wonder.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Evolution or revolution?

An interesting debate is taking place on developments in secondary education. Graham Attwell can see the beginning of the end of traditional schooling. He sees the developments at Knowsley as a positive experiment where technology is being used in the way a number of leading learning technologists would like to see online networks and informal learning take over traditional class room based learning. The personal learning environment and the learner are at the centre and in control, with the teacher as a facilitating helper. In the comments area of his blog a reference is being made to Mr Read's blog, clearly a person with local insights who can see the disadvantages of the development. He points out that local realities might not quite justify the level of change and development instigated by the council.

Of course questions should be raised about the strategies being used for change. What works best in the end: rapid change following a clear vision, or a slow process of change that involves most stakeholders in an engaging way? In addition, a large group of learners is part of the Knowlsey experiment and it will not become clear for some time what their future will hold if the experiment fails.

Having been frustrated time and time again in a process of achieving change through evolution, I am quite charmed by the boldness of the revolutionary move in Merseyside. I have to say though that after about 7 years of chipping away at the curriculum from the margin while trying to incorporate technology in a meaningful way, we have achieved major changes that are carried by a large group of stakeholders. I feel that engaging most of the people involved in change will in the long run have a deeper impact than a revolutionary change imposed by outsiders or from above would have had. Time will tell if the Knowlsey development will have a positive outcome for all concerned!