Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Which side of the wall are you on?

It is nearly that time of year again, of the ALT-C conference. The biggest annual event on learning technology in the UK. I will be co-presenter with Clare Woodward of a short paper that will highlight some of our research in access, inclusion and Web 2.0 technologies. Is the new web 2.0 technology the panacea many claim it to be? And how influential is it to those who reside on the wrong side of the technological wall? About 43% of the UK population does not use technology and 25 percent of these people do not see any relevance of technology to their lives. There are those like Selwyn who doubt if Web 2.0 technology will enhance learning at all. The digital natives – digital immigrants typology by Prensky adds another dimension to the debate around the digital divide, and even the Net-generation seem to use it for fairly trivial activities related to chatting with their friends rather than the collaborative and constructivist learning experience envisaged by enthusiasts.

The potential of the latest web 2.0 and mobile technologies and the possibilities for personalisation, network and community forming they offer, place the learner at the centre of the learning experience, rather than the tutor and the institution, and could be instrumental in determining the content of the learning experience. By influencing education for all, they also revive the ideals of ‘adult education for liberation’ as argued by Illich and Freire. Their vision was to see people take ownership of the learning process, rather than institutions controlling their education.

We will discuss developments by drawing upon Illich’s considerations that education must be fit for purpose in relation to the personal, social and educational needs of participants. Moreover, it will explore the issues of ‘ownership of one’s own learning process’ and the extent to which the new social software tools enhance the learning experience.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Social networking for social enterprise

A Guardian article this morning announced the development, ready for the autumn, of a new social networking site, called Horsemouth. It will be designed, not for people who would like to share their individual day to day activities with others, but for people who would like to share more significant life-changing events, and are willing to help, mentor and support others through these events. It shows once again the potential of online social sites for informal learning and support and could be very useful for community organisations involved in developing support networks.